Although I loved Cusco, my stomach did not quite get along with it. Before going to Cusco I had never been anywhere close to 11,000 feet above sea level so I had no clue how I would react to the high altitude. Although I have mostly grown out of my lactose intolerance, it took several rounds of sick nights for me to realize that the altitude’s effect on my digestion would bring back the days of my more serious lactose intolerance. The first episode happened the night before our trip to Pisac. I don’t remember what I ate that day but I went to sleep feeling totally fine. Then, in my ‘typical response to too much lactose’ fashion, I woke up in the middle of the night sick and nauseous. The next day proved to be a bit challenging but drinking some mate de coca in the morning and then smelling fresh muña that the bus driver picked later in the day definitely helped. It was super interesting to learn the different ways to use herbal remedies to help my headache and nausea. We hiked through several Incan ruins but. Later that day I think everyone had a bit of a rough experience at the Blue Llama Café, where we were first introduced to the infamous Andean cheese. Although I did not have the cheese, the few cua cuas and morochas I had that day did not sit well. The night in Pisac ended up being another sick one for me. After those two nights, it seemed like I was in the clear. I did not get sick for several days and I hoped it had just been due to my body adjusting to the altitude, but in Chinchero I learned that it was not quite over yet.
The delicious Peruvian snacks that I probably ate too many of!
The fist night in Chinchero passed without any problems, but the second night I woke up sick and nauseous. I felt exactly the same way as I had in Cusco and with the outdoor bathrooms providing an extra challenge, I knew that night was going to be a long one. And it was. Luckily this time my sickness only lasted one night, and I did not have to spend the night in Ollantaytambo on the floor of the bathroom vomiting. Thinking back, I am not sure how much milk I had that day in Chinchero but I think it may have been some combination of dehydration and altitude sickness at work again. The final episode was this past Friday, while I luckily never vomited, I had all of the symptoms that I had been having before. Also like before, some mate de coca really helped me feel better. At first I thought that my response to the mate de coca was some version of a placebo effect, but after its help this time too, I am definitely going to bring some back home with me (the tea bags of course). My mom is a big tea fan so I think she might be excited to try something new too!
Mate de coca made from the real coca leaves
Now that we are back at sea level in Lima, I feel much better and I hope to not have any more digestion problems. While the highlands were absolutely worth the ailments, I think I have to agree with Profe that down here we eat much better and, I might add, digest much better too.