Lima, October 23-25
I arrived in Lima with no guide, no Spanish and no clue. From taking notes from travel guides in bookshops I had found out that Miraflores was a relatively safe suburb, but horror stories about taxi abductions and rapes meant that I paid exorbitant amounts to get there from the airport. I felt quite silly about being so paranoid when the sun came up and Lima seemed quite a nice place really. My stay there was made infinitely more enjoyable by the fact that a lovely Swedish girl called Maria took me under her wing and a charming Irish fellow called Conrad decided to give me his South American Lonely Planet! I also met MarCia at this point and made plans to hike together later on in the piece. I waited around till Monday to vote in the referendum (which Maria helped me out with no end) and I sent an oft-quoted e-mail to mum and dad saying I didn’t know why anyone would say Peru was dangerous…
Arequipa, October 25-30
The next day I wrote to mum and dad to let them know my bankcard had been stolen and I was terribly ill. This was unfortunate. I had about US $50 on me and no other way to get money. I was also seriously ill, coughing all the time, coughing up blood, and with absolutely no energy at all. I’m not sure what happened, but I felt like shit and I ate nothing for four days. I had been fortunate enough to meet a great American traveler named Kip, so I at least had someone to share the cost of the room with, although he had to leave after two days. Meanwhile I had no money to spend on a doctor so when it became obvious this wasn’t going away I started an all-purpose anti-biotic course I had bought from Australia. The problem of no money seemed insurmountable (Peru’s postal system could not be trusted for money or cards, and I’ve sworn off couriers for life after the US Visa disaster, not that we had anywhere to courier it too..) until I remembered the travel insurance. The travel insurance people were able to set up a wire of funds from Mum and Dad, validating my hard thought decision to take it out. Mum called it Harper-Arse.
Puno, October 30
By the time the money came through, I had been delayed on my journey so much that I had to seriously reschedule, and get moving straight away even though I was still sick. I had some hope of finding an English speaking doctor in La Paz, Bolivia, and that where I needed to head to get to the Amazon anyway. Some might say taking a crowded 20 hour bus ride up the Andes to high altitude is not the cleverest thing to do when you’re very ill, but I don’t listen to people like that. The bus ride WAS the stuff of nightmares; if the sickness, crowds and abundance of chicken sucking babies wasn’t enough, we also managed to get stopped for an hour by a drugs patrol at about 3 am. Not that I was sleeping, I was too busy making phlegm. I arrived at Puno looking like death and was immediately taken advantage of by someone who must have thought I had more money than I did. I also must have managed to pick up some counterfeit US money around this time, but I didn’t find out about that until I got to La Paz. But everything wasn’t grim, I managed to eat some breakfast, which was the first time I had eaten since the first night in Arequipa, and I arranged a bus to La Paz.