I apologize in advance for this story of woe.
Travelers who have visited third world countries know there is a potential hazard to eating the local food. Americans visiting Mexico often refer to the malady as Montezuma’s Revenge, for Peru Pachacuti’s Revenge is a more apt name. Whatever its euphemism, don’t worry, I will save you the gory details apart from admitting I fell victim to the curse. If you’ve had it, you know; if not, you’re lucky.
I will however, talk about a side effect that none of you can deny dealing with – the common fart.
When this side effect is combined with a dead king’s vengeful curse the resulting fragrance becomes, in a word, deadly. Skunks passing within its range stand up and salute, then scurry off in dismay. Have you ever wondered how the Spanish, with a small force of men, conquered a powerful Inca nation? They ate local food that hadn’t been properly prepared, stood upwind in battle, hoisted their rears and fired off volleys. Why do you think they had to wear armor? So noxious is this gas it has its own clause in the Geneva Conventions, banning its use in public spaces.
So when our tour of Machu Picchu was complete, I faced the prospect of long periods in enclosed spaces while containing this menace to mankind; first the bus to Aguas Calientes, then the train to Ollantaytambo, then another bus to Cusco. That last two-hour leg to Cusco was a particular challenge, as lunch from Aguas Calientes was catching up with me.
You may wonder about the photo of the tortured water bottle leading off this post. That was the result of compression on a half full bottle a few days later, after flying from Juliaca (3,825 meters/ 12,500 feet) to Lima (sea level). Consider what expansion might look like when going up instead of down.
The altitude gain from Aguas Calientes (2,040 meters/6,700 feet) to Cusco (3,400 meters/11,150 feet) is 4,450 feet…
You know that pffffft sound of pressure escaping when you open a soda or well-carbonated beer? Imagine getting that sound when opening a plain bottle of water. I experienced that somewhere between Ollantaytambo and Cusco. Gases were expanding. The tension in my tail was increasing. I wondered if this is what a woman might feel, going from sweet and innocent to 5 months pregnant within the space of a couple hours.
The roads in Peru are of mixed quality. Some are good, but some are bumpy, especially in construction zones. I think we hit all the construction zones in Peru that night. I would also point out they like to use speed bumps to keep drivers under control in the local towns. These are not normal speed bumps like you’d see/feel in the States, these bumps are inspired by the height of the Andes Mountains. When we thumped over one of those, as careful as the bus driver was, I felt it all the way to my eye teeth.
Finally, we arrived in Cusco. I arose from my position of misery, and while transiting to our hotel room noted considerable lower back pain. This turned out to be more serious than a bad case of bloat; after returning home and seeing a doctor, the diagnosis was a herniated disk with a side order of sciatica in my left leg. At the time of writing, it’s been 5-6 weeks since that fateful ride and the disk is much better, but the sciatica persists. I don’t know if I dinged the disk scaling Machu Picchu (it didn’t bother me when we left there), bouncing around in the bus while under pressure, or a combination of both.
And as for what happened once I got to the hotel room, the less said the better. I would not want to be arrested for violating the Geneva Conventions.