Andes Express

I suppose I should have known I was going to be in trouble when the bottle of water arrived at my dinner table without the cap on, but the waiter was such a nice man. Surely he wouldn't play Russian roulette with my innards over a few sneaky pesos saved in using tap water. No, surely that couldn't be it.

But by the time the Machu Picchu-bound train set off next morning from Cuzco, the rumblings in my stomach told me that my blind faith in human-kind and my Polly-Anna view of the world was sadly not supported. My trust in the nice waiter was indeed misplaced and now lay unceremoniously in the bottom of the plastic bag I carried my umbrella in.

It turns out that not only was my stomach upset, but so too was the elderly German couple sitting opposite me. They were reeling back in horror at my "Exorcist" impersonation and were pressed so far back into their own seats, you'd need a crowbar to extract them. It wasn't long before they waved down the conductors and had me removed. Rightfully, so. I'd like to say though, that if I had had time to get myself up and to the bathroom before stomach World War III set in, I would not have lost the use of a perfectly good umbrella now would I?

With a tiny Peruvian conductor tucked under each arm, my tall frame was gently dragged down the isle of the train, ( much like the quick removal of a criminal) placed into the lavatory compartment and had the door slammed behind it. As my denial of the situation finally left me along with last night's frijoles, weakness forced me to my knees and I knelt on the floor of the bathroom with my head over the "comfort station" for the whole journey to Aguas Calientes.

It's amazing how one can find the funny side of life in almost anything if one has a spare three and a half hours on one's knees with nothing else to do. Looking up at the glass ceiling in between convulsions, I saw the beauty of the snow-capped Andes whistle past as the cruel Peruvian train driver with a sick sense of humour piped in the same song over and over again. "El Condor Pasa." I thought to myself,

"Yes, I would rather be a hammer than a nail right now. Yes I would. If I only could, I surely would, " but I was most definitely at that moment the nail and not the hammer.

With no evidence of the waiter's treachery left lurking in my system, you would think the hell would be over, but no. It just kept on going. Later, the two conductors returned for my carcass and helped escort me off the train. I was then helped to my hotel by yet another diminutive member of the Peruvian tourist industry and finally took my Gulliver-esque self off to bed. I endured another 24 hours of the same train hell before a doctor had to be called in to either put an end to the "vomitando" or have me put down. At that point, I didn't care which.

Finally on my last day, I emerged pale and weak but with no time left to see one of the most amazing places in the world, I forced myself onto a bus to Machu Picchu. The winding mountain roads made my stomach churn again but I made it there and sat on a rock, all sweaty and horrid looking. Just as I was catching my breath and waiting for my bits to settle, a British tourist came up, slapped me on the back and congratulated me. I was flabbergasted.

"What on earth for?"

"For completing the Inca Trek!" she said, and shook my hand.

I couldn't tell her the only trek I had made was to the bus stop and I just naturally looked like I had been dragged through a bush backwards. With a squeaky clean intestinal tract, and a renewed sense of life, I got up and had a magical walk among the stones. Just one ruin communing with another.

S Conway

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