The Most Hilarious, Worst Travel Day Ever
I had a crappy time in Peru last year, that’s no lie. It’s not Peru’s fault, and I’m certainly not going to write a post telling you not to go to Peru because I had a shitty time, for fuck’s sake there are enough travel bloggers that have a shitty time in a certain location and write posts telling everyone else they shouldn’t visit it either. Peru actually is a beautiful country with so many insane landscapes to fend off any traveler’s heroine like travel addiction.
So, before I start telling my story, I’ll break down the pros/cons I found while traveling in Peru. Peruvians, I know you’re a proud people and I’m not trying to piss any of you off!
-Unreal mountain landscapes in the Andes.
-Vinicunca. I got to visit with a great guide before the irresponsible tourism went full-fledged, so my experience is likely very different from someone trekking today.
-Machu Picchu. I’m usually not enthralled with famous spots. It’s one of the seven new wonders of the world. I prepped by turning up in the morning with the expectation that I would hate it. I didn’t- it’s quite well managed and does in fact look exactly the same as on the postcards.
-Huacachina. What a fun desert oasis. A pleasant place to spend a couple of days.
-Peruvian Amazon. Okay, I didn’t get to visit myself, but the general consensus I got from other traveler was that it was worth the visit.
-Difficult to communicate without proper knowledge of the Spanish language. This is not something to hold against Peru or that I’m even complaining about. If you have limited or no ability to speak Spanish communication will be a hurdle.
-High altitudes. Not all of the country is high altitude, but most of the tourist draws in the country are high in the Andes. This is something to be aware of and proper steps to avoid and/or alleviate altitude sickness should be taken.
-Driving. Peruvians as a whole are crazy behind the wheel. Sorry to all you good driving Peruvians to generalize about that. When your taxi driver is cut off and nearly slammed into for the 10th time in 5 minutes and keeps apologizing about his countrymen’s terrible driving etiquette and continually shaking his head muttering Peru, Peru, Peru it’s safe to say that driving in Peru is a nightmare.
-Bad mountain roads. Roads into the mountains that are somewhat considered off the beaten path are downright terrifying. Narrow roads on the edge of a cliff with a sheer vertical drop thousands of feet down paired with lunatic-like driving makes for a death-defying ride.
-Taking a long bus between cities. At some stations we found this to be a maddening and confusing experience. When going from Puno to Cusco we bought our bus ticket and then tried to board the bus. They wouldn’t let us on. What we gathered was that we had to go to a window and pay some kind of fee or tax to get a stamp on the ticket. We did so and came back and were still not allowed on. We then had to go back to a different window and pay something else to get a hole punched in the ticket. What these fees were for? Who the fuck knows, but it could easily be charged within the purchase of the bus ticket and alleviate the confusion.
-Unchecked and irresponsible tourism. Yes, places like Machu Picchu are heavily guarded and ran quite well. Up and coming destinations are not. When we were at Vinicunca we could see it was on its way to catastrophe. We had an experienced and respectful guide that explained how the mountains got their unique color, was very aware of the environmental impacts and what should be done to alleviate them. He was very adamant about the importance of staying on the trail. There weren’t tons of tourists yet when we visited in June of 2016, however later in the day you did see larger tour groups trekking up, who had people nearly keeling over wheezing for air (they likely were too impatient to acclimate back in Cusco), many were wandering off the trail and some were even trying to climb up on the mountain!
So here we go, the story: The Most Hilarious, Worst Travel Day Ever
To give a preface to the story: I had a sinus infection while traveling in Bolivia where I started my travels in South America last year. Sinus infections can cause tooth pain so I categorized the pain I had been suffering to that. But it never went away on the left side. At 3:30 am the day I was about to go into Machu Picchu it became apparent that my tooth had abscessed.
I suffered through the pain to see Machu Picchu with a plan to get the tooth right the fuck out of my head the next day. If I was at home, I would have called my dentist right away, however, I didn’t have that luxury whilst traveling.
That night Tay and I went back to our hostel in Aguas Calientes. In case you don’t know any Spanish, Aguas Calientes means hot water. I proceeded to take the coldest shower ever in the history of the world in a place called hot water. WHY IN THE LITERAL FUCK IS THE WATER SO COLD?!? I think the metal on the tap had a sheen of ice on it. Tay, of course, thought this was the most hilarious thing she ever witnessed and snap chatted my entire rant as I used her hairdryer in an attempt to melt the ice off my body. All I wanted after a day of pain and trekking up Huayna Picchu was a shower, a hot shower, fuck I’d take lukewarm at that point. Really, the place should be called Aguas Muy Fucking Frio.
Fast forward to the ass crack of the morning the next day. I’d hardly slept because of the pain. We had to be over at the train station to catch our train to Ollantaytambo at 5:30 am. We walked over with our backpacks and got on the train.
I was so unpleasant to be around that I was sure Tay hated me. A cheery couple sat across the table from us. Shortly after we all sat down I finally dozed off, but not for long.
Bags go flying off of shelves, people scream, the coffee cart topples over in a split-second shitstorm of events…..
Ladies and gentlemen, this is where Nicole gets in her first train wreck, like a literal one
Really, can this day get any worse?
We were stopped there on the tracks. The staff looked frantic, passengers are shaken up. After a few minutes, the announcement was made, we had hit a vehicle parked on the tracks. It would be a few moments before we started moving again and of course, Peru Rail was apologizing for the accident.
About 20 minutes later we start moving again. This time I cannot fall back asleep.
A short while later the boyfriend across the table jumps up out of his seat, binoculars in hand. (Remember when I said that a cheery young couple sat across the table from us?) He is dead staring through the binoculars out the window and proclaims, “that’s a nice female!” The girlfriend immediately pops up and begins fumbling for her binoculars. All the while Tay and I are gawking out the window trying to see what nice female he’s talking about.
Upon the realization that they’re losing their fucking minds over a duck, Tay and I are facing each other, eyes watering suppressing our laughter. We’ve known each other long enough that we know that the other one is trying to control themselves to not loudly blurt out, “HA! Virgins!”
*Birders are a breed of people I don’t understand. Who gets that excited over a fucking bird?
Finally, survived minor train wreck aside we arrive in Ollantaytambo.
I had already googled dentistas, pre-Hostel-Aguas-motherfucking-frio departure. There aren’t but a couple dentists in Ollantaytambo and it’s currently Saturday. “There’s no hope!” I’m kinda yelling/lip quivering in a I’m-in-so-much-pain kind of way to Tay. “We need to get to Cusco. NOW.” Tay was on it, she had a taxi driver lined up and bartered in price in two shakes of a llamas ass. We slide into the backseat and we’re off. My Spanish sucks but I knew enough to tell him “Muy diente dolor, necessito dentista por favor!” About 75 near death-defying incidents and record time later we were cruising the streets of Cusco looking for a dentista office that looked open.
We eventually found a Dental Consult office open. Tay paid the driver and we hauled our bags upstairs. I explain upon walking through the door “Necessito diente extractcción!” Tay begins explaining more in Spanish to the staff as they whisk me behind a curtain and into a dental chair. (Tay speaks far more Spanish than I do). Tay comes back and says that they’re calling the dentist in as I’m opening and rifling through drawers inspecting equipment and cleanliness. Tay, eyes rolling announces to everyone in the office in Spanish that I’m actually a dental hygienist in Alaska and nosing around, I’m sure she even threw in there that I’m embarrassing her.
I do lots of weird stuff that embarrasses Tay. I wasn’t about to get Hep C. I definitely don’t know what the standard of care or sterilization procedures in Peru are. Luckily they had an autoclave and everything was tidy.
About 30 minutes after we arrived a dentist walks in and begins explaining that she will give me anesthesia and will begin the extraction. I told her that I knew the tooth had extremely twisted and curved roots. Working in dentistry I’d seen X-rays of my root apices and knew that tooth, in particular, would be a son-of-a-bitch to get out. She elevated the tooth, I could painlessly feel the pop of the ligaments being snapped and the pressure release from the draining of the infection. Then the forceps come out, the extraction begins. She’s pulling and twisting with all her might to no avail. We keep having to do more anesthesia because it keeps wearing off due to the infection. Finally, after about an hour of her probably getting the hardest workout of her life, she gives up. She’s going to call another dentist who does extractions far more often, a surgeon she knows.
Dentist #2 arrives, introduces himself and gloves up. He begins reefing and pulling. About 30 minutes in he says we have to go over to his office across town where he has better access and a better variety of instruments. Soon we’re all piling into dentist #2’s small car with Tay and I’s backpacks loaded in the trunk. It looked like a clown car there were so many of us. We’re laughing, I’m flicking my half extracted tooth around with my tongue….
About a half-hour later we pull up to dentist #2’s office. It’s nice. They sit me back, I have both dentists pulling on the forceps, both of them nearly with their feet on my forehead for leverage, and finally, the tooth launches out of my head. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy in my life- trust me Tay could vouch for my excitement* as I sat up and yelled “YES!” Amazingly they managed to get my crazy tooth out in one piece.
*I’m known for being emotionless.
Dentist #2 quickly gives me my aftercare instructions and two prescriptions, an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory. He had already called a taxi to pick us up and bring us to the bus station. Did I forget to mention that Tay and I were catching a 17-hour bus to Ica, Peru that night? I did. We have a 17-hour bus ride ahead of us. The shitshow ain’t over.
I then asked for the grand total for my extraction. Everything I had read online regarding having a tooth extracted in Peru explicitly said to negotiate a price beforehand. By the time we made it in to get my tooth pulled I was in enough pain that I didn’t even think of that. Plus, what was I gonna do? Barter with potentially the only two dentists willing to work the weekend and go somewhere else in the short window of time we had? The bill? 100 whole Peruvian Sols. That’s roughly $30 US. Worth it.
After nearly 3 whole hours of 2 dentistas extracting 1 tooth, we head to the bus station
Finally, we make it over to the bus station. We already had printed tickets so all we had to do was wait. Plus I had to go pick up my prescriptions. There was a pharmacy in the bus station, of course, it’s fucking closed. I go outside and look for a taxi driver to take me to the nearest farmacia. I hop in, we stop only a couple minutes up the road, I hop out hand over my scripts, I walk out with my meds and get back in the taxi. I plop back down next to Tay in our seats waiting for our boarding time. Then it hits me: I’m going to faint.
I get this strange aura when I’m going to faint (usually). My ears start ringing deafeningly loud. My vision goes kind of dark. I start to cold sweat profusely. That’s when I know I’m about to go down. At this point, I turn to Tay and tell her “I’m going to faint, don’t freak out. I’m going to lie down on this filthy bus station floor for a few minutes and then I’ll wake back up and I’ll be fine.” Tay is just looking at me all confused. So I push my backpack outta the way and laid down with my head propped up on it.
Then I awoke to the loud bustling of the bus station. I open my eye, I’m facing toward the seats, I see Tay’s leg. Then I see about 17cm deep worth of dust bunnies. I swear they’re alive and moving. I quickly pop up and sit down in the seat next to Tay. She’s looking at me like, what in the literal fuck just happened? And I’m just sitting over here playing it cool with 27 years worth of dust caked to my left side*. Tay gets up and says “Uh, I’m gonna go try to find you some ice.”
*We can file this under ‘things that Nicole does that likely embarrasses Tay’.
Tay returns after a bit with a frozen water bottle, as she went into every tienda in the station and the only ice she could find was a frozen water bottle in the back of a refrigerator. Then the golden hour was upon us. It was time to board our bus!
Thankfully we paid for fully reclining seats and I passed out in my swollen, bloody, filthy agony for the next 17 hours with a frozen water bottle on my face.
17 Hours later I woke up in Ica and finally my worst travel day was over!
I immediately took a shower. At least you guys can all laugh at my misery.
Wanna read about and see the better travel days I had in South America?
Rainbow Mountain Peru with Flashpacker Connect: These guys will set you up with great, professional guides and you won’t have to write a scathing blog post about how everyone else shouldn’t go there just because you had a shitty time
10 photos that will make you book that ticket to Bolivia: A little Bolivia inspiration for you.
Cusco on the cheap: The Tambomachay-Cusco walk: How to see four of Cusco’s nearby archeological sites for cheap!
13 photos that will make you put Rainbow Mountain on your bucketlist: Visual stimulation that will make you wanna see it for yourself.
What happened in South America, Part I: A little about what went down in Bolivia and Peru.
Tips for visiting Salar de Uyuni: Everything you need to know about the world’s largest Salt Flat
How to visit Torres del Paine National Park in two days: Short on time while in Chilean Patagonia? No problem!
The Mirador Las Torres day hike in Torres del Paine National Park: How to do the famed day hike in TdP on your own, and recommendations for the best Mirador Las Torres day tours.