A traveler’s nightmare is to fall foul to a stomach virus whilst in a 3rd world country. The difficulty of finding good medical attention and sanitised meals in an unfamiliar place, coupled with the feeling of helplessness and the inability to continue as a prisoner to the bathroom are all overwhelmingly troublesome. So when we arrived in Piura at nightfall and found the symptoms of Baños had returned, but this time to me, we were both understandably concerned. With the added pressure of an unreturnable deposit on a room in Trujillo, some six hours away, we had to find a solution.
Fortunately for us we had the help of an English doctor whom we befriended on the way. His writings on a scrap of paper gave us a list of the medication needed for a speedy recovery. All we had to do was buy the items from any local pharmacy, but as we’ve come to find, it’s never quite that simple in Latin America.
The next morning we set off early heading towards Piura’s downtown in the search for some medicine.
The first pharmacist we came across was a couple of miles from our hostel, they just pointed us to an identical pharmacy next door. I handed the good doctor’s scribblings to them and they looked blankly for a moment before handing it back to me shaking their head. Persisting with the assistant, I drew the attention of her two colleagues who joined in, both giving the same reaction. The trio unable to speak English and I Spanish had us at a stalemate, to combat this I read the writings aloud slowly as you would do to a small child. Seeing a flicker of understanding I pushed on, ‘Soy enferma’ (I sick), holding my stomach and doing a genuinely pained face. The expression had them giggling ‘Blood…’ I said, squatting, ‘no sick’, pretending to vomit whilst saying no. Not knowing the word blood, I pointed to my veins ‘Roja’ then motioning slitting my wrists and imaginary red stuff spurting out. Nothing… ‘You know Twilight? Vampires?’ I showed my teeth and made a pincer with my hand, ‘Blood… roja’ I showed them my canines and shoved my contorted hand to my neck and mimed more blood spurting. ‘Blood? OK’ came the response – although that may have been the fear – ‘OK, blood, toilet, no sick, oww… pain… stomach… hot… fever’ acting out the symptoms, ‘Cuantas dias? was the bemused assistants reply. I pointed to the calendar giving a detailed account of when the symptoms occurred through mime.
Eventually fifteen minutes into my theatrical debut in Peru we had an understanding. They gave me the medication and carefully wrote and explained (in Spanish) the quantity and amount to take.
Running back I grabbed a coffee to wash down the meds. Within an hour they were working, we checked out and made our way to the bus station for the midday bus to Trujillo. Consistent with all our previous journeys in Latin America, the six hour bus ride took longer than expected. Luckily for me, the drugs held. We made it to our sea-view hostel after 9pm.
© John Brownlie 2012
* LINEA buses run from Piura to Trujillo. Expect to pay around s./30 ($14)