Thanks to all of those who left us questions when we opened up the floor. Here is our attempt at answering. If you’ve thought of something else you want to ask, go ahead and do so. We have received other questions via email, and we plan to answer those in a later installation.
Did you ever have to get medical treatment or even buy medicine?
Only two sicknesses stick out in my mind. On New Year’s Eve 2008, two days before we were to begin our hike to Machu Picchu, I came down with a stomach bug. I first got sick on the flight from Lima to Cuzco, and it didn’t let up the rest of the day. Making it worse, we were in a freezing cold room with a crappy bathroom. It was also pouring rain. And to top it off we had to go to the trekking office to make our final payment. I had to stop about every 20 feet, and at one point, I was so bad off my brother actually offered to carry me. The next day I felt better, but then it returned the next day, our first day on the Inca Trail, when I hurled the second I stood up from the lunch table. Unfortunately, I also passed it on to my brother, who got to learn just how tough he was when he was horribly sick on the hardest (and what turned out to be the coldest and wettest) day of the hike.
The second incident was when Jeff and I both simultaneously came down with what we strongly suspect to have been the swine flu. We were in Siem Reap, Cambodia, which was experiencing a big outbreak of the epidemic at the time. We had all the symptoms—crazy delusion-causing fevers, respiratory issues, horrible aches and pains, and overall yuckiness. I also had the bonus of stomach issues. We were sick for about three days, but there was one night I thought we just might die. I may have actually wished to die because I felt so miserable. Luckily we were able to secure some Tamiflu, which really helped.
Other than that, we were pretty much healthy. Our stomachs also proved to be made of steel as we handled the local food and water with nothing more than a blip of discomfort here and there.
What is the one things that pissed you off the most?
We got annoyed at the fact that most people in the world have no idea what a line is. We got tired of being quoted prices many times higher than they should have been and having to haggle for a fair price. I thought the guy on our Inca Trail hike who didn’t think we needed to tip our guide or the porters was an ass. But I only remember getting really pissed a few times.
Once was when the bus left us, as well as the four other tourists onboard, at the Vietnam-Laos border, forcing us to hunt down and pay for a private mode of transport because it took us too long to get our visas. I actually took the getting left behind in stride; what were we to do? What got us pissed was the company’s refusal to take responsibility or give us any sort of fair compensation.
The second was when my purse was stolen on the train in India. I wished all sorts of evil on him, and if I had had a chance at him, it would not have been pretty.
The third was later on the same day in India, when we saw the reality of the caste system come into play and witnessed the level of inhumanity that so many people live with every day. We haven’t told this story here before, and it would take too long to explain in this post, so check back next week when I’ll tell my Varanasi cycle rickshaw story.
What made you smile the biggest?
I immediately thought of the kids in Africa when I read this question. It’s funny because I wouldn’t say that either of us are huge kid/baby people. Don’t get me wrong, we like them, and might even want our own one day, but we definitely don’t fawn over every one we see. But the kids in Africa were so spirited, so funny, so contagiously in love with life. And they were always so damn thrilled to see us (unless they were absolutely scared to death of us). I still remember turning this corner in Zanzibar and coming across a group of three small kids. As soon as they saw us, they started shrieking “Mzungu! Mzungu! Mzungu!” (what they call white people), jumping up and down, and going absolutely crazy. It was like they’d just won the lottery. Simply amazing. We don’t quite get the same reception around here.
World’s best airline? Worst?
Air Emirates has earned its reputation as a top-tier airline. The seats were comfy and came with individual entertainment systems with tons of options, and food and service was good. We also had a good experience on Air France, getting exit row seats and a choice of approximately 1 zillion movies on our own individual systems.
Air India Express was probably the worst. Our flight was delayed for 6 hours, and we could get absolutely no information on why or when it might possibly leave. Also, the passengers on this airline were nuts. I think every single person went the bathroom during the flight (which was less than 2 hours), and they made a line all the way down the aisle of the plane. And more than one person actually got up to attempt to go the bathroom as we were landing. We were literally about to put wheels down when they stood up. I know this isn’t directly about the airline, but the flight crew didn’t seem to have much control or influence.
Where in South America should I go?
What a beautiful continent! I’m ready to go back. Go to Patagonia if you want to see natural beauty the likes of which you can’t imagine. Go to the Galapagos because you get to snorkel with seals and penguins and see things you won’t see anywhere else in the world. Go to Buenos Aires to eat steak, ice cream, and wine, be seduced by the tango, marvel at the beautiful people, photograph the architecture, and try to speak their crazy version of Spanish. Go to Machu Picchu because it’s mystical and magical and simply astounding.
You are supposed to go to the dentist every 6 months. Did you?
No. I don’t even like going to the dentist here (though yes, I do it). There was no way we were braving it in some foreign country.
Best thing you ate? Worst thing you ate? Strangest thing you ate?
Best according to Jeff: Coconut Ice Cream with Dulce De Leche (Argentina), Steak (Argentina), Keow Teow Noodles (Laos), Malai Kofta (India), Naan (Amritsar, India)
Best according to Theresa: Steak (Argentina), Cau Lao Noodles (Hoi An, Vietnam), Fresh Fruit Shakes (Asia), Mangoes (Malaysia), Naan (Amritsar, India), Potato Momos (Dharamshala), Omelette with chips and roti (Mbeya, Tnazania). Strangely enough, what I find myself most craving though is gallo pinto, Nicaraguan style basic beans and rice.
Worst: Neither of us cared for the chincheros (fried pork skin) given to us by our host family in Granada. I also have to say we’re not big fans of cassava, or the million other names third-world countries around the globe have for the starchy white stuff that fills the world’s stomach without providing any real nutrition.
Strangest: We didn’t eat bugs or any of the other creepy-crawly-type things that really freak people out. In Africa, we did try ostrich, springbok, kudu, and some other types of wild game. In Asia, I had fish balls, which I actually liked.
What’s your favorite place in the world and why?
Africa, Africa, Africa. If I were to be given another year to travel, I’d immediately hop a plane to Africa, buy me an old 4WD, and spend the entire year exploring the continent. The landscapes were phenomenal, and the people even more so. I felt like our most “authentic” experiences were in Africa, that we experienced it on a more intimate level than most other places. I also have to say that I never, ever, ever got sick of looking out my window and seeing an elephant or zebra or lion or whatever. It’s just simply the most amazing place I’ve ever been.