It’s 5am and I’m in the bottom bunk of a six bed dorm room in Antigua, Guatemala. The mattress is protected by a plastic cover that crinkles with every turn, but that’s not what woke me this morning. I’ve been in this bed for days. How many? I don’t know anymore. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I spend my time staring at the wooden slats of the bunk above; the streaks of blood from misquotes squashed on the wall; the tips of trees peaking through the tiny window. I watch movies when I have the energy. Anything to forget the terrible contractions of my twisted stomach.
It’s the grumbling that woke me yet again. I kick the covers from my feet to run to the seatless toilet, but I’m too late. I pull the nearly dry underwear and two bandanas from the hanger on the edge of the bed. I grab a small, green stuff sack full of toiletries and walk through the open courtyard, wet underwear sticking to my butt.
The shower is under construction so I squirt a bit of soap in a five-gallon bucket and fill it with water from the tap. The water is cold. The air is not much warmer. Not until the sun comes up that is. Then it will be hot. Sweating in the shade hot.
I drop my dirty drawers on the concrete floor and sponge myself clean with the bandana. When I’m done, I dry off with another bandana and toss the underwear in the bucket. I clean them as best I can and hang them in their place before returning to bed. Travel tip of the year: BLACK underwear only.
To update you on the status of my stomach may be gross but it must be done. Sickness and digestive functioning are critical in this life of travel. I am feeling better now though. I am bloated. I am able to fart, but every one is scary. I do not want a repeat of the other day. Not again. Not without easy access to hot showers.
I know one cannot choose where and when they become ill. I am only thankful my condition is mild and I am in a comfortable place. I could be on the side of a road somewhere – even in a desert as was the fate of Felix.
I’ve been thinking about climbing mountains. Big ones with snow. Since I was a kid and read Jon Krakaurs Into Thin Air, I have been obsessed with adventure and craving an opportunity to get up in the mountains.
Fortunately, this expedition allowed me to climb two volcanoes. Even if the last one is the cause of this illness. Exhausting, I believe it weakened my immune system enough for a bug from the tap water I’ve been drinking to take hold. It began the morning after the climb.
Anyway, I’m hooked. I crave more views and photos such as the ones I took atop Volcan Acatenango. So much beauty. We must have been in the land of the Gods. What place is more special?
Rio surprised me today with medication. It’s been nearly a week and I show zero signs of improvement. If anything, I look worse: gaunt with deep, dark circles beneath my eyes from lack of food and sleep. The medication seemed to work and we attempt to leave. Unfortunately, it did not last. I was too weak to pack and forced back to bed. Even sitting on the toilet is draining.
I bought a new shirt today. It replaces my grey one. It has died. The back has 4 or 5 giant holes. The ones on the shoulder can easily fit two fists inside; on the lower portion is a tear nearly the width of my back.
A Guatemala racing jersey with Antigua arm warmers is his replacement. The new cloth feels soft and silky against my skin. Much better than the heavy, oily feel of all my other clothes. They are long overdue for a real wash. It’s going on a month, maybe over a month. My clothes were last washed two days after arriving in Panajachel.
We’ll, its time to go. Rio is determined to leave today. If I am to go with him, I’ve got to pack my bags, load my bike, and wash my poop stained pants. Yep, I pooped myself again.
I feel weak and very spaced out but my bike is loaded. Its time to move on. On the stove, an aluminum pot brings water to a boil. Ramen noodle lie open and ready to be hydrated.
My stomach handled the meal fine yesterday so it should today as well. It’s a safe meal that will provide a bit of energy but, more importantly, hydration. It is hot and we are leaving late. I’m prepared for some sweating.