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Leaving Peru

Cuzco, Peru


After the Inca Trail we spent a few days sorting our lives out. We both did a mountain of washing and I got my trousers repaired, a haircut and a new phrasebook (mainly because I needed one in order to get the trousers repaired and a haircut). Our main task, however, was working out where we were going to go next and, importantly, how we were going to get there. I haven't referred much to news and current affairs because so far we've been lucky enough not to have been affected by anything (a few tedious forms at airports are as close as we seem to have come to the swine flu outbreak, for example). However, now we found ourselves in the middle of protests between the Peruvian working classes and the government.

My (basic) understanding is that areas of land were being privatised and made available to foreign companies. The farmers working the land in these areas were understandably furious and there had been clashes with police resulting in a number of deaths. In a bid to make themselves heard, protests sprung up across Peru - roads were blocked with rocks and bridges burnt. Cuzco was targeted specifically in order to have the most impact. We had met a number of travelers who had come from Arequipa and had only made it to Cuzco by walking or hitchhiking for days over many miles after their coaches had been forced to stop. Some had to postpone their Inca treks because their feet were so badly blistered. So that ruled out Arequipa...

We decided that Puno and La Paz were the two most desirable options but the roads in that direction had also been heavily affected and any bus ride involved a certain level of risk. After much debate and solemn analysis of our shrinking bank accounts we decided to fly to La Paz. It would be worth the extra money just to know that we would actually get there. But my problems didn't end there. I received a text from my mum saying that she'd just collected my yellow fever certificate from the doctors and asking whether I wanted her to post it to Peru. I would need it to get into Bolivia.

This was slightly annoying as the nurse hadn't mentioned this certificate. I thought I had been completely organised - carrying around a print out which she had given me of all my immunisations and assuming that this was all I would need. Now I had to work out what to do. I couldn't hang around in Cuzco until it arrived by post - we had been there for so long the days were already becoming tedious, particularly now because after paying for the flight we had little money to amuse ourselves. Apparently it should be possible to sign a waiver at the border but this involved an airport discussion which I was neither comfortable with nor capable of. Eventually I decided to go to a hospital and get a replacement. It would prove to be a long and difficult morning.

I got up early and, with a list of hospitals torn out of my guidebook, made my way to the first one. The hospitals were crowded and typically confusing. Even with my new phrasebook I struggled to explain my situation and in order to save myself reliving this series of deeply uncomfortable moments I would like to skip to the part where (hours later) I found myself in the right room with the right person and the right certificate in my hand. I was going to get another jab. Then it occurred to me - I had the certificate in my hand! I could just leave! But what if I get stopped at the border? I was unsure. It had taken me three and a half hours to get to this point and I really didn't want it to all be for nothing.

A friendly nurse called me over and for the last time I attempted to explain, in Spanish which was not so much broken as destroyed beyond recognition, that I had already received the jab but did not have the certificate. I gestured to the certificate and then the door, with an expression which I hoped was something in between hopeful and inquisitive. Amazingly, she seemed to understand! She disappeared into another room. A stern looking women in a senior position asked me when I had received the jab. I showed her my print out. She shook her head. She would not be able to give me the vaccine a second time. I pointed hopefully at the certificate - my hopefully inquisitive expression became comically exaggerated. She shook her head; no injection in Peru, no certificate in Peru.

My heart sank. I should have just kept my mouth shut! I pleaded and my Spanglish reached new depths - a mix of English words in a foreign accent and Spanish words which I invented freely. I tried to explain that without this certificate it would be very difficult for me at the border into Bolivia in a couple of days. They might not even let me into the country! This came out "Sunday... Bolivia... difficult... please..." - I was sweating like a sumo in a shell suit and getting increasingly frustrated. Eventually, with a sigh, the stern woman took the certificates and filled it out with details of my previous jab. Yes! I took the certificate and thanked them desperately. Then I got out of there before they could change their minds. I had my certificate. I had my plane ticket. I was going to Bolivia.

permalink written by  steve_stamp on July 9, 2009 from Cuzco, Peru
from the travel blog: The art of being lost
tagged YellowFeverInjection

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glad you didnt have jab again which could have been very bad news for your health!all worked out well-your communication skills must be good! proud mama again!

permalink written by  sue stamp on July 10, 2009

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