This week my dad and a family friend and I went up a huuuuuge mountain the size of Everest: a week long trip in torrential rain; up steep precipices and wading through fast flowing rivers; fighting for our lives against the relentless wind; living off the plants and cooking sheep for dinner; purifying rain water and barely surviving with the skin of our teeth.
Not quite. We went up Ben Lawers this morning for a nice walk. There was lots of wind and rain, and we did in fact wade through rivers (if you can call it ‘wading’ when the water is an inch deep). I was given the task of carrying the bags in the name of training; I’ll be doing lots of manual work in Ecuador (something I’m totally not used to) made harder by the lack of oxygen. However I did feel just a bit stupid carrying the a huge bag (the same huge bag that I’ll take to Ecuador) up a small hill on such a short walk!
On the car journey there I buried my head into my Ecuador guidebooks. I’ve been in contact with the two girls I’ll be travelling with, Helena and Connie (who has also started a blog; have a look here!) and we’ve been making vague plans of the in-country trips we’ll make while we’re there. Looking through the guide books with this in mind seemed like a good idea. There’s just such a huge amount to do!
However, some advice to prospective travellers: don’t look at the Health section of a guide book. It’s enough to terrify you and make you cancel your flight. It all seems okay at first as I read the section titled Altitude and hypothermia: it’ll take a couple of days to acclimatise if I avoid alcohol and sleeping pills. However an extreme form of this is Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) which you get from going too high too quickly.
Symptoms include headaches, nausea and extreme tiredness, dizziness, insomnia, confusion and a staggering gait. The best way to relieve the condition is also the simplest – lose altitude.
I should be okay as long as I’m careful! The next section “Before you go” also seems fine, and advises you to get vaccinated at least 2 months in advance. Well, I’m almost sorted with vaccines so there’s not much to panic about there. However this is followed by a paragraph on insect-borne diseases:
Dengue fever is a painful and debilitating disease spread by the Aedes mosquito, which bites during the day. There’s no known vaccine for dengue fever and there’s not a lot you can do should you contract it … Symptoms include headaches, severe joint pain and high fever, though it’s usually only fatal if caught repeatedly.
Oh great. On the bright side at least it’s not like I’ll just die if I get it. Another section talks about the sun:
It’s not a good idea to strip off and soak up the equatorial sun. Serious sunburn and sunstroke are real risks, particularly at altitude, when the temperature is not necessarily that high but the thin air amplifies the harm done by the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
I’ve not been brought up in a place where high factor sun screen is a necessity, so I’ll have to be on my toes when it comes to remembering to apply it. Especially when I only associate sun screen with hot places – and the Cloud Forest isn’t exactly hot!
Just when I think it can’t get any worse, I read the section titled “Food and water”. Surely I’ll be fine with this – I just need to remember to drink bottled water?!
Avoid the following: ice made from tap water; fruit juices with tap water added…
That should be okay, if I’m at a restaurant I can ask the waiters.
… undercooked, partly cooked or reheated fish, crustaceans, meat or eggs; dairy products and ice cream made from unpasteurized milk…
Hm. I’m not sure my Spanish extends to asking those kinds of things!
… food that’s been lying around uncovered where flies can get at it.
Even if I could ask that, how rude would that be? “Perdón señor waiter, have flies been nibbling at this food you’re serving me?”
… and raw vegetables and salads.
I will STARVE
Eeeeeergh. Oh well, it could be worse! To be honest, while it seems scary it’ll probably be fine when I’m there. Ha. In a weird way it makes it a lot more exciting! (I say that now…)
Anyway it’s quite sad, because I realised that this weekend was the last that I have free until I leave to Ecuador. Totally out of the blue I was invited to an orchestra course in Aberdeen which lasts 5 days from the 8th November. But before that I’m going to Austria for a week to see my brother! I’m leaving this Wednesday, I can’t wait 😀 So from Wednesday my schedule is pretty much full: Austria; 5 days later to Aberdeen; as soon as I come back I’ll be looking after my parents’ shop for 10 days; 2 days later I’m off to London for 3 days for the pre-departure briefing; 3 days after that I’ll hopefully be in Spain for 2 weeks; when I come back I’ll be hectically preparing for my journey while my German friend stays for a week; then on the 4th I am leaving forever! Well, 3 months.
It’s all happening at once!