It seemed like the best idea I’ve ever had: traveling to Peru on my 25th birthday, doing the Inca trail and spending my birthday in a blissed out state among the ruins of Machu Picchu. And I did all that - except for the ‘blissed out’ part.
I planned everything out and it took WEEKS. Mind you - I didn’t know anyone from Peru or anyone who has ever been to Peru so it took FOREVER to do the research. I was travelling with two of my girlfriends so safety was a big concern to us. Getting to Lima from NYC was the easy part. The trickiest part was getting to Cusco from Lima and finding a decent (i.e. cheap but clean and safe and relatively central so we could go out at night) place to sleep.
Oh, let me tell you about then all the planning required to do the Inca Trail. God, that was painful! What Inca Trail tour company should we trust? What’s a decent amount of money to pay for it? Could we potentially do this on our own? The discussions took loooong and they weren’t pretty, but we finally found something we were all happy with. After all, the point of it all was getting to the destination: the amazing, magical, surreal Macchu Picchu.
And I am happy to report that everything went incredibly well. Travelling to Lima was a breeze. We took a bus from Lima to Cusco and, while it wasn’t the most luxurious bus trip we’ve ever taken, we had no complaints. We also found a nice B&B in Cusco a few minutes away from the town centre.
And we went out that night and, of course, when in Peru, you have to try THE traditional Peruvian dish: the famed Ceviche. For those who have never tried Peruvian cuisine, Ceviche is a seafood dish made from fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices. Please note the word in bold: ‘fresh’ because it is essential. Since the dish is raw fish, it’s absolutely crucial that the fish is fresh.
Because otherwise terrible, unspeakable things happen to your digestive organs and, if you experience such things once, you swear you will never ever allow yourself to experience it again.
I think you see where I am going with this.
I unfortunately did experience terrible, unspeakable things and without a doubt, it was the WORST culinary nightmare of my life. I laid in bed for three days, walking back and forth from our shared bathroom while my friends did the Inca Trail. (Side note: they didn’t of course try the Ceviche that night because they didn’t feel so motherf***ing brave as I did.) And I spent my 25th birthday in a bathroom in Cusco in the most miserable and pathetic emotional state you can imagine. (gaaah)
It turns out that the restaurant I had Ceviche in had the worst reviews when it came to food prep and quality. Locals knew this and so did smart travelers who bothered to inform themselves about this. But I didn’t – because it didn’t seem like a big deal and I never imagined that food poisoning could ever get that bad.
So here’s my lesson of the day: never eat Ceviche from an unknown place (a.k.a. Don’t Do What I Did).
Just the thought of it makes me queasy. And also… never ever underestimate local knowledge, good reviews and proper local knowledge when you travel to places you haven’t traveled before.
And I still have to see those damn ruins in Macchu Picchu…☹