My last night in Peru was spent in a village called San Ignacio de Loyola, my old friend from Spain. I read his autobiography a few years ago and read of our commonality... severe stomach pain during a pilgrimage. I experienced it first when I went to Santiago de Compostella, again in Crimea, and lastly in Istanbul. I thought I had it beaten, attributed to Vitamin A D E or K deficiencies and affecting the upper digestive track. I try to be careful about what I eat, but it's not always easy when you eat as the locals. The Peruvian countryside diet is very meager in fat and meat. When I arrived in Ecuador, an entirely different plate was presented - fresh whole milk instead of canned sweetened evaporated milk, 5 or 6 ounces of beef rather than an ounce or two of guinea pig or chicken in soup... richness. I ate a rather small portion - the priest kept insisting 'eat, eat', but by nightfall, I was flat out with a rock in my stomach. I made it through the night but in the morning, the folks at the parish office called the doctor (housecall!). He gave me the magic shot in the rear, which arrested the constant vomiting, and prescribed rest. I thought that would be that, as it was on the other occassions, and after a calm and restful second night in the same bed, I set off with the blissful satisfaction that it had passed. Fooled! Another small meal of beef and rice and milk in my coffee was enough to cause another fitful, painful sleepless night. After walking some distance by foot, I moved ahead a town by bus at the insistance of the (rather frightened) parish priest to a hideous tourist town of expat Americans and Brits but with a regional hospital. There, after a refreshing bag of intravenous saline, they diagnosed it as gastritis and sent me off with some tablets to set me right. Poor Saint Ignacious, what was he to do when moving from one gastronomic palate to another?
I now have a map of Ecuador and am working out a route that includes the famous sanctuaries and historic places and will rest for the day before continuing on my pilgrimage tomorrow, after days of interruption. Life's still good, of course, loving the pilgrim way.
I can't say for sure, of course, but I think I'm at the halfway point at just over 7,000 kms. In Peru alone, I passed more than 3,400, more than any other single country I've walked through. Immediately in Ecuador, the ugliness of 'gringo' is gone and people are far more inclined to smile and greet me as I do them. Nice.