Life is really very peculiar sometimes, isn't it? Yesterday I experienced a strange set of coincidences that again lead me to think that surely fate plays a major, even lifesaving, role in life. As I mentioned, we had jumbo shrimps for lunch. Tito was determined to have them - we took a taxi to a recommended seafood restaurant - but when we found they didn't have 'camarones' we hopped right back in a taxi to look for somewhere that did. Tito ended up with a great plate of barbecued shrimps, while I had the fried mixed seafood, and very tasty it all was too. We then proceeded to the bus station, where we expected to board the 5:30pm bus to Puno. It turned out, however, that the ticket had been for the 5:30am bus instead. Tito managed to get a full refund by being mightily peed off, and so we went and booked another ticket, this time for 8:30pm. Having three hours to kill, we checked our luggage in at the bus counter and came back into central Arequipa to use the internet. I made an entry and then went to buy a digest-aid tablet, as lunch hadn't gone down quite as well as I'd hoped. As I walked along the street looking for a chemist's, I had a very sudden feeling that I was having an asthma attack. I bought my digestion pill and took that, and then bought a brand new ventolin inhalor, as my old one didn't seem to be having any effect. As I walked back to meet Tito at 8pm to catch the bus I started coughing uncontrollably, and when he saw me approaching he knew something was wrong as my lips were dark purple. I thought that the attack would pass, but it didn't, and I couldn't get any oxygen in the thin Arequipan air. So, we took a taxi to the nearest hospital, which seemed to take forever in the evening traffic, with me gasping for air, and poor Tito virtually pulling his hair out with worry. The doctor immediately put me on gas, and then an oxygen machine. He indicated that he thought it was food poisoning, which attacked my weakest area (ie. bronchial tubes) and this was further aggravated by my reaction to the altitude. I though this was absolute madness, as I've had quite bad food poisoning before, but it was simply the usual nausea and diaorrhea. Oh no, not PERUVIAN food poisoning, baby!
We obviously weren't going to be travelling to Puno, so Tito rushed out to the bus station to collect our luggage as soon as I could breathe. As I waited, I developed an unbelievably itchy sensation on my scalp and upper thighs. The doctor gave me a cortisone injection, and I was so relieved that I wasn't going to die that I didn't think much of the itching. Tito returned (baggage-less, as the counter had closed for the day) and we returned to the hotel we'd checked out of earlier. As soon as we entered the lobby, I went to the toilet and was alarmed to see that my upper thighs were covered in enormous, swollen, red welts, which were so thick in areas that there was no normal skin in between them. Off we went to the chemist, were I was given an emergency injection, pill, and cream. We went back to hotel feeling relieved. Unfortunately, the rash had yet to really get going... It spread all over my body, exploding in sudden red welts, travelling up my back and stomach, and right down to my toes. It was HORRENDOUS! I looked like the elephant woman, and Tito even shouted at me for looking in the full-length mirror, as it made me panic. It was a night of cold wet towels and mate de coca tea, and Tito was just WONDERFUL as my nurse. Eventually I fell asleep, and when I woke at 1pm today my skin was fine. My breathing is fine, too. I now have come to believe that the same swelling effect as on my skin must have also affected my throat and bronchial tubes, closing them up. Yikes! What I can't stop thinking about, though, is the serious of coincidences... if Tito hadn't wanted shrimps so much, I'd have been fine, presumeably. Yet, if we hadn't had incorrect bus tickets, we'd have been on the bus when I had the attack. The bus wouldn't have had oxygen on board, as it was a cheap company. Furthermore, we'd have been approaching Puno, which is one of the highest points in Peru, at 3500m above sea level, which would have really complicated my breathing... It could have been very dangerous indeed. I am oddly pleased, however, that it wasn't a straightforward asthma attack, or simply the effects of the altitude, because both would mean that I couldn't travel to Puno, or perhaps even Cuzco. However, it seems it was a bizarre combination of effects that I'm sure I couldn't replicate if I tried. I feel absolutely fine now, so we're off to Puno to see Lake Titicaca in the morning tomorrow. Fingers crossed!