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Sleepless in Cusco


Sometime in the mid-1990s I decided to complete my Spanish studies by spending some time in Latin America. Unfortunately, I had chosen spring as my travel season, a season that often brings enormous downpours.


My journey had begun in Quito in Ecuador andvia different cities  in the Andes it finally took me to the coast of Peru ans its capital Lima. From Lima I had originally planned to take the bus to Cusco to see not only the old Inca capital but also  visit legendary Machu Picchu. Due to the heavy rainfalls and the subsequent mudslides, a trip by bus was completely impossible, roads were impassable, parts of them torn away. So I opted for a flight, which was also a little adventurous, because due to the bad weather the turbulences were enormous and the horror about crashing into various air holes was also written in the face of the locals.


After my fascinating trip to Machu Picchu I arrived back in the city of Cusco, and because of the stormy weather and the various rock slides I booked my flight to El Alto, the airport of Bolivia's capital La Paz.

Since I wasn't the only tourist in Cusco during the off-season, I had trouble finding a room for the night. Finally, I succeeded, but the price for the night was calculated by hours...


When I moved into my room, I noticed that the bed did not have an ordinary mattress, but that a straw sack served that purpose. In order not to have to worry too much about its inner life, I carefully spread my sleeping bag over it and went to sleep. After all, the next day I had to crawl out of the bed early to see as much of La Paz as possible. Soon, however, it became clear to me that sleeping was not going to be easy. I suddenly felt itchy all over and in the glow of my torch I thought I could also see small punctures, but the characteristic buzzing sound of mosquitos could not be heard.


I closed the window, switched on the lights, but couldn't find a single mosquito; which would have surprised me anyway, since the city lies at more than 3000 metres above sea level and thus also above the mosquito line. Nevertheless, I unpacked my mosquito net and draped it over my bed as well as I could. And I still couldn't rest; all night it itched and itched until I scratched myself bloody and it  itched even more. When the day was slowly dawning, I eventually ended up falling into a deep, exhausted sleep, from which I was shocked awake only to realise that I only had 10 minutes left before my flight's departure!


I had certainly never before jumped into my clothes so fast, packed my things and rushed to the airport. But, of course, I was too late; angry and disappointed I sat down in the departure hall and amidst the noisy, excited people I cursed all mosquitoes of this world, my stupidity to choose the rainy season of all times to go on a great journey and everything that crossed my mind. Meanwhile, I kept scratching my many bites, which  attracted the attention of a fellow traveller. "Oh, that's a bad case of bed bugs."


Bedbugs! I was instantly horrified of the thought of the little beasts crawling all over me, and I feverishly considered how much of my clothes I could do without to make sure I didn't take those little monsters with me;  and how could I possibly get my sleeping bag bug-free.

In the middle of my considerations I noticed that it had suddenly become quite quiet around me in the departure hall, which had been deafeningly loud only a few minutes ago. Eventually I heard some quiet weeping and incredulous murmuring.


Everyone's eyes were glued to the  the ubiquitous T.V. sets. When I looked too, I didn't understand what I was seeing, it seemed utterly unreal. You could see smoking pieces of wreckage, a landscape grey with metal rain, people searching for survivors among the remains of passenger seats, suitcases scattered all over the place, a few chickens tied together by their feet (they are usually transported in Latin America in the passenger compartment) still twitched their wings desperately but in vain, cackled excitedly.

?qué ha pasado?  A plane had crashed, but not just any plane, but the one I had just missed due to a sleepless night caused by a bedbug.

I was completely shocked when I realised that these nasty little beasts had just saved my life.

Ruth P. für die Goldene Eisenstrasse (tm) - 2019 - Lebensbaum Steyr (c)