We were on our way to the Amazon Basin, the southeast corner of Ecuador. The temperatures and humidity were rising, and by the time we arrived at our hotel, I was sweating. There was no air conditioning, just a blowing fan, so I was not surprised when I couldn't fall asleep. I tossed and turned while Mark snored, taunting me with his ability to sleep so easily. In the middle of the full sized bed, our arms were touching, sweating on each other. I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep like this, so I switched, end for end, placing my feet at the head of the bed. It didn't help. I was still sweating, tired but wide awake, and then my stomach started to churn. I grabbed the trash can from the bathroom and placed it alongside the bed, just in case. I couldn't remember the last time I felt that way. It was miserable, and then it happened, sweet relief; I projectile vomited the pineapple pizza I'd eaten hours earlier on the bus, and the iced limeade I'd eaten at the cafe when we arrived in town. There it was, mystery illness #5. I couldn't believe how many times I'd been sick on this trip. How was Mark not sick? We'd eaten all the same things- except for the hand-made sesame candies at the bus stop. By morning, it had developed into a full-on flu. I was achy in every part of my body, and it had started raining buckets outside. We decided to cancel the Amazon plans due to the rains; no one loves hiking and camping in buckets of rain.
We were in a town that didn't have much to offer. I had two choices. 1) Stay in the hot hotel room, without television, and feel sick all day, or 2) Down some Theraflu, and get on a 5 hour bus ride to Quito. I decided to go for it. I reasoned that as long as I wasn't eating, I wouldn't be able to throw up anymore. I fasted for 24 hours, so by the time we arrived in Quito, I was hungry. As the bus rolled by McDonalds, a processed cheeseburger had never seemed so appealing to me. Every restaurant looked appetizing. Then there was a steakhouse. That REALLY sounded good, but first we needed a hotel. We found a cab driver to take us to the Candalabro area where backpackers tend to stay. Mark paid for our hotel. When we found it, we dumped our bags and set out looking to solve my 24 hour hunger problem. Forget breaking back into eating with something simple like soup; I wanted steak. Just a block off the square, we were waved into a romantic candle-lit corner Argentinian restaurant which was empty, except for us. I ordered what turned out to be a giant, juicy T-bone steak with mashed potatoes, garlic bread, and veggies. I was already tempting fate, so skipped the red wine in favor of a bottle of carbonated water. To my great satisfaction, every bite was deliciously satisfying, and it all stayed down. I had survived mystery illness #5, but I couldn't get out of South America without two more surprise illnesses. Ah, well, it's the price we pay for travel, and some trips just turn out to be more expensive than others.