Nov 15, 2005

Some Sexy Scabies

It ain't travelling in Latin America if you do it alone. And no, I don't mean everyone needs to travel with someone they love like I am. Nope, I'm talking about those lovable huggable locals that happily accompany every traveler at some point in a long journey whether they are invited or not.

In a word, Parasites.
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A little while before leaving Central America Tyler found himself absentmindedly scratching his bellybutton not unlike Dean Moriarty in the classic traveler book _On the Road_. And since Dean was a hardcore traveler, as is Tyler, he didn't let it bother him. For the first few weeks, even as it got worse and worse. Eventually Tyler started complaining to me about his itch and we decided it must just be the new detergent we were using and I chuckled at his folly. I hadn´t barely noticed that all the while I was absently scratching at my own belt line.

By the time we reached the thriving, vast, and intense city of Bogota we were both continuously scratching at an itch that never really showed itself. Tyler stopped long enough to snap this picture of me, checking out the view from a high ridge looking out at a smog covered metropolis stretching as far as the eye can see.

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It just itched like crazy, it felt worse every morning and slowly crept over all the sensitive areas on my body from the belt line to thighs to wrists. It was a struggle to pay attention to the really cool things we found, like this great collection of art..

Monalisa by Fernando Botero
Click above to Explore Boteros personal
Art Collection Donated to Colombia


... or a llama patiently parked in a downtown parking lot.

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By this time we were both annoyed, baffled and starting to worry what on earth was happening to us. We consulted the internet and looked up everything we could think of from STDs (and if that was it we wont even think about I caught it from my brother) to exotic hyperallergenic reactions. After hours of searching we were itchy, frusterated and lost. We finally wrote to Madre MacAllen, a nurse, praying that she could work her magic. And she did, she suggested we look into Scabies. A truly despicable creature if I've ever known of one.

Scabies

They are a nearly microscopic mite that burrows under ones skin, gorges on flesh and leaves a trail of feces and eggs like an invisible itchy tattoo. Apparently it takes up to four weeks to start feeling symptoms and they are readily shared between people who share beds, clothes and close quarters.

But finally, even though we were already moving on to the next town we now knew our enemy. As we sat on the long, itchy, bus ride to the well preserved Colonial town of Popayan we prepared to wage an all out war.

Popayan is beautiful

The worldy and wise internet told us of a mystical elixar, Permetrina, that we could get at most pharmacys. Apparently when smeared all over ones body in a lotion and left alone for 8-10 hours it would kill our accursed Scabies. However, being MacAllens we knew that was only half the battle. Upon arriving in Popayan we got the elixir, booked the nicest hotel of our whole trip and stocked up on cheap red wine and junkfood. While the Permethrine attacked them from the outside in, we would wage war from the inside out.

It was long harrowing battle. It involved drinking terrible wine on a balcony overlooking the central plaza as well as smearing greasy goo from the neck down while watching cheesy movies on cable and eating pounds of processed sugar. The next morning, I'm happy to say, we awoke victorious (although slightly hung over). It takes the itch a few weeks to subside to nothing, but we both felt the difference the next day.

Having slaughtered our stowaways we were finally ready to leave Colombia. We rode all day in a careening van headlong into the Andes. Having spent several months climbing the impressive mountains of Central America I had forgotten how truly breathtaking a real mountain chain is. It was breathtaking (but that just might be because we got so high there isn't hardly any air left.)

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We spent our last night in Ipiales and each said a difficult goodbye to Colombia the early next morning. Neither of us had known what to expect in Colombia, besides the certainty we would be kidnapped by angry guerillas, and we fell for the country so hard we independently started daydreaming about moving back there to live. This country is incredible, even with scabies.

Guerrilla de Eliseo Velasquez by Fernando Botero
These were the only guerillas we saw on our trip
along the entire length of Colombia

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