Jul 18, 2004
|Written by Karen:
Ted became congested again during the tour to Calilegua, and overnight he got really sick again. Today we needed to check out of the hotel in Jujuy and head to Salta, but Ted felt so bad that all he could do was lay on the sofa in the hotel lobby until it was time to get the bus to Salta. In the meantime, I bought our bus tickets, called ahead to the hostel in Salta so they would pick us up from the bus station there, and did some souvenir shopping including a llama wool sweater for Ted who didn't have enough warm clothes in my opinion.
Upon arrival at the youth hostel in Salta, Ted went straight to bed. We lucked out to get a double with a private bathroom. On Monday morning he was much worse. I spent some time (and a lot of money) calling our travel insurance company who is supposed to have an international list of English speaking doctors. They said "Oh yes, we have lots of doctors on our list for Argentina. You're not far from Buenos Aires, are you?" I explained that we were a 24-hour bus ride from Buenos Aires. The agent replied "Oh, well, I guess you should just ask the front desk at your hotel then." An expensive phone call for advice I already knew.
So I asked about doctors at the front desk of the hostel. They said they knew someone who would come to our room. Perfect! So 20 minutes later a man comes to our room wearing a vest that says 'Paramedic.' He didn't speak English, but our pocket dictionary had a good list of translated symptoms, so I was able to explain what was wrong with Ted. The paramedic took Ted's temperature and looked in his throat. Although Ted had a temperature, the paramedic said it was just a virus and that it would have to run its course. He said it would be at least a couple days before we would see improvements, and just for Ted to sleep and drink fluids. So while Ted slept, I walked around town a bit, and got some groceries.
The next morning (Tuesday), Ted still felt bad, and wouldn't eat anything. Optimistic that he would be getting better as time went on, we agreed that maybe I could go on a short bicycle tour in the afternoon while Ted was sleeping. I left to take care of some errands, and came back to check in on Ted at lunchtime. By this time, Ted was visibly a lot worse. He barely had the strength to get out of bed. I left for the tour (it was only 2.5 hours), but told Ted that if he wasn't any better when I got back, I was calling for the doctor again.
The bike tour was just me and the guide, a young woman named Analía. We took the mountain bikes in a taxi up into the surrounding mountains, biked to a beautiful lake with lots of birds where we had a snack, and then biked back down the mountains into Salta. Back in the city, we stopped to have some mate at a cool neighborhood café by the train station. It was a great trip and I really enjoyed it. When I told Analía that, she said that she was relieved to hear it because I had been so quiet during the trip that she thought something was wrong. I explained that I was worried about my husband, who seemed to be very sick. She asked me about his symptoms, and about what the doctor had said. She was shocked that the doctor hadn't prescribed any medication for Ted to take, pointing out that her doctor gives her meds even when she only has a cold. Analía decided that this doctor that had seen Ted must not be very good, and asked me if I would like to take Ted to her doctor. I told her that would be great, since we didn't know of any good local doctors. Analía offered to call and make an appointment for me, but warned that I might have to pay the doctor out-of-pocket since we weren't on the national health plan. I said "Of course, that is fine." So Analía went off to a pay phone to make an appointment.
When she came back, she said "I'm sorry I couldn't get anything sooner, the earliest he has available is an hour from now."
I was like, "are you kidding? That's great!"
"Also," Analía said, "it's very expensive. You will have to pay 35 pesos. Is that ok?" I about fell over in shock - 35 pesos is only US$12! If only healthcare in the USA was so timely and inexpensive!
"Of course - that's fine!" I said.
Analía took me back to the hostel, and wrote down 'I have an appointment with the doctor' in Spanish on a piece of paper in case I had trouble speaking. I went to the room and woke up Ted - he started saying things like "Where am I?" and "Is it morning already?" which really freaked me out. He was so weak that we took a taxi to the doctor's office, even though it was only 4 blocks away, and he had to lean on me to walk. Analía's doctor examined Ted much more thoroughly than the paramedic guy, and determined that Ted had bronchitis. He prescribed some medication to bring the fever down, and some antibiotics. He also said that Ted was required to stay in bed for at least 48 hours.
After putting Ted back to bed at the hostel, I set out to get all of our receipts and prescriptions photocopied for the insurance company, and to get the prescriptions filled. In Salta, most of the stores and offices close from noon or 1pm until between 3:30 and 5pm, but then stay open until 9-10pm or later. This worked to my advantage because I had to go to several pharmacies before finding one that carried both of the medications I needed, but I still had time to buy some juice and food from the corner grocery since everything is open late.
On Wednesday, Ted was feeling better, so I went sightseeing in the city during the afternoon. Salta is a really beautiful city, and I got to know it quite well since we were there for so long. Every day I ate breakfast at a cafe in the main Plaza 9 de Julio, which had a great view of the Teleferico (gondola) going up the mountainside. The Teleferico goes to the top of San Bernardo Mountain, and has a series of concrete waterfalls and a restaurant/gift shop at the top. Salta is full of buildings with beautiful colonial architecture, and very inexpensive museums. The food was really great, especially at this one touristy restaurant called Dona Salta where the waiters were dressed up like gauchos. I went crazy for tamales, empanadas, and humitas - couldn't eat enough of them! I also went crazy over the handicrafts, which were very inexpensive, and since we were near the end of our trip, I knew I didn't have to carry them for long. For example, in Vermont I used to buy alpaca wool gloves at a store there for US$20 a pair. In Salta, the same sold for US$3 or $4 a pair. So I got two pairs! Ted thought I was crazy - "What?!? More shopping?!?!" he'd say. My mission was to find the perfect wool sweater, since they were only about US$15 here, and buying one in the States imported from Peru or Bolivia can cost you US$60 or more. I also liked that I was buying directly from the person who had made the item.
One morning over breakfast, I read the real estate section of the paper. As in Buenos Aires, housing is very inexpensive in Salta (at least from a USA perspective). Most houses were selling for around US$20,000 although a 15 room youth hostel was up for sale for US$120,000 but that seemed very overpriced in comparison. Hmmm...if I lived in Salta I could eat empanadas every day...very tempting... :)