With much regret, we’ve decided to put our bicycle tour on hold. After enduring three months of digestive discomfort and misdiagnoses, it turns out that I have ulcerative colitis. As much as I want to continue, I’ve decided to listen to the doctor and put my health first. I was having trouble finding the (expensive) medicine that I need. Not to mention, I could really use some recuperation time.
And so… we flew into Seattle on Friday to stay with family in Bellingham, WA for a few months. With a comfy home base, I hope I can recover more quickly… maybe even plan some micro tours and bikepacking in the North Cascades, my mountain bike stomping grounds from way back when. We’ll then take a slow trip down to San Francisco before flying back to London in April.
Although we’re both sad to cut short our first journey into South America, we’ve had a great run so far and it’s by no means a failure… nor is it necessarily the end! Our experiences, friends and memories have changed us forever. These are the forces that will surely lure us back to Bogotá some day down the road to pick up where we left off.
NOTE: this section describes digestive woes which some readers might consider too much info!
For anyone who’s actually interested, my UC symptoms began in Nicaragua after my second battle with parasites and things got worse through Costa Rica and Panama. When we arrived in Colombia, I went to the hospital on four different occasions throughout November and December. I was misdiagnosed each time and given antibiotics, anti-parasitics or various other treatments. I also tried limiting my diet to very simple foods. Nothing helped.
By the time we reached Bogotá I was at my wits end, sick of the fatigue, discomfort and bathroom urgency. I contacted my travel insurance and was advised I should have a colonoscopy. In the midst of some epicly chaotic Christmas and New Years festivities, it took me another few more weeks just to get an appointment because all the gastro docs were partying.
I finally had the joy of a colonoscopy, which revealed the extent of the inflammation and ulcers in my colon. The gastroenterologist prescribed me a high dosage of mesalazine with the hope of inducing a remission. It seems to be helping, but only time will tell if I can maintain remission on 5-ASAs alone. Unfortunately, finding these drugs whilst travelling is either too expensive ($400-1000 USD per month depending on dosage) or simply unavailable in smaller towns.
In the midst of this mess, we stayed in Hostal Fatima for almost four weeks! We highly recommend this hostel – reasonable price, great amenities, location and the staff are some of the most friendly and helpful of any hostel we’ve encountered.
On the plus side, our long stay in Bogotá allowed us to explore the city more thoroughly than we would have otherwise. Also, we were thrilled to discover Festival Centro, one of the country’s premier music festivals, with acts from all over Colombia, South America and beyond. We’ll be posting some photos and videos of our favourite bands soon!