The Cake Monster
The one thing that I could rely on for sustenance whilst travelling in South America was cake. Consistent in quality and quantity throughout countries we visited, gateau’s, pies, tarts and tiramisu, were a safety net when other foods failed to satisfy in terms of appeal, variety and health. A selection of stomach parasites/bacteria coupled with stomach related altitude sickness made it impossible to eat anything heavier than an air filled Victoria sponge without getting sick. As my weight dropped dramatically to the point of a worrying resemblance to Skeletor I found cake was my salvation.
For those of you who have not experienced Altitude Sickness – it’s scary. There are a large amount of anecdotal tales of travellers going to bed with a migraine and dying in the night or experiencing ongoing bouts of diarehia and vomiting. My travelling companion suffered in the main from headaches and vomiting and the choice was to either head back down to sea level or take medication. He took the medication – which was not cheap but worked a treat. Being a bit of a tight arse he stopped taking the medication as soon as he felt better only to be struck down in locations where chemists were as rare as rocking horse shit. The worst moment had be crossing from Bolivia to Argentina when he decided that having run out of medication he would not need any more as Salta, our final destination, was at an altitude that he could cope with. What he didn’t take into his calculations was the 10 hours or so at altitude before we started to descend the alto-platino. Bus breakdown (2 hours), immigration delays (4 hours), bus delays and lunch (1 hour) protestors blocking the road (2 hours), army stop and search in Argentina (1 hour). He was so ill that I thought our final destination was going to be hospital.
We finally arrived in Salta at 10.30 pm, booked into a hostel and because he had started to feel better headed out for something to eat. We opted for cake with its restorative powers and shared the most amazing tiramisu I have ever eaten. Two large moist pieces, decorated with chocolate shavings and mini malteser balls, drizzled with white and dark chocolate sauce – heaven.
I can’t remember when we started to visit the cake shops more than once a day – maybe in Peru where we met a fellow cake and coffee lover or possibly in a country where the altitude wore us out and we needed regular drink and food breaks to recover. Whenever it was, at some stage I changed from a take it or leave it cake person to a cake fiend that needed at least one fix a day. Like a true addict I reasoned that this obsession would go away once I arrived in a country with clean water, good food and little or no altitude.
About a week ago I arrived in Australia and the first thing I did (after a good sleep) was visit a little bakery I know of and buy their supremely delicious, can eat more than two slices and not feel sick, chocolate mousse and pear cake. After all, as I pointed out to my friends whilst salivating over it, I need to put on some weight.