Day 51: Pushing the Limits

After days of birding on very little sleep, Noah gets some rest the hard way.

February 20, 2015, Jaen, Peru — Today I hit a wall. I knew it might happen eventually, and it was probably inevitable given my hectic last week in central Peru, with 3-5 hours of sleep each night. This morning I woke up with a sore throat, and a fever followed in early afternoon.

Carlos, Glenn, Julio (our driver) and I stopped at a place called Abra Porcuya for lunch and to spend a couple hours birding. After 20 minutes I began shivering and had to sit down. Carlos, looking a little worried, pointed out a Piura Chat-Tyrant (an attractive, super-endemic bird) and I realized I could barely lift my binoculars. That was it: Juio pulled up the van, I got in, reclined in my seat and tried to clear my mind, and we all headed a couple hours down the road to a town called Jaen.

Halfway there, traffic was stopped on the highway with people out of their cars, apparently for an accident ahead. Julio didn’t hesitate: He pulled into the opposing lane and passed more than a mile of parked cars, trucks, and buses before we arrived at the scene. A bus had hit and flipped a tractor across both lanes. Julio yelled at the cleanup crew, in Spanish: “I have a sick person and we are going to the hospital!” (A little exaggeration never hurts.) It turned out we had good timing; the tractor was cleared several minutes later, and we went zooming ahead of a line of a couple hundred vehicles. Man, I’ve always wanted to do that!

In Jaen I checked into my own hotel room with AC and collapsed on the bed for the rest of the day. I don’t think it’s too serious (though, between the tractor and Jaen, we passed two separate billboards listing the symptoms of Dengue Fever—not exactly what you want to see when you actually have a fever). Half of it, I hope, is just exhaustion.

Carlos, Glenn, and Julio seemed happy to have a rest, too. Glenn wisely compared my big year to an ultramarathon, where you have to go at your own pace. Especially on a downhill section, like Peru (where it’s easy to pick up a lot of birds), you can get drawn into going too fast, and rotating through fresh pacers only compounds the danger. Marathoners talk about “hitting the wall” or “bonking,” and today I bonked hard. It’s probably not the worst thing in the world to have an enforced rest.

Incidentally, when I uploaded my day’s sightings to eBird, I realized that the fateful Piura Chat-Tyrant was my personal 3,000th life bird. My life list is sure getting a boost this year!

New birds today: 6

Year list: 1188

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