"We need to talk..." I heard Michael's voice before I saw him. A moment later, he popped around the hedge to where I was sitting in the garden of our hostel in Cusco, Peru. I had just finished a five minute coughing fit and was doubled over holding my chest, which was raked with pain and - I was pretty positive - was building some pretty permanent scar tissue at this point.
I was almost a week into a horrible upper respiratory illness that had me coughing so hard that I had lost my voice and that had left me with almost constant ringing in one ear. Apparently this was not too uncommon in Cusco where at 3,800 metres, the air was thin, the nights were cold, and the weather was dry.
Michael sat down next to me and began telling me how his family of three had experienced something extraordinarily similar the last time they had visited. While he was sure that my upcoming travels to sea level in Colombia would bring the end of it, there might be something I wanted to try now.
Two days later, I found myself lying in a room in the hillside farmlands of Cusco, surrounded by mamacitas with their braids and layered skirts, covered in suction cups. It was a peaceful and beautiful treatement room of Dutch homeopath, Jens.
An elderly man on my left had been introduced to Jens three years ago, almost ready to leave this world with a large tumour between his heart and his spine. Unable to walk, he had been carried in by his son and wife. After three months of treatment, his cancer was gone and today he walks up and down the many steep stairs and hills of this mountainside.
"Western medicine is focused on diagnositics and pills," explained Jens passionately. "In Asia, there are no diagnostics. It's about energy - a healthy flow is the basis for health. Doctors encourage energy flow and dislodge blocks."
The main two hour treatment at Jens' is about getting your energy flowing. He uses a method called cupping where suction cups are attached along the energy meridians of the body. Throughout the treatment, Jens moves the cups about. The effect and the principle is similar to that of acupuncture, but without the needles.
"There are three things to avoid, is my recommendation - red meat, dairy, and microwaves." These three are, in Jens' opinion, the root of energy blocks and general poor health.
"If you are going to eat meat, eat chickens who have had a good life - not the farmed kind that are full of hormones."
He alternates his explainations and teachings in Spanish and English - the latter for my benefit.
"Especially you," he says turning to me. "Avoid all dairy. It will make your congestion and phlegm worse. It's at the root of asthma and bronchial problems. That would be my recommendation."
He further explains, as he moves the suction cups to my legs, that the energy meridians in our bodies run from our fingers and toes into our teeth. "Never get a root canal - the meridian doesn't know, and dead energy is sent to your organs, and you can never be in balance again."
I don't dare admit that I have a root canal, but I do check the chart in the waiting room after my treatment and see that my dead tooth is connected with the lungs and large intestine - the latter being where I tend to have many issues.