SOME people have cast-iron skillets; I have a cast-iron stomach. A childhood aversion to bath time, coupled with a series of spectacularly unhygienic university share-houses, has left me with an unusually high tolerance to germs - a valuable weapon in the travel writer's arsenal.
Montezuma's Revenge? He didn't avenge me. Delhi Belly? No problem for Mr Vincent. I've eaten street food that dumpster divers wouldn't touch and gone back for seconds; I've stayed in youth hostels unfit for fleas and not even sneezed. But then I went to Peru.
It started the night before, when, as the MV Aria cruised down the Amazon River, I experienced in my cabin the worst two nightmares since childhood. In the first, my family was harmed; in the second my beloved Geelong Cats lost the 2012 AFL grand final (don't laugh - for me that's a nightmare, though as it turns out they would be eliminated from the finals in week one).
The next morning I awake with an equally unfamiliar feeling: nausea. I manage to keep down my breakfast but the meal only makes me feel worse. The Aria is a luxury ship with a menu to match - it's hardly the recipe for a tummy rumble in the jungle. So why do I feel so dreadful?
As we are scheduled to visit a village onshore straight after breakfast, I've no time to think what could be the culprit while I quickly wash my face and swallow the daily dose of anti-malarial pills I started taking the day before. But once ashore and in full view of the Aria's other passengers, I am soon emptying the contents of my stomach with all the decorum of a Saturday night binge-drinker.
While the rest of my party take a jungle path the kilometre to the village, I stay in the forest and continue to be sick. The Aria's paramedic is summoned and when he learns of my nightmares he immediately surmises I've had a reaction to the anti-malarials, a view I share given my rapid downfall since popping another few pills in the morning.
The air suddenly feels heavy and the paramedic's voice becomes hard to follow. I'm struggling to walk but insist on pressing on. In the village, a thatched affair of dozing dogs and corn crops, snotty-nosed kids tease me in Spanish (a native speaker would later tell me they were telling me to pull up my pants - not my first priority at the time).
When I lose the ability to walk I am lifted into a wheelbarrow and pushed the kilometre back to the boat, where I start to recover once I stop taking the anti-malarials.
Despite my predicament I can't help chuckling. On the Aria I had been reading Tracks, Robyn Davidson's legendary account of a solo camel trek through the West Australian desert; I couldn't even manage a kilometre in the Amazon before being loaded into a contraption designed to ferry bricks around building sites.
They sure don't make travel writers like they used to.