Peru: Altitude Adjustment

September 1st, 2011

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I was warned before heading to Peru that the altitude in Cuzco and to a slightly lesser extent the Machu Picchu area would take its toll on us. Having been gradually acclimatized to the 8,000 foot elevation of Aspen over the years, I was a little skeptical that it would be much worse than a minor headache and a nosebleed or two.
It turns out that 11,000+ feet is a whole different experience.

Where my initial trips to The Rockies left me winded, head-achy and dehydrated, this elevation made me dizzy, tired and just plain weak.
Thankfully, the locals are familiar with such things, obviously. As soon as we got to the hotel, we were offered coca tea. I can’t say it’s the best tasting thing in the world, although this blend of coca and mint was pretty good. Regardless, it certainly helped cut off the major effects before they set in.
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Throughout the day, I chewed on some leaves I saw on sale at a shop and had more tea, and I was mostly ok – except when we hit the steep stairway to our hotel.
I hope this helps. The altitude is killing me this morning.
The next day when we were up before dawn to catch a train toward Machu Picchu, was an entirely different story. The fact that we took a swervy cab ride up another couple hundred meters didn’t help matters.
Sinus pressure pushed at the inside of my head, standing up was a challenge and walking anywhere made me woozy.
Thankfully, Tammi found these coca candies at the train station. I can’t swear that they saved the day, but by half way through the train ride, I was in much better shape. As much as I wanted to take home a souvenir, the last thing I feel like doing is catching candy smuggling charges on the way home.

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