I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

The altitude challenge

Honestly, I wasn't expecting to have such a hard time with the altitude. I knew that climbing ruins at high altitudes would be a challenge, but I thought my knees would be more of a problem than the altitude itself. I've spent time at altitudes from 5000 to 8000 feet without any symptoms more serious than a headache, so I thought that after a few days I'd be acclimated.

Our first night in the mountains, we were in the Sacred Valley, at an elevation just under 10,000 feet. And I felt fine—until I didn't. I started to feel dizzy during dinner, and by the time we were finished the room was spinning. All of the tourist hotels in the mountains have oxygen available, and our guide suggested I might need some. I thought they'd just hand me something like the little cans of oxygen they had for sale in the lobby, but they wheeled a tank to my room that looked like something you might drop from a plane on an enemy city. I breathed through a mask for ten minutes, the tank was removed, and I spent the rest of the night throwing up.

In the morning they sent me to the local clinic, where I was given more oxygen, and altitude sickness medication. And I was better, but the symptoms came and went until I went back to Lima. So, does coca help? Yes, a little. I would have tea with breakfast, and suck on the candies during the day. It gets rid of the headaches, and gives you a little burst of energy, but it's no substitute for oxygen.

And yet. I would go back. I loved Peru, and I would love to go back. I tell myself that maybe if I started on the medications sooner, or acclimated differently, I would adjust better. It's crazy; I was pretty sick. But I dream about going back.

1 comment:

Anne said...

What a trooper you are!

Blog Archive