The View From Here

Hello from Cusco, Peru!

No, not this one:


but this one:

(thanks, Googlemaps)

There’s not much of a story to tell here, because our beautiful boutique hotel is all we’ve seen… because I’m an ass. Truly. I lived in Calgary. I’ve visited Denver. I thought, “I can handle altitude”. You might be wondering whether I was aware of the fact that Cusco is at twice Denver’s altitude, almost.

The answer is no.

I started to realise this was another kettle of fish on the flight from Lima—looking out the window, I’d NEVER seen mountains like that, and I’ve criss-crossed the Rockies like it was no big deal, you’ll recall.

These mountains weren’t up and down, peaks and valleys—it was a steadily increasing base level with periodic cloud-poking-through peaks. Oh dear. I started to become afraid… actually, it was the gigantosaur billboard at the Lima airport that made me afraid—it was a posed photo of a family at Machu Picchu, a total tourist shot, with one member bending out as if there was a little bit of upchucking. An ad for altitude sickness pills…

Oh hold on. You can VOMIT from altitude sickness?!?!

Have I mentioned my phobia lately?

So I turned to the Lonely Planet furtively while on the plane, and—turns out, Cusco is at 3,340m above sea level. That’s 10,958 feet. And altitude sickness can kill.

I should have done better due diligence. I might have seen that the best way to overcome is to climb 1,000m per day, spend a few nights adjusting, and keep climbing. That tends not to lead to ending up in a bad, bad way. Flying from Lima to Cusco in 1 hour… on the other hand, isn’t what nature intended. And if you defy nature, you can become dizzy, light-headed, nauseous, you can vomit.

Realising all this caused me, on the inside, to progress to, “STOP THE PLANE. STOP IT NOW!”

I don’t do anything that brings on vomiting!

Too late… so there was fear. Increasing, as we landed in Cusco. And by the time we were in the airport, I was convinced of our impending death. By vomit.

Our ride didn’t come for us at the airport, so we got Gringa’d into paying too much for a taxi that promised to stop at a pharmacy. (He didn’t). All I could think about was getting those pills… and maybe an oxygen cannister… but at our hotel, (the Andean Wings—I recommend!) we were talked down by a friendly American, Lisa, who came to visit six years ago and decided she had to stay forever. She runs the place.

She said, “do nothing”.


She said, “drink coca tea”.


She said, “if you get a headache, go on oxygen”.


So I’m going back to the “do nothing” part, and will post about our awesomely delicious day in Lima later. Chronology is overrated, anyway…

So: for your viewing pleasure, a little of Day 66:

Oh, I broke down… Day 66 and Lima airport’s Starbucks charmed me into it: a short, double-shot, half-sweet café mocha… personalised for “Estephanie”.

Coca tea, coca leaf.

Oh, look. Our hotel is serving mouse for dessert. (And yes, it’s named for Nelson Mandela.) 😀 And yes, I’m working on the “medicinal beverages” as I write this.

As it stands, we’re 11 hours in and there’s no sickness yet, but you can bet your a$$ we have 2 cannisters of oxygen AND the pills.

Precaution is EVERYTHING.

Tomorrow… to Machu Picchu!