Altitude Sickness Wreaks Your Appetite

On every trip I learn a few lessons; like in Israel, I learned that just a single drop of Dead Sea Water splashed in the eye can sear with such ferocity that screaming and running in circles is perfectly acceptable and only mildly interesting to onlookers. Peru taught me a lot about altitude sickness. Before I left I was convinced that like e coli outbreaks or the flu, altitude sickness was only harmful to the very old, very young and to those with suppressed immune systems; I was wrong my friends, very wrong.

The picture above is me at 4200 meters which is the equivalent of being at the top of a 1400 story building. The smile on my face is completely for show. Moments before, I had experienced my own personal episode of the Twilight Zone and had yet to come down from the experience.
I was on a two day guided tour of the Colca Canyon and my guide explained that we would soon be reaching the highest elevation point on our trip, but before, he encouraged that we drink a little coca tea to ward off sorocha (altitude sickness). I’m always up for eating and drinking and I figured the tea would completely knock out any minor reaction to the altitude I might have. I totally drank the Kool-Aid and was convinced that I was 100% sorocha immune which is why when we reached our 4200 meter destination, like a sprinter out of the block, I dashed off that tour bus straight for the bathroom busting to use the ladies room. This will come as no surprise to those acquainted with my thimble sized bladder.

I got to the little stone hut restrooms with their little grass roofs in no time, but then I started to hear wind chimes in my ears. The corners of my mouth were dry and I really couldn’t feel the ground under my feet. The only part of my sensory that seemed to be functioning properly was the one that kept saying, I have to pee, I have to pee, I have the pee. I got to the opening of the ladies room just in time to catch another tourist mid stream and take inventory: no door, no toilet paper, no toilet. I had peed into triangular holes cut in cement before, but the altitude was messing with my problem solving skills. I could not figure out how to get the tissues that were in the purse around my neck into my hands. After about a minute of concentrated deep breathing my thoughts came together enough for me to do my business, but not enough for me to remember to take a blog worthy photo to go along with this piece.

For the next few days, I continued to suffer at the hands of the sorocha no matter how much tea I drank. And I’m still not sure if my ultra frequent urination was a symptom of altitude sickness or a side effect of the cure. What I do know is that it was hard to keep up my normal wolf it down eating schedule. Though I did manage to try alpaca and quinoa and a $1 a plate of street food that included: chicken, spaghetti, french fries and rice. That’s a lot for $1.

Dispatch from Peru

It´s been 36 hours and I´m already in my second city. Yesterday was Lima and today is Arequipa. Yesterday was all about misty rain, musty hotel rooms and getting my traveler´s legs. It was also my first encounter with ceviche. Surrounded by shops with whole chickens hanging from huge metal hooks (feet, heads and all) was a set of lunch stalls. There Zack and I split an ear of corn with kernals the size of dimes and a plate of raw, lime marinated, fish. Zack said it was great and I want to agree, but I´m still new to the fish world so what I can say is, it was fresh, beautiful and completely non-fishey.

We flew into Arequipa this morning and after viewing a mummy frozen from the time of the Incas, we went to a festival gastronomic. There were lots of free drink samples. Instead of Peruvian we ate Thai and falafel, but it was great to practice Spanish. Tomorrow is Colca canyon which is said to be much deeper than the Grand Canyon, we shall see.

Sorry, no USB port so no photos. Photos will come later.

Ciao from the land of alpachas, cuy and... and I will have to fill in that last one after a few more days getting to know the place.