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.

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