Mal de altura!

I would have had a great day in Cusco yesterday if it wasn’t for the awful altitude sickess that made the day pretty miserable. At over 11,000 feet above sea level, it is a very sudden change from Lima, and on my arrival day, apart from a little dizziness and plenty of huffing and puffing walking along anything but flat ground, I thought I was going to be fine.

However, as evening approached I started to develop a bit of a headache, and went to bed fairly early. I had a very restless night, sleeping very little, and feeling somewhat feverish. Yesterday morning I felt truly dreadful, and after a quick chat with Ronnie and his brother Willy, who had booked me a tour in the afternoon, I went straight back to bed.

I felt much better when I woke again, and walked into the city centre to catch the tour bus. The tour was very interesting, taking in five Inca locations in and around town, but at the first hint of uphill walking, my head was pounding again. I hadn’t eaten much, and really didn’t feel like anything at all.

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As the tour progressed we climbed higher into the hills around Cusco, and the views of the city were fantastic, but now at over 12,000 feet I found it hard to be very interested at all. I was simply longing for a headache tablet and my bed. It is hard to describe just how awfully debilitating altitude sickness can be.

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I managed to force a sandwich down with a cup of coffee on the last stop of the tour, and I felt a little better by the time we got back down at Cusco. In the first pharmacy I found I bought some tablets for “mal de altura”, and an hour later felt fine. I managed some dinner, and had an early night.

I woke at 6am, and felt absolutely marvellous. I had another altitude tablet just to be sure, and headed for the airport to meet Val, who was coming in on the early flight from Lima. I have been looking forward to joining up with Val again, as I had such a good couple of weeks with him and his friends in Colorado back in August last year.

We dropped his bags off at Ronnie’s, and went for some breakfast and a quick walk around the city. Continuing our Machu Picchu research, we called into a couple of tour operators to ask about the possibility of getting there. Most responses today were very negative, and the tourist information office in the city centre gave us a very definate “No way!”

We found one agent that was a little more encouraging, but had nothing definite to offer. Back at Ronnie’s he seemed much more positive about getting to Aguas Calientes, but from there says that he can make no promises, as the bridge which crosses the river there was possibly going to be demolished, as it has suffered so much damage. If the bridge is gone there is no way across to the Machu Picchu side of the river at all.

So we really have no idea how this may all pan out, but as of this moment the plan is to set off early tomorrow and try to get to Santa Maria by bus, from there by car to Santa Teresa, car again if possible to Hidro Electrica, and then trek along what remains of the rail line to Aguas Calientes. This section may involve some detours into the jungle around missing or flooded sections of line, but we hope to get to Aguas Calientes by the end of the day. It is certainly going to be a challenge and an adventure, to say the least, as we will be some of the first people to try to do this since disaster struck, and nobody knows how bad things are yet on this route.

Obviously I don’t intend to take the computer with me, so if all goes according to plan, and we set off early tomorrow, this will be that last blog for a few days, until we return to civilization!!

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