Adventures In High Altitude

Taking time off from traveling during the holidays has had clear and disappointing effects on this leg of my trip. I got soft. In more ways than one. Being surrounded by friends and family… and free food, wreaked havoc on my gypsy spirit and my traveler’s body. I set out for Peru thinking I would just bounce back into my now normal lifestyle of being perfectly happy with whatever low budget accommodation I could find last minute, jumping from place to place, packing and unpacking every couple days. I was so wrong. My home for the holidays stunt turned me into a lazy asshole. I got so use to relying on other people for things. I got swept back up into the convenience of being able to just jump in a car and go to the store, or order delivery without a language barrier. I slacked off at the gym. I ate whatever I wanted. And now I’m paying for all of it.

Being lazy and entitled are two of the worst afflictions that can befall a traveler. Undoing the damage my cushy visit to the states did will be a long road, but now almost a month into this leg of my trip, I’m staring to feel like myself again. Until I look in a mirror. In hindsight, Peru was a pretty ballsy move as my first stop. The high altitude has adverse effects on even the most physically fit, and as I mentioned earlier… my stateside laziness really showed itself when I almost fainted on several occasions just standing still. But more on that later… The Peru adventure started closer to sea level, in Lima.

Looking back, I really should have enjoyed the weather in Lima more, even though it was humid and the airbnb I failed to research properly didn’t have air conditioning. At 5,080 feet, it’s the lowest altitude I’ve experienced here and I’ve been trying to catch my breath while freezing my ass off ever since I left. Lima is a great city, but if you only have a limited time in Peru, you can skip it. With places like Cusco and Machu Picchu at your disposal, don’t waste your time in Lima just because it has a beach. I tried to go surfing while I was there, but that was equal parts embarrassing and hilarious. Being so out of shape really sucks.

From Lima there are a lot of places you can get to via bus or rental car. I highly recommend Ica and Huacachina. Even if you aren’t into extreme sports like Sandboarding, you can go out in a dune buggy and slide down the highest sand dunes in the world on a sled. That’s what I should have done. Instead, I decided to strap into a snowboard and hit the sand. It was super fun! Until it wasn’t. I ate shit. Hard. Resulting in a trip to the hospital. I firmly believe my recently soft body is also to blame for not properly protecting my insides during that wipeout. Several scans showed damage to my left kidney and I was told any physical activity the following 30 days would likely cause a rupture. Yay internal injuries!

I followed the doctor’s orders for as long as I could… Going to Cusco next actually helped because at an altitude of over 11,000 feet, bed rest was about all I was capable of anyway. After getting on the right altitude sickness medication, I worked my way up to low impact nature walks through the Sacred Valley and eventually found a way to get up to Machu Picchu without forever damaging my insides. A trip to Peru without seeing Machu Picchu would be a complete waste, so even though I could barely walk for several days after… it was totally worth it.

The 10 year old inside me would never let me live it down if I failed to see Lake Titicaca for myself. How could I pass up the opportunity to be able to say Titi and Caca out load several times a day? It turns out, the lake is much more than just something we use to make fun of in elementary school. I didn’t realize just how huge it was until I was out on a motorboat for hours without reaching the other side. Probably a good thing since I didn’t have the cash on hand for a Bolivian visa. Reciprocity sucks.

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