Cuzco and Altitude problems?

Old Nov 17th, 2005, 09:19 AM
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Cuzco and Altitude problems?

Wanting to go to Cuzco and Machu Picchu. I can walk 3-4 miles with no touble, but climbing more than a couple of flights of stairs makes me out of breath. I'm a senior and have a mild heart condition. I live in the flat lands. Does anyone who has been there have an opinion on any problems that I might have hiking around Cuzco and Machu Picchu at their altitudes?
rdfarr is offline  
Old Nov 17th, 2005, 09:46 AM
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Hi rd

As you mention a mild heart condition, I guess you'd be best talking this through with your doctor.

Our experience was that altitude sickness itself was pretty random - it didn't affect people in relation to age and fitness. In some cases it was almost a 'state of mind' - if you believe you would get ill, you would get ill! We were told to combat symptoms by drinking the local coca tea, keeping hydrated and keeping blood sugar up. We also built up to the greatest altitudes so we became acclimatised over time. Cuzco isn't actually as high as some other passes so by the time we got there no-one in our group of 8 had any problems.

Having said all this we were touring rather than 'hiking' so I would really recommend talking with a health professional before deciding on how you will approach the trip. As Machu Picchu was my most amazing travel experience to date I would encourage you to get there - even if there's no hiking involved!

Good luck
sarahkay is offline  
Old Nov 17th, 2005, 11:05 AM
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Note Machu Picchu is lower in elevation than Cusco. However, there are many, many stairs at the Machu Picchu ruins. It is an amazing place though and shouldn't be missed in my opinion.
You might consider staying in the Sacred Valley in Urubamba or Ollantaytambo. These towns are much lower in altitude than Cusco.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2005, 11:03 AM
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Hi rdfarr,

First off, check with your physician.

Cusco is very high... something like 11,000 feet or so. MP is much lower; about 8000 feet. RBCal is right about the Inca stairs at MP. And, if you plan to walk from the Cusco's plaza to the San Blas area, it is mostly uphill. The suggestion to stay in the Sacred Valley is a good one.

Here's a posting with some information on adjusting to high altitudes:

http://fodors.com/forums/threadselec...6&tid=34554574

- Sharon
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Old Dec 2nd, 2005, 12:38 PM
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sarahkay
Could you let me know the name of your tour group as 8 seems an ideal size. Thx
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Old Dec 2nd, 2005, 04:49 PM
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Selwyn, if you are interested...

We signed up for our fourth OAT trip. This time to Peru in October. I found the OAT trips to be amazingly well priced, maximum 16 people, nice and convenient accommodations, and friendly people. The guides on our other trips were excellent.

We usually travel independently because there is seldom an itinerary which matches my desires, but this one does. It misses going to Arequipa and Colca Canyon, but there is enough of the other sights to keep us happy.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2005, 02:26 AM
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We returned from Mexico and Peru in October.
Before going we had discussed the Inca Trail and much as I liked the idea I thought that the danger of being adversely affected by altitude was too great. The trip was costing a lot and if I couldn't make the trek it would turn into a really bad memory. I was also influenced by a friend- a doctor who had done the trail on a charity hike and told me that he had had to take one of the other walkers down to hospital because of the "soroche".
My husband on the other hand felt he could do it .
We are both 50 and not fit but would have no trouble walking the distance at a lower altitude.We decided not to do it.
Whilst in Mexico City (lower than Cusco by about 3000 feet I think) and having been there for 3 days my husband succumbed to the altitude after climbing one of the pyramids in Teoticuahan. It laid him up for the rest of the day. Funnily after that he stopped saying how he could have done the Trail!
We arrived in Cusco having like most other people caught an early flight up from Lima, and had the coca tea and went to sleep. Mid afternoon we went out for a wander and eventually went to eat. I was sharing a piece of chocolate cake with my husband when I just couldn't eat any more. Astonishing(as lovers of chocolate cake will understand!)
We had no idea what it was until we tried to go into the cathedral in Cusco after leaving the cafe. There are approximately 10 steps up from the Plaza to get to the door. I found I couldn't climb the 10 steps without stopping for breath. We then realised that the altitude was kicking in.
The "not being able to eat" passed off soon but the shortness of breath persisted. We had intended to walk around Cusco but took a taxi to Sacsayhuaman and walked down. I could manage to walk to our hotel( Los Ninos) but sometimes needed to stop for breath.
We were in Cusco 3 days before going to Macchu Picchu.Cimbing around the ruins was not a problem.However we saw a tour group of fairly elderly people who were clearly having trouble just getting up to the entrance from the Sanctuary Lodge.Perhaps they were unaware of the amount of climbing there was ahead of them.
This is not meant to persuade you or otherwise. Just to tell you how it affected us.Do go. I loved Cusco and M.P.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2005, 07:38 PM
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Yep, it's hard to predict.

My thought would be, IF you are motivated and IF you are adaptable, go for it.

If you get a mild dose of altitude malaise, you should be able to overcome it in a day or so.

"Of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest these, 'It might have been'."

If it lays you low or kills you, well...
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Old Dec 16th, 2005, 03:29 PM
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AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) can strike anyone of any age, fitness level or experience. You should familiarise yourself with the symptoms before you go and remember that the ONLY REMEDY is to come back down the mountain. Of course you should speak to your doctor about your heart condition too. You need to build up red blood cells to maximise your oxygen capacity - eating lots of red meat is a great way to do this (vegetarians excepted!) and taking in protein whilst at altitiude. Keeping hydrated - 3-4 litres a day - is a must. Diamox can help and is completely safe to take. You will probably get a tingling in your fingers and toes - and possibly face - whilst taking it. Take half to one tablet a day as a preventative. Ideally only climb 150m a day and if possible climb higher/sleep low to acclimatise.

Your body will tell you what it is capable of - listen to it! also, remember if you are sick at altitude, it is probably altitude sickness in one form or another! I learnt all this on a recent trip to Nepal, reaching Everest Base Camp for a charity trek. A chap in another party ignored all his symptoms and dropped dead at Gorak Shep (about 5180m). AMS is a killer but only if ignored! Have a great trek if you go and take it easy. Give yourself enough time to acclimatise - if you fly into Cuzco, eg, then 3 days is recommended.

Bon voyage
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Old Jan 14th, 2006, 06:56 AM
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Would agree that you can't guess who will be affected. Your much younger companions could do much worse than you with the altitude. I remember when I was 16, my dad dragged me around La Paz on our first day to see family and friends and by the end of the day I had such a bad headache that he had to put me to bed and leave me with friends for the rest of the week. He, of course, was just fine. Besides my own experience, I have seen someone collapse and die in the La paz airport on a round Latin america tour so take soroche (altitude sickness) very seriously. We just got back from 2 weeks in Peru and this is what we did--take a small thermos to fill with coca tea (leaves are much better than the tea bags) in advance of our flight from Lima to Cuzco (ask the Lima hotel nicely and they will do this for you), had someone meet us at the airport to take us immediately down to Sacred Valley, stayed 3 nights in Ollantaytambo (Sacred Valley), then went to Aguas Calientes (1 night) to see Machu Picchu, then went to Cuzco. In other words, worked up to the altitude. Mints or other hard candies are good also. Make sure you drink plenty of liquids because dehydration can also make you feel worse. You can buy sorochi pills there but since you have a heart condition, would suggest you talk to your doctor first. Some people take prescription diamox but good suggestion here is to try it out at home before you go to see how it affects you. The tourist circuit is well used to people with altitude sickness and can dispatch a doctor to your hotel or offer oxygen. The Hotel Monasterio even offers oxygen piped into your room for an extra charge. Plan to take it easy (take a nap when you get there), eat lightly (soups are great) and no alcohol. Taxis are cheap so use them for going uphill (and then you can walk downhill).
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Old Feb 6th, 2006, 04:18 AM
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We were there last year. We are a family of five - some decided to take altitude tabletes, some did not.

There was no difference, but that was just us and who knows really. What was very interesting is that our 17 old boy got really sick in Cusco after climbing up the mountain behind MP - the doctor came within 10 minutes and this was on New Years Eve! He was English speaking, said it wasn't altitude sickness (which it wasn't as his symptoms were different) but was able to use the oxygen tanks available, chemists were open and he was on the mend quickly.

We found that medical assistance was great, but this was a reasonably better class hotel. Go anyway - just enjoy looking and leave off the steep
lorikeet is offline  
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