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Altitude adjustment if travel in south before Machu Picchu

Altitude adjustment if travel in south before Machu Picchu

Old Mar 26th, 2016, 06:42 AM
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Altitude adjustment if travel in south before Machu Picchu

My daughter and I will be doing a southern tour of Peru including Arequipa, Colca Canyon and Puno before we get to Cusco. We have a weekend free before volunteer work in Cusco/Pisaq, and I would prefer to go to Olla and Machu Picchu that weekend rather than the next so we won't be as rushed. Will we likely have acclimatized enough to head out to Olla on Saturday, train to Aquas Calientes on the same day and see Machu Picchu on Sunday? Thanks for your advice.
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Old Mar 26th, 2016, 07:10 AM
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Based on the way you're phrasing this, I'm not sure you realize how these elevations rank. I'd be much more concerned about acclimating to Puno and the Colca Canyon.

Puno 12,500
Chivay (near Colca Canyon) 12,000
Cusco 11,000
Pisac 9,700
Ollantaytambo 9,100
Machu Picchu 8,000
Arequipa 7,600
Aguas Calientes 6,700

Most people don't realize how much lower the elevation is at MP. Aguas Calientes can feel downright balmy by comparison to Cusco and the Sacred Valley.
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Old Mar 26th, 2016, 07:23 AM
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Thanks Jeff, I am aware of how the altitudes rank and perhaps that answers my question. We could do more resting in Cusco that weekend, but should there likely be an altitude problem going directly to Olla and Machu Picchu before our Cusco trip? I assume not but wanted to see what others thought given our sequence of our days.
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Old Mar 26th, 2016, 09:52 AM
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Your post is still not clear. Where are you coming from immediately before you arrive in Cusco (or the Cusco area)? Puno?

It's still not clear to me that you get the relative elevations. It looks like you’re starting out at the two highest elevations in your trip (Puno and Colca Canyon). Those are the two places I'd be very concerned about acclimating to the altitude. From there, you're working your way down to Cusco. If you need to adjust at that point, you're not going to rest in Cusco. You'll rest out in the Sacred Valley. Pisac is down from Cusco, and Ollanta is farther down still, and Aguas Calientes is a 2,400-foot drop from Ollanta.

You stop and rest as you're ascending altitude, not descending.

Everybody thinks of Machu Picchu as being at such a high altitude because you ascend a peak to get there. But the bottom of the mountain is actually a semi-tropical, lower elevation locale. When you get to the top of MP, you're 3,000 feet lower than you were back in Cusco.
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Old Mar 26th, 2016, 02:16 PM
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I guess I was trying to give the summary version of this, but that made our itinerary unclear. We are starting in Lima and going by bus to Paracas, Huacachina, Nasca Arequipa, Colca Canyon (I know here goes the altitude), Puno (and more altitude) and then to Cusco. My (new) plan is to merely alight in Cusco and then head off to Ollanta and then Machu Picchu (and then do our volunteering in Cusco for a week). Machu Picchu is a really big deal to me, and I didn't want to risk altitude problems since I could go there after Cusco. But I do understand that I am coming down in altitude so I think it will be fine. Our schedule is less rushed if we do Machu Picchu before the volunteering.
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Old Mar 26th, 2016, 11:31 PM
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You will have been acclimatised by the time you get to Cusco/Olly/MP. Or you will already have given up earlier in the trip and returned to lowlands. So, your question about altitude at MP is irrelevant based on your itinerary.
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Old Mar 26th, 2016, 11:39 PM
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I confess I too was confused by your initial posts. Now things a re clearer! Here is a link to some good info on acclimatisation and altitude sickness issues:
http://www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk/...nd-travel.aspx

Basically, assuming you are spending a couple of days each in Arequipa, Colca and Puno, by the time you get to Cusco you should be fine to go straight to Ollantaytambo and MP. In fact I doubt it will make any difference which way around you do it.

The biggest issue will be your initial acclimatisation in Arequipa which is just below the ideal altitude. The more time you spend there the better. If at all possible, I would stay for three days ( no hardship as it is a great city and there is loads to see).

I would be more concerned about how you would get on at the higher altitudes of Colca and Puno. Barring any AMS it should get better the longer you are at altitude. Everyone is affected differently. My first time in Peru, we flew into Cusco. I felt terrible for the first couple of nights, my wife was virtually unaffected. When in Puno, Even though we had been at altitude for a couple of months, my wife was affected on our hike on one of the islands but I was fine.

The important thing is to take it easy during those first few days and try not to do too much as you ascend. Just let your body adapt. If this is your first time at altitude, there is no way of knowing in advance how you may be affected.
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Old Mar 27th, 2016, 11:31 AM
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So sorry to ask an "irrelevant question" but it was quite important to me which was why I threw it out there. Crellston, thank you so much for your advice. I feel reassured about gong to Ollantaytambo and MP on the days planned. I guess the key is taking it easy with the altitude changes. I will check the link you noted above. I had intended to use Diamox prophylactically but have seen some mixed reviews about it.
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Old Mar 28th, 2016, 09:38 AM
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it is certainly not an irrelevant question burry. Far from it, the correct approach to altitude is an important factor in enjoying any trip in south america. makes good sense to get right.

I can't help with Diamox as i have never taken it. always best to check it out with your doctor just in case there're any contra indications. We are going straight from Lima to Huaraz in May and I am seriously considering giving it a try as we will have no opportunity to stay lower before arriving at 3500m. On past trips I did find chewing coca leaves did help with the symptoms.
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Old Mar 28th, 2016, 02:20 PM
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Thanks, crellston. I am inclined to try Diamox as well as a few remedies such as chlorophyll, and Altitude Rx (which is basically gingko biloba, rhodiola rosea, and antioxidants). There is a 90 day return on the Altitude Rx if it does not work. From my reading there is no downside to taking these. Some people also suggest ibuprophen in a specific dosage regimen presumably for the anti-inflammatory effects as much as pain relief.
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Old Mar 29th, 2016, 12:01 AM
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As for "alternative"remedies, call me cynical, but I have no faith in these whatsoever. Give me real drugs every time

I took painkillers for the blinding headache I got in Cusco the first time? Can't recall whether they were ibuprofen or paracetamol but am taking both this time. Oxygen helped with teh symptoms but I think it's use just delays acclimatisation. Not sure when you are going but we leave in early May. I will let you know how I get on with the diamox..
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Old Mar 29th, 2016, 02:08 PM
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Your question was not irrelevant. Altitude adjustment and sickness is a huge topic and best to understand it.

In Peru I found coca tea really helped with the symptoms. I hated the taste of the leaves, but did chew it sometimes and it helped. I also took Diamox early on in the trip when we went to Colca Canyon. None of the side effects were bad enough to discontinue use of diamox.

This year on our trip to Colombia & Ecuador I didnt use diamox, decided to try it without any meds. I livve at sea level. We started the trip in Bogota at 8600' and I was fine. We bounced around at various altitiude and then gradually ascended from there and it went well. It went well until I descended to ~5,955′ and stayed for 3 nights. From there we ascended to ~10,500 feet and that night I did develop altitude sickness. The next morning the owner of the Inn gave me a local herbal tea and something for my headache which I believe to have been advil or the like. I did loose the really bad symptoms, but didn't feel great until we descended to ~9,000'. Agree that taking it easy, drinking lots of water, & no alcohol all supposedly help.

Have a great trip!
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Old Apr 1st, 2016, 08:03 AM
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FWIW--first time in Cusco, I went to a pharmacy for my altitude sickness symptoms (which were still around after about a week at altitude) and the pharmacist sold me glucosamine sulfate and that helped a lot. Later, while going to Colca Canyon from Arequipa, the tour bus stopped at a pharmacy so people could buy something for altitude, and they got glucosamine as well. I was still taking glucosamine and had no problems around Colca. I had Diamox from home but never took it.

I later started taking glucosamine for my joints and found that the second time in Peru, I experienced no altitude sickness. However I took a bus to Huaraz to start the trip rather than flying to Cusco, so the slower ascent may have helped.

So glucosamine, which my doctor assures me does me no harm, may help.
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Old Apr 1st, 2016, 04:49 PM
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Interesting -- will have to give it a try next time I go to high altitiude.
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Old Apr 1st, 2016, 10:37 PM
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I was worried when I went, too. Chew the cocoa leaves, drink the tea. Eat light meals in cusco. Take it slow. That's what our guide told us. I took a bunch of EmergenC packets and poured them in the bottom of my water bottles. I drank 12 water bottles the first day. Just keep hydrated!
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Old Apr 2nd, 2016, 06:52 AM
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Can't wait to hear your experience crellson, but we leave April 26 so will have our own story to tell by then. Very glad to hear about glucosamine. I often take it anyway.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2016, 09:55 AM
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Staying hydrated is an important part of coping with the altitude. Coffee and alcohol being diuretics will work against that. Try to minimize your intake.

If you're subject to drug testing at your workplace, all the studies I've read say that you'll test positive for cocaine after drinking coca teag or chewing leaves. The information isn't conclusive on how long after ingestion it shows up in a test. Some studies say 24-48 hours. Other studies say two weeks.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2016, 01:22 AM
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It is important to stay hydrated at altitude, or anywhere else for that matter. But it is also important not to over hydrate as studies have shown that this can mimic the same effects as AMS.

12 bottles sound like a huge amount, unless of course, they were very small bottles! The "normal" recommend amount for average sized people is around 2L for a male and 2.5L. I find it better to sip frequently throughout the day rather than drinking lots at less frequent intervals. Basically, if you feel thirsty drink. If your urine is dark, drink.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2016, 04:05 AM
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Is it easy to get bottled water? I've seen water bottles with good filtration systems and wonder if it is worth getting one. Has anyone tried one of those?
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Old Apr 3rd, 2016, 08:02 AM
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I never had problems getting bottled water. Some hotels have filtered water in their lobbies and you cn use that to fill up bottles.
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