Cusco high altitude confusion

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August 8th 2015
Published: September 3rd 2015
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Got to Cusco at 8AM in the morning. Cusco is at half the height of Mt Everest so adjusting to the altitude would take time. My first impression of Cusco was that it was a city built on hills. I mean that quite literally. The instant you step out of the airport you will see the mountains and see houses built all the way up them. My hostel Pariwana had arranged a taxi to pick me up and he was waiting with a sign. I will say that driving through Cusco can be quite dangerous. The taxi ride should have cost 16 Soles but the taxi driver insisted on charging me 30 Soles. I put in a complaint with the hostel and will update this blog when I get a response.

Pariwana Hostel was recommended by a friend. I was too early to check in but they were good enough to store my luggage until 1pm when I could check in. I decided to do some exploring of Cusco. I could actually feel the thin air as I walked around. It made it hard to walk about the city. Cusco streets are very uphill and downhill and can remind you a lot of the old world streets in Europe. Dogs also wander the streets and parks but they seem quite tame and was able to pet one that was sleeping in the park.

One of my first stops was the BioAndean office in Cusco. I had to pay the remainder of my tour fee and formally register. The office is about 10 minutes away from the hostel and up this cobblestone street. There are number of other tour companies up the same street and a number of hike outfitting companies. So if you need any kind of gear for hiking you can buy it in the same street as your tour company. I walked into the BioAndean office and paid the remaining 300 USD fee and another 55 USD to rent a sleeping bag, walking poles and permit for Machu Picchu mountain. I asked about who else was on my Salkantay tour but they didn't have a lot of details beyond the fact it could be 2 or 3 other people. I was told to be back at this office on Monday at 7pm for my orientation meeting. I was feeling kinda confused at this point and when they asked me what was the name of my hostel I told them it was BioAndean which is the name of the tour company. They were very confused. It took me a minute for my mind to catchup as the altitude sickness was making me confused.

After that I wander around and listened to the massage offers that you get as you wander the city. Beyond that there are women leading llamas and carrying baby llamas that you can take a picture with. I wasn't feeling too great at this point so I wandered back to the hostel. It was still a bit early but I laid down on one of the bean bags in the courtyard and tried to relax and honestly to catch my breath. At 1PM I checked in and got my bracelet with my room#. The rooms were spacious and were of course bunk beds. The mattresses were quite comfortable and managed to catch some sleep. I woke up still feeling disoriented but was able to move about. I went to the bar/restaurant they had on site and got some food. I wasn't up for eating anything unusual so I opted for a philly cheesesteak. It was an ok sandwich but was not really that great.

I went back to the courtyard and just sat around and relax for awhile. This hostel is quite large with almost 200 people staying there. It was mostly Europeans and Latin Americans at this hostel with a smattering of Canadians/Americans. I chatted with a few people at the courtyard. Dave who was an American, Stephanie a German and Louise who was from Ireland. Dave was on vacation through Latin America and had met Stephanie a week earlier. Stephanie and Louise were both on long term trips and I mean several months long. I wish I could travel for that amount of time but I find only Europeans take those types of sabbaticals. All 3 of had been on the Machu Picchu trail before on various tours or just going directly to Machu Picchu. I got some advise from them on the trail and tried to mentally steel myself as they described the difficulties. We drank local beers and other cocktails in the bar as we talked and later that night the hostel had a 60's party. It was fairly quiet time because there were not a lot of people in the bar at the time.

We were all heading to different directions after tonight. As it turns out my type of trip exclusively for Machu Picchu was unusual because most people head to other places in Peru or Latin America while they are here. I didn't have the time but I enjoyed listening to Dave/Stephanie/Louise stories about where they were going and what they would do. I resolved to head back to Latin America someday for a long term trip.

I didn't stay up too late and I held myself to 2 beers that night. It is recommended for altitude sickness that you get as much as possible and not get drunk the first night.

Also I got an email from the tour company asking me to change my tour to Monday from Tuesday. It appeared no one else was booked for Monday or Tuesday and they needed a minimum of 2 people in each tour. I agreed to the change but it was a bit of a surprise because that means I would only have 2 days to acclimate instead of the recommended 3 days. This would actually have repercussions later on in the tour.

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Tot: 3.901s; Tpl: 0.057s; cc: 10; qc: 49; dbt: 0.0462s; 3; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 2; ; mem: 1.4mb