Condors and Altitude...

Trip Start Dec 05, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Peru  , Colca Canyon,
Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Leaving Arequipa behind on the 12th, we began the climb up into the Andes, towards Chivay and the neighbouring Colca Canyon with a massive depth of 4160 metres. Trouble is, being that depth, I had to travel up to over 4500 metres to get there... For about an hour at the top, I had a pretty bad headache....

Descending into the freezing Colca that evening, we headed off to the local Hot Springs, which were a great way to relax in the warm (and supposedly theraputic) water even though it was cloudy overhead with a light drizzle. That night, it was freezing in the hotel, but wonderfully compensated for by the owners who handed out hot water bottles to us all (this is the first time in my life that Ive used one of these, and Im amazed at how well they work!). Ive started to really like cocoa tea!

Next morning it was up at 05:00 to head off to the Cruz del Condor to try and catch a glimpse of the Andean condors. Hopes werent that high given the heavy cloud. When we arrived there, it was a case of climbing to the top, then simply admiring the views, with fingers crossed. though an hour of patience paid off when the first birds began soaring up into the heights - the ones we saw only had a wingspan of about 4ish metres, but six metred wings are apparantly not unusual!

After taking copious amounts of photographs like Japanese tourists, it was again back on the truck and heading off on a drive that would take another day and a half to Cusco. That night, we camped just off the road in a deserted (and freezing cold) quarry, about 3500 metres high. With little sleep, the next day I began to feel the combined effects of altitude and exhaustion, having a headache all the way to Cusco that night (including an extra two hours in the quarry at the beginning of the day as the truck broke down). Arriving in Cusco, I began to feel even worse, nauseous as well as a bit dizzy. I decided to go see the doctor, who took my blood oxygen level - normal is apparntly 95-100%. Mine came in at 72....

I was taken to hospital and put on oxygen, steroids and an intrevenous (is that spelt right?) drip for the night, and subjected to painful needle digging as two different nurses were unable to locate my arteries and kept on digging away between them, until they gave up then came back the next morning for another go. While I did feel fine after about 30 mins on the oxygen, keeping me on it all night was decided to be the best plan of action (and no doubt most economically sound judgement for the hospital... as my insurance company aoon found out....)

That night, I kept thinking about what the assesment would be the next morning. I was in Cusco. I was one day away from hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Piccu - the main attraction of coming to South America. Would I be fit to do it?
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