Altitude Sickness

Anyone who has read The Heights of Machu Picchu by Pablo Neruda would find an irresistible urge to visit the ancient Incan city in Peru. For Erik R. Trinidad, the desire to visit the location superseded his fear of altitude sickness. He writes about the experience in his article Travel Writers: When You Wish Upon A Star (Altitude Sickness Will Flee Far) for Pilot

“I did decide to brave the Inca Trail anyway, after only a day in Cuzco. At the time I thought altitude sickness was just an urban myth created to keep city folk away from the lost city of Machu Picchu, but it was apparent after fifty feet of walking that it was no lie. It wasn’t so bad though; we were only at about 8,000 feet above sea level and it wasn’t even the highest elevation we’d be during the trek. I drank all the recommended preventives – an exorbitant amount of purified water, coca tea at every pit stop, and some flat soda I bought from a woman along the inhabited part of the trail – and all of them worked as a temporary fix along my way. But by the end of the first day, my head was really starting to pound away like a Caribbean steel drummer as the night sky blanketed over our camp.

The night sky in the Andes is absolutely incredible. Whoever at NASA that decided to spend so much money on an observatory probably never set foot in the Andes, because if he did, he’d see that an observatory would not be necessary. Away from city lights, high up in the mountains, you can see the grandeur of outer space with the naked eye in the Andes. It was absolutely incredible to see the stars glowing out of a pitch black intangible ceiling. But as awe-inspiring as it was, it didn’t take my mind away from the fact that altitude sickness was grabbing hold of me.”