So we landed in Cusco … and the first thing we noticed was the altitude … *huff*
Compared to London, Cusco is death-defyingly high! The highest point in London according to the internet is a mere 245 meters (804 ft). Cusco … 3400 meters (11,155 ft).
Georg slowly felt this unhappy surprise when we stepped off the plane into the tiny Peruvian airport. I imagine most anyone will feel the oxygen depravation unless you are from an equally high place.
Altitude sickness is no joke though. Altitude sickness or Acute Mountain Sickness can kill. We advise that if you are hiking to Machu Picchu that you spend at least 3 full days in Cusco or equally high city before hand to acclimatise a bit.
On our first day in Cusco both Georg and I felt a bit sick, headache was the big thing, and just struggling to walk up a simple hill were pretty clear signs that we were not in Kansas anymore.
Cusco is filled with altitude sickness pills, there are adverts on every street corner. To that note you SHOULD NOT take them when you feel sick (pharmacists don’t bother to mention this for some reason). They will only make you feel sicker. The pills increase your red blood cell count so that your system can absorb more of the oxygen in the thin air. However if you take these when you already feel sick and your body goes into overdrive making more red blood cells you are likely to feel sicker.
Different people have different tolerances. My advice, use common sense and don’t over do it, if you feel sick, just take it easy, sit and breath. For those of you planning to do the Machu Picchu trail 3 night / 4 day hike, make sure someone carries oxygen. We think the guides are actually required to carry oxygen, our guide did.