Altitude Sickness and Llama meat

Llamas and Alpacas and Altitude Sickness.

I planned to hit the ground running. I hunkered down on my flight and worked it all out in my mind. It was midnight. We’d sleep on the plane, transfer at 5:00AM to a shuttle flight to Cusco, shower and be on our tour at 9. Riiiight.
First, both of my kids started wailing. The little one just wanted to go home. She hated the layover hotel and didn’t want to experience another no –tell motel. The big one wailed because they sat us ear the back of the plane and she hates that, she said it made her feel un-cared for, like I purposely told American Airlines to put us in the back of the plane.
“Mom, why didn’t YOU put us in first class?”
After I stopped laughing and helped to dry her tears, I told her that she was lucky to be on the flight at all. It would have been far cheaper to leave her home with a relative.
“But mom, I have flown first class before.”
She has not.
The closest she came was in the bulkhead row peering through the curtains, although she swears this is not the case.
“Sweetie, you are remembering a past life regression, dear, trust me, you have never flown up there.”
She eventually calmed down and I could not sleep. We raced through customs, and yes, our bags were actually there. Raced through the airport, checked back in to our domestic flight and made it on the flight just in the nick of time.
Our guide met us, we moved our tour to ten and headed for the showers.
And then I realized why my kids were really crying.
I’d bred little hotel snobs.
As soon as they entered our hotel, they relaxed and the smiles returned to their faces.
The hotel is a pre-colonial building, re-built twice after several earthquakes, beautifully redone.
They read the room service menu and laughed out loud. They were in love and happy again.
But I wasn’t. The floor was moving.
Things are different at 11000 feet.
They gave me coca tea, yup, same plant, to sip, said it would help with altitude sickness. (I promise you this is totally legal in Peru, non-intoxicating even. They even give it to kids).
I trudged all over the Sacred Valley, looking at ruins, enjoying the native guard of the highland peoples, trying to catch snatches of their Chechua language. Hard to do, they always spoke Spanish to us.
I met Alpacas and llamas and their cousins up close. We marveled at the shrinking glacier.
We stopped at the same market and community oven that the guy on Bizarre Foods did, hoping for an Andean Empanada, thought a minute about trying the roasted cuy (guinea pig), but it looked too much like a skinned rat on a stick. I trying llama instead, washed down with Inca Kola, It did not taste like chicken.
By the end of the day, my head was pounding.
I tried to nap.
Nausea set in.
Got some more coca tea.
It didn’t make me high, but it did make me run through the hotel lobby, mouth covering my hand, trying to make it…
I didn’t.
Altitude sickness is a motha….
Good hotel. I wasn’t even done yet and they cleaned the lobby.
And the bathroom.
They walked behind me, wheeling an oxygen tank.
I didn’t quite need that and I felt instantly better.
Tomorrow, Macchu Picchu.


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