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Vignettes of a Lazy Traveller

Up we go

PERU | Sunday, 26 April 2009 | Views [1031] | Comments [6]

Up we go.

6075 metres above sea level is our goal. 

We cheat by getting a troupie to drive us up to 4030. I get out of the car with a dizzy head. My lungs try to be bigger. My heart pumps faster to try and compensate.

We pack our bags and walk the longest kilometre of my life. I stop every 10 steps to get my breath. My head spins and I fear toppling over and down the side of the volcano, like the occasional rock that passes me on it´s way to the bottom.

When we finally get to base camp, it is a mere 5021 metres above sea level and my head feels like it is going to explode, I can barely move and every 2 minutes or so I fear I shall vomit. This is gunna be fun.

Everybody else seems to be ok. We all get into bed at 3pm cos the sun goes behind the mountain and we can really feel the snow. I am cold and sick yet still of good humour.

The plan is to eat at 7, sleep, wake at 1am and walk to the top and return by midday. If I can stand up, that is.

By the time our guides have made dinner, I have outright decided that there is no fucking way I am going any higher. I cannot breathe, I cannot think and there is no way I can eat. They make me coca tea and something else herbal that smells great, tastes foul and allieviates my nausea for about half an hour.

The next 6 hours are a meditative cycle of nausea, booming headaches, cold feet, shortness of breath and wierd semi-dreams. "Think positive" says Amit, my tentmate, "Tomorrow, you will climb, to be sure". He is 25, Israeli, has no problem with the Altitude and is the one who comvinced me to come on this little silly adventure in the first place. I refrain from punching him. It would take too much effort, plus my mummy sleeping bag keeps my numbed hands close.

When they wake at 1 (Amit wakes everyone, concerned that they are sleeping in) I cannot freaking move. Adrian, our guide, brings me coca tea in bed and agrees with me that the best plan is for me to stay there. I take a special Altitude sickness tablet, put my sleeping bag into Amit´s sleeping bag (the best thing I have done all day) and fall asleep as I listen to my group walk away up a mountain with crampons on their boots.

I wake about an hour later to the sound of someone walking around my tent, footsteps regular and terrifying in the snow. What the fuck. Oh my god, I´m going to die. Up a mountain, cold, nauseous and having paid 200 soles for the privelege.

It takes me a minute to realise the sound is merely by heart pumping blood past my ears at a great rate. The Altitude pills have caffeine in them. Caffeine gives me palpitations and paranoia. I relax at this thought and fall back asleep.

I am too tired to get myseof out of bed for the sunrise. By about 9 I drag myself up to piss behind a rock. Then back to bed. The tent warmer in the sun. I try to breathe deeply but it seems to make no difference.

One girl comes back early, alone. No sleep, the brightness of the snow, the lack of oxygen and water (all the water bottles are frozen solid) mean an exhaustion beyond anything she has felt before and she crawls into the tent beside mine and sleeps. I congratulate myself on my quitting attitude.

The others return after 1pm. Exhausted and light headed. One guy has heat exhaustion and is shivering. I lend him my hat. I almost cry with the effort required to pack my bag for the trip down. 24 hours of this kind of thing is my limit I think. Against my ecological and physiological wishes I agree to follow the guide down the quick way using poles to steady my imbalance. It is like skating down the sandy gravel. It is kinda fun, really, in a bad-for the mountain-erosion kind of way.

2 hours down from base camp, halfway back to town, I smile my first smile and laugh my first laugh as Roxette comes on the radio. I feel normal again.

The mountaineering life is not for me.

I am never ever going to do that again.

Tags: altitude sickness, caffeine, up, volcano



Oh dear! Glad to hear you are ok. Altitude sounds overrated.

  Elly Claire Apr 26, 2009 7:40 AM


shoulda let you read the PBL on altitude sickness!!!!!
very very glad you stayed put!!! keep low, keep smiling!

  mummabear Apr 26, 2009 9:17 AM


eeeks. i congratulate you on quitting Altitude. i was dizzy just reading about it all.

  meredith Apr 26, 2009 11:25 PM


Yay for the quitting attitude!

  Kiki Love Apr 27, 2009 9:24 AM


I know a girl, let's call her Spring, who went to South America, up to Machu Pichu, got sick, came back to Australia - 10 days of a three month trip was enough. She decided too that it was not for her. Have fun!

  shanus May 1, 2009 11:17 PM


oops Machu Picchu I meant

  shanus May 3, 2009 3:19 PM

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