Look Up Reminder from 11,000 Feet in Cusco Peru



You are in luck! This post is a 241. It is a dose of inspirational advice with a side dish of adventure travel tips for those interested in going to high elevations, in particular, Machu Picchu, Peru. Enjoy this #LookUp reminder, which is an excerpt about elevation sickness from my recent book, Cubicle to Cuba

……exactly four years after my freak tree accident that sparked a life change and the mantra #LookUp—I found myself in Cusco, Peru, at more than eleven thousand feet in elevation. My only experience with elevation in the past had been hiking the Rocky Mountains, which produced intense headaches and racing heartbeat. However, that trip was personal and the elevation was less than Peru. This trip to Cusco and eventually Machu Picchu was for work, so I was not only responsible for myself but two dozen guests. I suspected my highly active body would take to the elevation, but I needed to be prepared.

I did my research and visited my general practitioner in Florida to get a prescription for elevation sickness pills. Although I prefer not to pill pop, I had to ensure I’d have the best odds of being functional. I know the Incas treated elevation sickness with coca leaves and many tourists swear by coca tea, but I wanted something surefire. Remember that I lived in Lihue, Kauai, at two hundred feet above sea level and South Florida where the elevation can be below ten feet. As directed, I started taking the medication the day prior to flying to Cusco and would continue until our return to Lima after both Cusco and Machu Picchu.

I met my group in Lima two days before flying to Cusco. Never loving the congested, large dirty cities of South America, I wished we had just continued to Cusco directly. However, the day in Lima allowed us to gradually adjust to time zone and altitude changes, and being with the group. Their ages ranged from mid-forties to a woman celebrating her seventy-fifth birthday on the trip.

We arrived at the Cusco airport among the Inca dancers and musicians who greeted us. As soon as I could, I made a beeline for the coca tea table and suggested the same for my group.

Heidi_Siefkas_at_Coricancha_Cusco_PeruTour of Cusco

After meeting our local guide, a Peruvian bodybuilder with a heavy, hard-to-understand accent, we started our tour of Cusco, including two Incan ruins, the Plaza Mayor, and the Cathedral, all before lunch. Caught up in logistics with the guide as well as taking in Cusco for the first time myself, I didn’t feel the effects of the elevation in the bus. In our first stop at Quricancha (Coricancha), an Inca temple in Cusco proper, I entered the historic site with the group. But within minutes of a little physical activity, I needed to sit. I felt lightheaded, my heart raced, and a piercing headache surfaced. As I’ve shared, there’s nothing like traveler’s diarrhea to put you right in the moment, but elevation sickness does the trick, too!

There was little I could do except take in lots of water, continue with the medication, drink coca tea, and take breaks. I informed our local guide about my situation; no one else in the group would pay attention to my whereabouts or wellbeing. That’s the catch with being the tour manager; you’re supposed to be the bionic leader with an immune system of steel. You are the mother hen, but who’s your mother?

With time, more coca tea, and lunch, I got my wits about me, but I wasn’t going to push it. From our last stop for the day, Saksaywaman (pronounced like sexy woman), an Inca citadel and a Cusco overlook, I reveled in feeling as normal as someone can feel at eleven thousand feet instead of at sea level.

Happy Look Up Day

This day could be celebrated as a Happy Look Up Day for two reasons: 1) I was certainly forced to live in the moment and be mindful of my body and 2) I also needed to spin the situation positively. Here I was in Cusco, Peru. I had recovered from my broken neck of four years earlier, and I was living an adventurous Life 2.0.

I share this excerpt and post in order to help others overcome obstacles and live a life full of adventures. Help spread the powerful message of #LookUp by sharing my books available in print, ebook, and audio.

Here’s to looking up from Machu Picchu or wherever you are!



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