Machu Picchu High Heals Jungle Fever

by Mary Haight on September 22, 2012

Machu Picchu highThe Amazon CARES Peru jungle trip ended and the trip to Machu Picchu began. And when I say Machu Picchu High, it really is – the elevation ranges from 8000 ft and I believe one peak is at 14,000. I did not go there! After the intense heat of the rainforest, the cooler air of the mountain area of Cuzco was a joy. Eventually.

Cut to the arrival from Lima – I stepped off the plane and fell into the twilight zone. Really! Altitude sickness crashed into me – it was like being body-slammed by a truck. Cuzco is 11,000 ft above sea level and it matters! Disoriented, unsure of where to put the next footfall, it appeared as though the world was tilted. I struggled up the ramp to the airport, feeling worse as I climbed the incline. At the top I was having trouble breathing – not a good thing for anyone, but when you have asthma it’s a good idea not to panic.

We walked a little more, I started feeling sick. Some of what happened is a blur and I’m not really clear on how we got the luggage. Molly Mednikow, my travel mate, and founder of Amazon CARES, found the airport doctor who arrived with oxygen and after I had enough oxygen to move, we went to her office in the airport. We spent nearly an hour doing patient history, breathing oxygen, measuring blood pressure. It was good to see the world right-side up again. I was given a list of meds and told to stay in bed for 24 hours. Of course, I got hungry later so had to get up and get some dinner… 

I took my wobbly legs down the road from the hotel…the cobble-type stones in the sidewalk were not helpful in trying to walk a straight line – must have looked like I had too much to drink. I found Sarah’s Organic Cafe a block and a half away. It felt like a mile, but as I walked in I was so happy to see an espresso machine – and the interior looked like it could have been a cafe anywhere. I had had a lots of meds and not much in the way of food so I started with a strawberry smoothie and progressed to hummus and eggplant with toasted ciabatta and a local type of salsa with olives, finely diced farmer’s cheese and tomatoes with some kind of chili heat coming through. I had cappuccino for dessert;) It was another day or so before I stopped feeling like the top of my head was going to explode and by then Molly was sick too.

I took a cab to find a pizza to bring back for Molly, and went back to Sarah’s Cafe for my own dinner. I tried their special soup, which actually was, and I met a couple of seasoned American travelers. They had a few years on me and a lot more experience hiking (well, actually everyone who hikes has more experience than I). She noticed I had altitude sickness and hoped it didn’t ruin my trip to Machu Picchu. Molly and I were leaving the next day, and I was concerned about that too. She suggested I get a walking stick – not a bad idea!

Arriving the next morning at the train station to catch the Hiram Bingham (an Orient Express property) to Machu Picchu, we were greeted by a nattily dressed porter and a table on the platform with silver trays filled with glasses of champagne, mimosa and flowers. My headache began to lift a little, and I decided I was at the end of my antibiotics so a mimosa would probably do me some good;) It did. We were shown to our table in the dining car – more linen and things placed just so…sigh. I sunk deeper into the cushy seat. As we progressed, the altitude lessened and as the American woman I met at Sarah’s relayed, my symptoms might go away with that change. They did! As did Molly’s. We were finally on Mary & Molly’s Most Excellent Adventure. It was! Take a look;)

Machu Picchu HighHiram Bingham train


Hiram BinghamHiram Bingham train


Machu Picchu HighHiram Bingham lunchHiram Bingham desser


Hiram Bingham viewMachu Picchu high


Machu Pichu HighMachu Picchu climbing

hiking Machu Picchuview Machu Picchu

Peru and Machu Picchu

peru travelMachu Picchu

Machu Picchu staircaseperu travel

peru travel photoMachu Picchu views


Machu Picchu views terraced farming PeruPeru trip



Boo on the altitude sickness but yea on the pictures!! Who thought that you could have such fine dining on a train? Thanks for sharing your pictures.


What an amazing opportunity! I am so glad your illness didn't prevent you from enjoying your trip. I'd love to get there one day myself. Definitely a life list item.

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