It deppends on how atletic you are but I wouldn't say it's that demanding you should search for information in agencies web sides on machu picchu tours like www.totallyperu.com anyhow you should take it easy whenever you are felling sick stop but I don't think you should have any probs!
Every person is different and each one has a different tolerance to changes in altitude. Some would say, "I never saw it happen - don't even bother..."....However, it has happened and if you are the unfortunate bearer of this rare incident, you will never forget it...
The illness does not choose any specific age group -- young or old can be affected...
Symptoms vary from shortness of breath and headache to frank pulmonary edema (water building up in lungs) in the most extreme form. In the latter case, going down to a lower altitude is the ultimate treatment.
The natives have been using coccaine tea called "mate de coca" for treating and preventing this malady...I tried it and it tasted just like any other tea.
Western Medicine offers chemoprophylaxis with Acetazolamid (Diamox) tablets which can be taken twice daily starting one to two days before your ascent, and continued three days after your arrival.
Practical things to do would be to avoid alcohol, tobacco, depressant drugs such as sleeping pills and opiates. However, if you are with an opiate-treated chronic pain condition, I would suggest not stopping your pain meds as this may cause withdrawal symptoms. Better to consult with your primary physician as well.
Stay hydrated (only bottled water of course, please), avoid hyperexertion --- TAKE IT EASY THE FIRST FEW HOURS ON ARRIVAL.
A high-carbohydrate diet has also been recommended.
There are limits to the # of persons allowed daily for the following:
*Inca Trail (500 persons)--split 300/200 between trekking staff & hikers
(Need to book this hiking adventure 5-6 mos. in advance with trekking agency)
*Huayna Picchu (400 persons)--200 visitors allowed in the early morning & another 200 visitors allowed mid-morning.
(Free tickets are given away, but you must be there early to get in)
*Machu Picchu (no current limits) for daily entrance
(If visiting MP independently, make sure to buy your entrance tickets in advance as these are unavailable at entrance as of March 2008. See "warning tip" for additional info)
Favorite thing: I recommend you spend the night before Machu Picchu in Aguas Calientes, then take the first bus at 5.30 am. It gets much more crowded later in the day when the train arrives. Also, to climb Huaynu Picchu make sure you sign up before 9.30 or 10 am.
After doing the Inca Trail it was absolutely HEAVEN to find some western toilets with hot water and soap near the cafe and bus stop. Just being able to have clean hands and to sit, not squat is heaven in itself.
If you're doing the Inca Trail, you'll understand how excited I was. :)
There are two books about the Incas that I recommend:
The first is:
Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of Peru
By Garcilaso De LA Vega, Harold V. Livermore
Paperback / Univ of Texas Pr / October 1987 / 0292770383
List Price $17.95
Sadly it is out of print, but you can buy it used. See
Here is what folks on Amazon had to say about it:
Fantastic book, September 13, 1999
Reviewer: A reader
After visiting Peru this summer, I was compelled to learn more about the fascinating Inca culture. This book, which was written in the late 1500's by the son of a Spanish Conquistedor and Inca Princess is a priceless account of the rise and fall of the Inca empire. Written with the lyrical quality of reminiciant of Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, the book is a real page turner. The culture is full of prophecies that eventually, (and regrettably) came true, from the division of the empire by two brother kings to the eventual defeat and rape of the land by the Spanish. The Incas developed a magical culture, moving large stones and errecting beautiful cities without the use of horses or pullies, and passing stories of their past without the benefit of a written language. A must read for anyone interested in the native history of the Americas.
This book is an actual testimony, January 17, 2004
Reviewer: "didactx97" (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
I'm very impressed reading his work and how he gives in full detail about the spanish inquisition. Although this book covers the not so flattering side of the spanish conquest in Peru, we finally get a glimpse on how a mestizo (his parents were incan and spanish royals) got the best of both worlds with all sincerity. It's really uncensored on the real life events at the time... really a must read. There should be a movie about this!
If you read this book, you will know more than your guides!
Fondest memory: I also recommend
"Lost City of the Incas" by Hiram Bingham
His first hand account of discovering Machu Picchu in 1911.
From an Amazon review:
a Great Introduction to Peru and history of anthropology, December 12, 2003
Reviewer: kaioatey (Kykotsmovi, AZ)
.....I must emphasize that this book is a treasure and a must read for anyone about to visit Macchu Picchu - if only to contrast the conditions encountered by Bingham and his Indians to those that exist today, when busloads of clueless tourists are delivered straight to the Temple of the Sun. The first third of the book consists of a superb Introduction including a recapitulation of the16th century records of the Incas and their empire (including the awesome Pachakuti Inca), very competent review of Inca technology (many of their and an excellent recapitulation of the life stories of the last 4 Incas. The last part describes the actual "discovery" of Macchu Picchu which occured by procuring, for a silver coin, the services of Anacleto Alvarez, a local Qechua who had been living among the ruins all along. Macchu Pichu therefore had never been truly "lost" and "discovery" has in this context many interesting connotations.
For my part, I have a respect for Bingham and for his guts that served him so well. In time, for example, they led him to the US Senate (from Connecticut). I suspect it will take many a pachakuti (turning of the Wheel of Time) till another anthropologist gets an opportunity to represent Democracy and the People.
As you enter the gates of Machu Picchu after paying your $20 fee, you will see signs prohibiting all sorts of items, including walking sticks and backpacks. Since the weather was on-and-off rain, we bristled atthe idea of checking our daypacks (there is a place just before the gate), because we wanted to carry rain jackets, sweaters and umbrellas with us (not to memtion water). Then we noticed a group in front of us go through with their packs unmolested. So we kept our daypacks on and got our tickets stamped as if we hadn't read the sign. Guess what! No one said anything! So we entered Machu Picchu every day with our backpacks and never had a problem.
Maybe the rule applies only to large frame packs that backpackers would wear. Anyway, this is excellent news because its always prudent to carry clothing for weather changes and water to prevent dehydration. We couldn't imagine climbing Huayna Picchu without carrying some water.
The hike from Km 88 is fairly strenous and you will expend quite a bit of energy. During such circumstances it is always advisable to drink water in order to stay hydrated. Your rate of perspiration is even greater at high altitude so you need to be cognizant of the more rapid moisture loss. To combat this you need to drink more often.
I would recommend investing in a water filter pump. You'll be able to fill up from any stream and maintain a source of water. I also recommend bringing along some powdered sports drink to help replace salts and electrolytes in addition to fluids.
A member of our party got severely dehydrated on the tough second day of the hike. It got to the point where she couldn't stand or even move her legs. Afterwards she couldn't keep any food down and she was basically miserable. Believe me, you don't want this to happen to you.
Favorite thing: Most people who hike the Inca Trail are not accustomed to the high altitude. Even if you're in marathon-shape, make sure not to push yourself to hard and to go at a reasonable pace. Remember, this isn't a race. And be sure to take a look at the beautiful surroundings....the Andes offer some of the most spectacular scenery to be seen anywhere on earth.
The one thing that really disappointed me was how inconsiderate and careless hikers/campers had been when it came to "using the facilities". The general rule is to dig a hole and then to refill it after doing your business. Also, burn your toilet paper making sure the flames are completely out before leaving the ashes.
In order to do this, take a lightweight plastic trowel and a lighter or matches in a zip lock bag to keep them dry. Oh, and some tissues would probably be nice.
Favorite thing: Make sure you bring a tent that has waterproof seams. It can rain unexpectedly in the Andes and it really pays to have a tent that will keep the rain out, especially at night so you can get a decent rest before the next day's hike. Along the same lines, be sure to bring rain gear in case it rains during the day.
Favorite thing: On day 2 at Machu Picchu, we climbed toward the Gate of the Sun so that we could enter Machu Picchu much the way the Incas would have 600 years ago. On our way there, we passed several workers cutting the grass on the terraces by hand with machetes. Coming from a land of lawnmowers, this struck us as odd and laborious. However, the more we thought about the idea, the more we liked it. Sure, it was labor-intensive and (maybe) expensive to employ hords of men to keep the grass short, but isn't Machu Picchu a more pleasant place without the buzz of lawnmower engines or the clouds of exhaust? Yes, it certainly is.
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