July 15, 2010

The time has come, the Shaman said,
To speak of many things…
Of stars and smiles and sultry wiles,
And lives well lived and flings.

Everything you need to know (and probably a great deal more) has been posted on the Travel Information portion of the official, self-certified and authorized event website:

In particular, focus on the options you have to deal with altitude. Cusco, where our journey begins, is at 11,600 ft. (more than two miles) and the Sacred Valley (where we will be based for most of our stay) is around 9,000 ft, (about 1.7 miles) high.

Here’s a comment from one savvy visitor:

If you’re a flatlander, as most people in the States are, you’re in for quite a surprise at 11,000′. We live at 9000′ and are comfortable at Cusco’s altitude as our blood is capable of giving us the necessary oxygen. Still, the body dumps a lot more liquid into the air at high altitudes and dehydration is at least as big a danger as oxygen deprivation. Acclimation has nothing to do with increased water loss, so carry clean water with you and drink frequently. If you get thirsty, you’ve waited too long.

On our last trip, I successfully handled the altitude with a combination of Coca Tea and Diamox, the popular prescription sulfa-based drug. Arianne relied more on a homeopathic approach, and the locals swear by a local concoction, readily available in boticas (pharmacies), called Soroche pills (also known as Sorojchi High Altitude pills).

That said, as long as people are mindful of the challenges, the vast majority do not report significant difficulty adjusting to the altitude.

The following covers the acclimation topic in greater detail:

Altitude Sickness (Soroche)

Suggested Medication

  • Acetazolamide (NC.Diamox)
    1 tablet every 12 hours, 24 hours before the trip. Half a tablet every 12 hours until the third day in high elevations
  • Paracetamol
    1 tablet every 8 hours, in case of headache.
  • Ibuprofen
    1 400 mg pill before the trip and in case of headaches that don’t lessen with Paracetamol, take one Ibuprofen every 12 hours after meals (it may produce stomach ache).

In case of continued altitude sickness, seek medical help. You must receive oxygen or be promptly removed to a lower elevation.

General recommendations for people traveling to high elevations

The day before your travel:

  • Sleep well.
  • Don’t eat foods that are hard to digest.
  • Don’t drink alcoholic beverages.

The day you arrive:

  • Refrain from strenuous physical activity.
  • Drink at least one liter of water a day.
  • Eat small quantities of food, preferably carbohydrates.
  • Wear appropriate clothing to stay warm.
  • Complete rest is recommended for people with altitude sickness scores higher than six points (see below).
  • Don’t take sleeping pills or tranquilizers.

The second to the fourth day after your arrival:

  • Refrain from strenuous physical activity.
  • Drink plenty of liquids, commensurate to your physical activity.
  • Don’t eat foods that are hard to digest.
  • Wear appropriate clothing to stay warm.
  • Don’t take sleeping pills or tranquilizers.

Symptoms and Indications of Altitude Sickness (soroche)

Headache 1 point
Nausea or lack of appetite 1 point
Insomnia or difficulty sleeping 1 point
Dizziness-vertigo 1 point
Headache that pain relievers won’t ease 2 points
Vomiting 2 points
Difficulty breathing when lying down 3 points
Extreme fatigue 3 points
Lessening volume of urine 3 points


Score Intensity of Altitude Sickness
1 to 3 Light
4 to 6 Moderate
More than 6 Severe (complete rest is recommended)

Source: Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru

We will soon be together for what promises to be a grand adventure. Please make certain all your administrative duties are complete: All payments made, travel documents (including current passport with at least six months to go before expiration) and transport arrangements are finalized, and you have gone through your “take along” check list.

Next stop Cusco, then off to places yet to be discovered by earthly science.


Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.

This field stretches far beyond the edges of the finite, leading to unimaginable experiences of dissolution. We will meet there and….

In light and love,
Arianne & Jean-Claude