Altitude Sickness

One of the beauties of studying abroad is testing new limits for yourself. Having a daily routine tends to put us in a comfort zone that could easily become restricting. Because I have always lived in ABQ and the mountains are easily down the street, I thought I knew everything there is to know about hiking but the Peruvian Andes proved me wrong. Also, keep in mind that altitude sickness is veryyyyyy real.

The first hike that truly terrified me was Songos. Located just two hours from the city of Lima, this place is primarily known by locals. Compañeros Pucp arranged a day of “adventure” and allowed us to explore a place that is not very known by tourists. In comparison to Lima, Songos’ weather was extremely hot and dry. This place is in between two mountains and takes approximately 1-2 hours to get to. The reason Songos is so popular is because there is a natural water slide, or toboganes, which are used for fun. The one thing of this trip that truly terrified me was having to climb over wet rocks and having to push against a waterfall current in order to reach this place. In the end, the trip was completely worth it.

Apart from Songos, I had taken another trip to Huaraz, a place with ice glaciers and high mountains. This city is located 9 hours north from Lima, I did this trip in the time span of three days (I slightly suffered because I did not take in the altitude as a potential factor into my itinerary). This city sits 10,013 feet above sea level, and trust me, I felt the change. My altitude sickness came and went, I mostly felt nauseous, dehydrated, and had a nasty migraine. In Peru, it is common to use Coca leaves to help ease this type of pain. I drank mata de coca tea before and after every hike (if you chew on the leaves they give this numbing sensation to your mouth and throat). Ironically, the coca itself was not enough. Our tour guide advised us to take a couple of “mini” hikes before the big one. Even though I felt absolutely terrible, I had kept in mind that these hikes would be worth it.

Friday was spent horseback riding along the mountain of Yungar in attempt to adjust our bodies.

Saturday, in all honesty, was quite a difficult hike considering there was a clear walking path and it only took an hour and a half. We hiked/walked towards Glacial Pastouri which sits 17,200 feet above sea level. It was completely worth it as we go to see the lagunas and the glaciers of Peru. Along that track we also saw the Puya Raimondi plant.

On Sunday, we had hiked towards Laguna 69 which takes approximately 3 hours to get to at 15,000 feet above sea level (a longer and more difficult hike than the one before). This hike is quite beautiful as you come across three different phases to get to the laguna; first you walk along a river which takes about 40 minutes, then you start walking zig-zag inclines while gazing at a waterfall, lastly you climb over rocks until you get to the laguna.

Even though these hikes were quite challenging for me, I had pushed myself outside of my comfort zone in order to truly take in what I was seeing. For those of you who get an adrenaline rush from hiking, I definitely recommend these three spots.

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