Cusco, Peru

I booked a tour with G Adventures which included transportation to Cusco and OH MY, there is difference in altitude that my body felt.

I stayed in Milhouse – very social and clean – good location and I enjoyed staying here. The staff were frikkin awesome and it is such a good social hostel.

Altitude sickness was a massive problem I had – I am relatively healthy but this can hit anyone regardless of your health. Perhaps I’ve always lived at low altitude for all my life that coming here was a nightmare. If you are going straight to Cusco, you need to make sure you arrive early to get use to this otherwise, you won’t survive the trek. Here are my tips.

Top tips for altitude sickness:

  • Get to Cusco a few days early so your body can start adjusting to the altitude
  • Try going to Rainbow Mountain which is a day trip which is 5,200m (you will read in my other post about my struggles with this) but you are thrown in the deep end so you’re body has to start adjusting quickly. 
  • When you get to Cusco, find a pharmacy and buy ‘Alti-vital’ – these are natural altitude sickness tablets made from a lot of herbs and you need to take these to ease the symptoms. I feel this helped me get through my journey on the Lares Trek – I just regret that I didn’t discover this sooner! 
  • Coca Tea – all hostels and hotels will offer this. This is what the Inca’s use to chew to help them recover from altitude sickness and keep them awake therefore, you should drink this too. 

    Other things to do:
  • San Pedro Market – this is the place to buy all your souvenirs and any hats/gloves etc. It is also a great food market if you do and try some amazing fruit. My favourite is granadilla – this was a foodgasm in my mouth! They also have market stalls for you to order and eat food – well worth a visit! There are smaller markets elsewhere that is a bit of a walk away but they sell the same items at a higher price.
    Oh and make sure you negotiate EVERYTHING here!
  • There is a post office here but honestly, its a BIG process to send something. There were loads of hoops to go through and I needed my tour guide to help translate for me.
  • There are a NUMBER of places to eat and drink here that I have gone to a few… there was a brilliant western cafe which was great to get that high energy carby food when you’re about to go on a trek HOWEVER, if you are into your finer foods, there is a fab Peruvian Fusion Restaurant called the Fallen Angel that is worth going to.  As soon as you enter the old colonial house on beautiful Plaza Nazarenas that is home to this delightfully quirky but decidedly upmarket restaurant, you are struck by the fantastical décor – flying pigs suspended from a meringue-like ceiling, faux animal skin stools and glass topped bath tubs, some filled with real goldfish, that serve as dining tables. Dark painted walls glimmer with the reflections of an assortment of glitter balls and are adorned with contemporary works of art by local artists. Make sure you start with chicharron -traditional deep fried pork and the rest will be just as delicious. This is also a small boutique hotel and many celebrities have stayed so you might be lucky seeing celebrities here. Dining here will be pricey and will set you back approx. 100 soles each.
  • After you’ve done your hike, you may feel so beaten up that you need a massage – your hotel will know reputable place where they will pick you up and take you to the place for a very good massage to help ease those tensions.
  • Plaza des Armas – this became a square that helps you find your way around to different places (there’s also bars along here too), there is a cathedral where you can see the second original painting of The Last Supper with the guinea pig in the middle but they charge a fee. I hope you got to see it for free in Arequipa.
  • There is a mini Christ the Redeemer statue here – now it is on my list to see it for real in RIO but just in case I can’t, I did the walk up here. We were advised to make sure we are back down to Plaza des Armas before 4pm as apparently, it gets dodgy up there and many people have been robbed.

Make the early morning day trip to Rainbow Mountain. It is worth seeing the different colours of how these rocks have crystallised thus making a Rainbow Mountain. It’s 5,200 metres high so I would recommend doing the hardest thing first which is getting to the highest altitude possible which may help before you get on your trek as your body would have experienced the worst.  

You can rent a donkey to take you to the bottom of the tip of the mountain and then climb up (the donkey can’t get all the way up).

You will need to book a tour where they will pick you up at like 3am/4am and you get there about 6am which will then be a 2 hour trek to get up the Rainbow Mountain.  

The top of the mountain is pretty but crowded – it doesn’t matter what time of day you come up, it’ll be busy. 
We were lucky to go on a sunny day (as apparently it was raining the day before) and had some cold but sunny views.

Honestly, I experienced the worst where I couldn’t breathe and the guide gave me ALL there concoctions to help open up my nose to get more oxygen in from some herbal oil and Llama pee. I can’t describe the feeling of having such difficulty in breathing and feeling the altitude pressure on my body. It felt like I was carrying a massive weight on my shoulders and I found it so hard to get the oxygen in my body. I actually thought that if I am experiencing this now as a day trip, what will it be like when I do a 3 day trek? 

Luckily, I can say I came out of the other side and give you tips to manage altitude sickness. I did feel putting my body through the worst at Rainbow Mountain was giving my body a taste of what would happen next.

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