It is difficult to know how your body will respond to altitude sickness. Altitude sickness occurs when you are at a higher level of altitude and the body struggles to get enough oxygen. Altitude sickness is extremely serious and shouldn’t be taken lightly, the worse thing you can do is fly directly to Cuzco and assume you will be fine to hike Machu Picchu the following day. Even if you feel ok once you arrive in Cuzco, still take the precautions and spend 3-4 days exploring the wonderful city before embarking on your Inca Trail adventure.
Altitude sickness is something I wish I read up on before travelling to high altitude locations, as I got hit with the sickness hard. Altitude sickness includes:
- Headaches and migraines
- Nausea and vomiting
- Lack of energy
Drink double the amount of water you would normally drink This is the best way to ensure your body stays hydrated and combats any headaches, nausea and diarrhoea. I drank at least 4 litres per day to ensure that my body was hydrated, and tried to stay clear of coffee.
Potassium is good!
Foods that are rich in potassium will help with your altitude sickness. Because you are subject to potassium loss when reaching higher altitudes, you’ll need to replenish the body with foods that are rich in it. Avocados saved my life when in Peru and it is a secret that the Peruvians use to help tourists to the area. Bananas, greens, broccoli, potatoes and dried fruit is also very good.
Increase your Coca(ine) intake
Just kidding on the cocaine, but the Peruvians swear by the Coca plant, which is the plant that produces cocaine. You will find most porters sucking on a mouthful of the leaves as it increases energy, combats altitude sickness, reduces your appetite and allows your to breathe easier. You’ll find the leaves along the inca trail, otherwise you can purchase leaves or coca lollies.
(unlike me), be prepared and see your doctor pre-travel
You can see your doctor prior to your trip and receive drugs like Acetazolamide (Diamox) which will treat your symptoms rather than masking it.
- You’ll need to take toilet paper or tissues with you as you will be using the ‘inca toilet’ which is basically just a hole in the ground.
- Mosquito repellant is also a good idea
- Sunscreen is also a must
- You won’t need to bring many toiletries but I would advise to pack some baby wipes as you probably won’t be showering along the way. These are perfect to use as you complete a ‘baby wipe shower’ each evening.