Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pinnacle and Nadir

Lake Titikaka is a truly surprising place. It is somewhere around 13,000 feet in elevation, and has no outflow except occasionally during the rainy season. It's huge--in many places you can't see land across it--but it's too saline for the people eking out their livings along its vast shores to use as a source of water, either for drinking or as irrigation. There are trout farms anchored around many of its shorelines, and countless villages and even some significant towns dot the barren, tundra-like land. Tundra-like in vegetation and chill, but hilly, with snow-capped peaks in the distances . . . when the distances are visible.

We did one hike of about 3 km on Sun Island, on the Bolivian side of the lake (part of our catamaran tour), which was gravely difficult for four of us, and nearly killed A, who suffers from migraines with much more regularity and severity than I ever have, and who had had one in La Paz the night we arrived (which was the night before our hike). She had been given oxygen in our Radisson, and used up her migraine meds, which themselves had not responded well to the altitude. Mom and I and Wendy, our tour guide, did a bunch of doctoring on the boat, but it was all we could do ourselves not to collapse.

It turns out that for me, the best way to deal with the altitude has been to sleep on all buses, my head lolling against Ian's shoulder, for pretty much the whole of any trip up in the Altaplana. On our boat, I asked for my bed the moment we stepped on board. I have never slept so easily or so completely or so often or so long in my life, even as an infant. It's been glorious, the sleep, but it does mean that our trek from La Paz to Cuzco has been dreamlike. Ian, fortunately, has been in relatively good shape, so there is a good photographic record that I can look at to remember what we did.

We ended up cutting our boat tour short in Copacabana, Bolivia, known for having a cathedral that blesses cars, by several hours and another hike. Ostensibly this was to aid A, but we all benefited from time to shop and chill out a bit. We hit an internet cafe and Ian found a clinic in Puno, Peru, where we were headed, and where A was able to get some excellent medical attention and some different headache meds.

And the next morning, yesterday, we got on bus number 7000 and I slept through most of the end of the Altaplana and on into Cuzco.

I was awake for the highest point of our journey, however, long enough to take the picture above. It was about the elevation of Mt Rainier, around 14,000 feet. And we drove there!

Aside from a cold (me) and some runs (all of us), we seem to be on the mend. Three more nights at altitude, and then we're on to Iquitos on the Amazon.

Things are looking up! And down!

one-fingered on my phone

1 comment:

Jake miller said...

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