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Hola estudiantes,

Adjusting to new climates will be an important part of this course on many levels. It was hard even to explain just how important it is to convivir with the thin air of the sierra and the thick air of the selva. Thankfully, one of our favorite Peruvian bands explained it for us. Please pay close attention to this message. 

We hope you enjoyed that song! We certainly enjoy these sounds and ideas. Maybe we could summarize the message, at least regarding the physiological steps to take upon arrival in Cusco, as 1) breathe deep and 2) go slow.

(The possible deeper interpretations of the spiritual message abound. Feel free to make your own and share both now on the Yak board and in person during our course. Remember: we believe the course has already begun inside each of us.)

It is natural that altitude effects every one of us, no matter how many times we have been to high elevations. It is different every time (residents of high-elevation areas are known to get altitude illness quite often). It can be a bit scary to feel some of the initial effects, but we want to assure you that this is completely normal. It will take time for your body to adjust, and we instructors will guide you through this as you transition.

Some common symptoms you may feel when you step off the plane and in your first few days at high altitude: light headedness, headache, shortness of breath, fatigue, dry skin, chapped lips, general malaise, upset stomach, loss of appetite, increased heart rate, and difficulty sleeping.

These may sound scary, but don’t worry. We will remember Laguna Pai’s message to breathe deep and take it slow to help everyone adjust at their own pace. It will take a few days and our bodies will work miracles as we begin to produce more red blood cells and acclimatize. While we will be there to treat any symptoms when we arrive in Cusco, we ask that you get in the habit of doing a couple things to help you prepare for altitude and also general health while on the trip.

  • Most importantly: DRINK WATER. BEBE AGUA. The good stuff. We cannot stress this enough. Altitude affects the pressure differences across all membranes in your body, and at altitude,  your body loses more water through your lungs (breathing), your skin (you won’t even feel like you’re sweating because it evaporates quicker), and your kidneys (you urinate more at altitude). We recommend you carry a water bottle with you wherever you go at home and try to get in the habit of drinking 4 liters a day. It sounds like a lot, but trust us, when you get to the Andes this will become part of normal life. Your water bottle will replace your cellphone. It will always be with you and help you stay healthy and connected.
  • Bring sunglasses, sunscreen, a sun hat, and chapstick. Maybe an umbrella! The sun is much brighter and more powerful at altitude. It’s not that we’re that much closer, it’s just that there’s less atmosphere filtering out harmful rays of all sorts. It can drain us a lot quicker. It is important to take care of ourselves and limit our exposure. Make sure you bring these things!
  • GO SLOW. When you arrive, you are going to experience an array of emotions. Some of us might feel so excited and energetic that we can’t help but having a little pep in our step. However, our bodies are experiencing extreme change and we have to intentionally take things slower. Walk half as slow as you do at home. Don’t over exert yourself. Rest. Allow your body to naturally acclimatize and give it the breaks it needs!
  • EXERCISE AT HOME. At home as we get closer and closer to our departure, we should all take the time to get our heart rate up. Go for a run, ride a bike, swim, walk, hike, dance. Get your body moving! While physical fitness doesn’t directly correlate to how we will adjust to altitude, it will help us stay to stay healthier and have all of our systems working like a well balanced being. Our physical fitness will also be challenged on the treks, so it’s recommendable to train for that reason as well.

There you have it. These small steps will go a long way, so go get ready. Go slow and breathe deep. ¡Inhalamos hondo!

L@s instructores