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Landing in Cusco is an amazing experience for at least two reasons: the approach, and the altitude shock. The approach brings you low (maybe 500 feet) above numerous ridges, and after floating over the final ridge the plane banks hard to the left, goes full flaps, and drops to the runway. I’m not sure a go-around is even possible with the mountains in front and on both sides, but if it is possible, it must be extremely white-knuckle too.

Once you stick the landing, the cabin pressure does the opposite of what you might expect: it drops. You feel it in your ears and lungs, and you can’t help but gasp for breath. At just over 11,000 feet, I was unable to stop gasping for at least a couple hours. Even now, 6 hours after landing, I still feel out of breath upon standing, say, or lifting my carry-on. They say it takes two or three days to acclimate.  I’ll let you know.

Upon arrival, I grabbed my luggage and huffed it across the parking lot to the ’80s Toyota 4Runner driven by Pulsiano, an ADRA employee who was kind enough to pick me up. I rode with him for about 2 hours (not more than 40 miles) along a stunning river valley that also includes the Cusco-Puno rail line, watching the early sunset and hanging on for dear life as we passed vehicles left and right. As a driver who has pride in my own abilities, it is hard not to admire the ability of drivers here to always time the pass in such a way as to leave the minimum amount of space between themselves and the oncoming car/semi/llama cart. 

Stunningly, we arrived at the ADRA camp here in Chuquicahuana, which is a really nice collection of buildings (thank you ADRA Canada, evidently?) including a dormitory and dining hall, all with electricity, water, and electric water heaters in each showerhead that will zap you through the shower water if you get within 6 inches of the showerhead.  Nice.

I’m going to work on acclimating tonight via a process that will make my wife very jealous: sleeping. Maybe don’t tell her.

1 comment to Chuquicahuana

  • Teachiro

    Enjoying the bloggery. Best of luck adjusting to the altitude, and I’m hoping you come back with lots of yo’ llama jokes.

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