Peru Trip and Altitude Sickness

The amazing travel experience in Peru drove me making weather observation system with my Raspberry Pi. I could finally post something related to travel which is the origin of the name of this blog, “タビログ”.

My Peru experience

I was dreaming of visiting Machu Picchu, which came true! Before visiting Machu Picchu I visited a town named Puno. In general, tourists go to Cusco before Machu Picchu, but I needed to visit Puno because of my schedule.

The weather environment was incredibly hard. I went to Peru in June which was winter (dry season). The season is opposite to the United States. This time is the best season for visiting because it doesn’t rain. Additionally, I can see the most famous festival called Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun). Why do they cerebrate the Sun this time of year? Because June has the winter solstice day. The hours of sunshine gets longer.

You can apply my experience to Cusco too. Get prepared very well especially your “conscious”!

Townscape of Puno

Townscape of Puno

Puno looks “typical” South American town, but it looks way unusual to Japanese people. 😉

There was a girl working her dog.

Girl and her dog

Girl and her dog

Next to her was a railroad track. She was ok because the train comes about once a day, and it slows down.

Mom and a baby

Mom and a baby

I saw a mother holding her a baby on back. Even we wear different clothes, holding a baby is the same custom. :;

Severe Weather Environment

It was too hot. I felt my skin had burnt because of strong sun shine. I went back to my hotel and grabbed my shirt. The shirt was not thick enough. I wore a black wool sweater too. You would need sun block cream. It should be sold in the town, but I’m not sure.

I checked the temperature and surprised.

Outside Temperature and Humidity

Outside Temperature and Humidity

40°C (104°F)…

It was hell. The heat killed me! And I noticed something. I hadn’t sweated. I thought I was sick.

I stopped checking the temperature (it was still going up!) and started to move. As I was evacuating and seeking for sunshade, I found a place.



I just went in.

Kiosk Inside

Kiosk Inside

The place looked like a kiosk, but the interior was weird to me. Why they left the wall unpainted or put something on? This feeling is what I love. I can touch the different customs and idea. 🙂

I bought a bread and sit down. I was very tired but after the break I became fine.

I noticed it was chilly. I check the temperature and shocked.

Inside Temperature and Humidity

Inside Temperature and Humidity

15°C (59°F)… There was no air conditioning, but the room was freezing! I went to a restaurant later, but that place was also freezing. There was an electric heating machine.

I have noticed something else. Look at this meat shop.

Meat Shop

Meat Shop

The freezer showcase was not cold. It was turned off! The machine is just right next to the outside street.

Superdry – 極度乾燥(しました)

So, what is going on? I couldn’t understand at all. I kept thinking (even after coming back to home!) and concluded the phenomena can be explained with these factors.

  • Air was thin (The air pressure was low)
  • Air was dry (The humidity was low)
  • The environment and distance to outer space are closer. (The town is located 3,827m (12,556 ft))

I’m not positive about these answers, especially the third one. What do you think? I’m not a scientist.

The reason the outside was too hot and I needed something to protect my skin were because air was thin. Sunshine is scattered by air. This is called Rayleigh scattering. There is much air at lowlands than highlands, so sunshine can reach directly.

I wondered how heat traveled if there was no air. Because outer space has no air, the temperature goes from -150°C to 120°C! (-238°F to 248°C)

Now why outside was hot while inside was cold? I imagined in the same way.

In the outer space, heat doesn’t travel by conduction or convection. – Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

The roof of buildings must be hot as much as the ground. I thought inside the building could be warmed up, but it was not. That is because air was thin.

More important thing is the mechanism of conduction of heat. Imagine a heat sink of computers. The top edges of a heat sink (highlands) are colder than the bottom. Heat of highlands is taken by lowlands.

About the freezer showcase – it did not need to be turned on not only because the temperature is cold, but humidity was low. The humidity was so low that mold and bacterium couldn’t survive. I watched carefully if there were flies, but I couldn’t find any of them. Bugs couldn’t live in this environment.

I didn’t sweat at all not because I didn’t sweat but sweat dried up immediately. I was very thirsty when I was walking. This should mean my body lost water.

I had never dreamed of thinking like this before I went to Puno.

By the way, “極度乾燥(しました)” is a parody of “極度乾燥(しなさい)”. I wonder if they open a branch in Japan. To Japanese, this word doesn’t make any sense like English words written on T-shirts Asian people wear in the US. I’m always amazed the power of brand.

Prepare for Altitude Sickness

What I have learned is that the extreme difference of temperatures and low humidity made us tired. And then it accelerates altitude sickness. Low oxygen is the main cause of altitude sickness, which I have no doubt. You should know what you can do before you travel.

What I wanted to know before visiting Peru was whether I get altitude sickness or not. I knew nobody could tell. The answer was yes. I couldn’t get out of the bed for one day. Well, I could say, I could get well only within one day because I prepared well and had correct knowledge.

I could have correct knowledge in the Low Oxygen Training class at Miura Dolphins managed by one of the most famous alpinist, Yuichiro Miura, the oldest person who reached the summit of Mount Everest in 2013.

The facility has a constant-pressure-low-oxygen room. They can control oxygen of this room. There are sleeping bags and exercise machines. You can test yourself if your body has resistance to altitude sickness.

SpO2 pulse oximetry

SpO2 pulse oximetry can measure how much oxygen your blood has.

SpO2 pulse oximetry

SpO2 pulse oximetry

This picture was taken in Puno. The number shown above (70%) is oxygen saturation. The number shown below (80 BPM) is pulsation beats per minute. I searched for the average number.

An ideal value of SpO is from 96% to 98%, however, some patients may have lower value in normal condition. Doctors should know their ordinal condition when they are stable and fine.
If you get an amount lower than usual, change your finger. See your doctor immediately if the amount is 3 to 5% below usual or below 90%. – Japan Medical Equipments

The amount is only 70% even I was stable when I took that picture. Remember. When you visit Puno, you’d better think your body is in abnormal state even if your mind is conscious. And one week later when I left, the amount went up to 86%. Your body gets used to the altitude sickness. Don’t worry more than necessary.

It is very important to drink water, but drinking when you are walking is dangerous! When you drink, you are holding your breath. Because I had a pulse oximeter, I wanted to know. Can you imagine what happened to me? The value went down immediately below 60%! I was about to lose my conscious. The feeling was like when I stood up at sauna or onsen and started to move immediately.

When you get altitude sickness

I got altitude sickness in the evening of the first day of Puno. Abdominal breathing helped me. My SpO2 went right up to more than 90%, but it went down if I stopped. I was like an inflatable boat.

If you are in problem, try this. Pucker up your lips and breathe. Concentrate on exhaling. Use your stomach muscle hardly to press out the air in your stomach. I breathed for 20 times to get SpO2 more than 90%. The explanation sounds simple, but can you do this?

Keep breathing like this was tiring. My muscle hurt. I felt thirsty as I breathed. And no one can breathe like this during sleeping!

I conclude that we need patience. Lay yourself down and relax. Drink enough water.

Dried air and frequent breathing for low oxygen cause dehydration. Drink enough water even you have to go to the bathroom often. – Andina Travel

I kept the following procedures.

  1. Breathe deeply
  2. Drink water
  3. Sleep
  4. Wake up after 1 or 2 hours
  5. Go to bathroom
  6. Go back to 1

Less oxygen let me sleep lightly. This is why I woke up every 1 or 2 hours. I was woken up by my breathing too. My body breathed loudly even I was under conscious. It was hard to take a rest in such a situation.

Medicines for altitude sickness

I had some Acetaminophens only. It is has relatively little anti-inflammatory activity than Aspirin or ibuprofen. (Wikipedia)

Some Japanese people take Acetazolamide or Hongjingtian (紅景天). I don’t take pills which I don’t take usually because I can’t tell what the root causes are. ( The problems might even increase!) Another reason is Hongjingtian is made in China. I can’t trust Chinese food products because what ingredients they use or who are between the manufacture and us. Honestly, travelers are very good business opportunity for people who sell this.

If you smoke, just stop this time. Seriously. It grabs oxygen at 200 times more!

Carbon monoxide of cigarette combines hemoglobin stronger than Oxygen by 200 times. – What is diabetes?

Breakfast at Bed

Finally the morning had come. I really wanted to break fast! 😉 But I was not confident to walk all the way to the dining room. It was 2 floors below. I called the front desk for my breakfast.



I asked more water and fruits. I really thanked to me learning Spanish! Just in case, printout this page and take it with you. You might not understand what I’m saying. This is really a password to revive. 😉

Alo, Me llamo xxx de numero yyy. Tengo fiebre. ¿Podría traerme algo para comer?

Spanish English
Alo Hello
Me llamo xx de numero yyy
1 uno
2 dos
3 tres
4 cuatro
5 cinco
6 seis
7 siete
8 ocho
9 nueve
0 cero
My name is xxx of room no yyy.
Tebgo fiebre I have a fever
Podría traerme algo para comer Please bring me something to eat

Because Spanish and English words are corresponding this time, you would not have a problem.

Actually we don’t have a fever, but the most important thing is to let them know you are something wrong. They are used to guests who have altitude sickness.

Use phrases bottom instead of “algo para comer” to order what you want to have.

Spanish English
algo para beber something to drink
algo para comer y beber something to eat and drink
frutas fruits
agua water You may be asked if you want with gas or without gas.
agua sin gas water without gas
agua con gas water with gas (carbonated water)
mas frutas more fruits

Because I had less appetite, I tried to eat fruits at least. By afternoon I became enough better to walk. I went to the dining room and had a soup, then spent time in the lounge and my room.

I could finally finish all what I got. Look at the plastic bottles. 😉

After Fighting

After Fighting

This post is also available in: Japanese

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