4/21/10: Southwest Circuit, Bolivia
Whoever invented Bolivia must have failed out of Countries 101 in elementary school.
“Class, making countries is so easy a caveman could do it. This is especially good for you all considering you are cavemen. There is a simple checklist to follow:
- Lakes must be blue
- Mountains must be gray
- Rocks must be bottom-heavy
- Bridges shall be used to cross rivers
- People must live near sea level
That’s it. Now go get ‘er done.”
Look at what little Billy Bolivia did.
Now I’m all for unique colors, cool-looking rocks and driving through water, but the last one is a bit hard to get used to. Yesterday morning as we embarked on our tour, we discovered that we’d be sleeping at 4,200 meters above sea level for the night. By my calculations, that was over 1,200 meters above the night before and almost 4,000 meters above our accommodation from just a few short days ago. Eight months ago I wouldn’t have thought anything of it, but now I’ve been to Nepal.
Zhou and I spent ten days getting our bodies prepared to sleep above 4,000 meters and heard countless stories about what happens if you rush things (headaches, vomiting, dizziness, death and beautiful views). The high elevation worried us a bit, but in all the hundreds of tour reviews we read (and by we I mean Zhou) no one mentioned the altitude…
This morning from just after midnight to just after 5am I divided my time equally between the bathroom and the bed, unable to decide if my urge to throw up outweighed my urge to lie down and pacify one of the worst headaches I’ve ever had. I kept thinking about the Nepalese altitude sickness warnings. The headache was there, and by 4:30 so too was the vomiting. I still lacked dizziness, which was good because I was pretty sure that was the only symptom between me and death. The part that worried me the most though was our schedule to drive further up in the mountains to 5,000 meters above sea level.
As it turned out though, everyone but Zhou was also feeling the altitude, so at 5am we zombily asked our guide, Maxima, what to do. And then I realized why no one ever mentions the altitude. Maxima whipped up a cup of the local altitude-remedy tea for each of us, and we headed off up the mountain. By late morning we were all feeling much better, ready to fully enjoy the views again.
Little Billy Bolivia, you did quite nicely for yourself. I can’t even remember – was I sick this morning?
Pictures of the Day: Remember smelly Rotorua, New Zealand? This area of thermal activity was actually much more interesting and perhaps even a bit smellier.