Altitude Sickness and More! « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Altitude Sickness and More!

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Altitude Sickness and More!

I am enjoying a short break in Lima, Peru. Tomorrow I head up north for a few days and return to Lima on 28 NOV for some R&R. I fly to Santiago Chile on 30 NOV to meet the 2-Week Land-based Falklands IPT group. I will be staying an extra week in the Falklands and finally getting home late on 25 DEC. Note: two years out, it looks as if four of the eight slots on the 2018/2019 Cheap Land-based Falklands IPT are filled …

I have enjoyed some very good photography in spots–can you say Cock-of-the-Rock?–but on the whole the trip has not been as advertised and the travel has been taxing. On my first trip over the Andes (14,000 feet) I made the mistake of getting out at the top and chasing a few birds. I spent most of the night staring at the ceiling with a headache and some nausea. Did I mention that the temperate in my cabin was 49 degrees? And that there was no heat?

On the return trip today I did nothing but sit in the van as we made our way back over the Andes again at more than 4,000 meters. I was feeling weak, nauseous, and dizzy. With a headache. When we got to Cusco I asked about getting some oxygen. We stopped by somebody’s office and pick up a can of O2. It was the best $12 I ever spent; after three deep breaths I started feeling better. Tonight in Lima I am feeling great. And yes, my third cold is finally gone. Hopefully for good.

Between South Georgia and Peru, I have about a zillion new blogs posts done in my head (with several dozen images already optimized). I look forward to sharing lots of great images and lessons with you right after X-mas.

I got online briefly on the evening of WED 23 NOV. As I fly to Tarapoto early tomorrow I will not have time to answer many of them but will do so offline and surely get to send them when I return to Lima on the late afternoon of 28 NOV.

Happy Bird-Day

Enjoy the holiday and eat some turkey for me.

14 comments to Altitude Sickness and More!

  • avatar MikeH

    Have you tried drinking the local coca tea? When we were in Cusco we found it helped.

  • avatar Esther Corley

    When Foss & I arrived in Cuzco, at our hotel, the 1st thing they did was have us sit down and they served us tea. I could tell we were in a different kind of surrounding, but we did not get ill, thank goodness. It doesn’t sound like fun.

    Same for hiking up in the Idyllwild area…we saw a hiker with altitude sickness. She was being carried on 4 arms linked together and another couple were carrying her backpack as well as theirs. Not fun at all.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie, and happy Thanksgiving to you. I have been spared the miseries of altitude sickness so far–even crossing the Andes in Ecuador at up to 4300 meters–but for sure I felt the lack of oxygen. Once I left our bus and trotted downhill a couple hundred meters for a photo, and then looked up and wondered if I could make it back to the bus! I did. Be well, have fun, make lots of wonderful images.

  • avatar Gary McDavid

    Hi Artie, You might want to check out Diamox — a high altitude medication. It helps with the lack of oxygen at high altitudes. There is a High Altitude Research Center in Denver, CO that should have useful information if you plan to go high again.

  • avatar Glen Fox

    Altitude sickness is no fun and can be VERY serious, even fatal. Altitude is not something we think about. I got into serious trouble crossing the Andes in Ecuador …it was a near-death experience. Those of us who travel to exotic places should pay more attention to altitude. Unfortunately there is no way of knowing how a particular person is going to react to low oxygen concentrations ..its not related to age, fitness, or health. However, I think folks who spend their entire life at low altitudes need to be cautious.
    Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels!

  • avatar Bill Atwood


    Before your next trip over 10,000ft or more talk to your doc about a scrip for Diamox. I get horrible incapacitating alt. sickness somewhere between 10-11K within minutes of getting there. One 125mg tab of Diamox taken 12 hr prior prevents that and has allowed me some good birding up to at least 14K.

    Diamox is an old BP drug and is usually dirt cheap. Some people say it only masks alt. sickness, that is incorrect, it helps prevent it (to an extent).

    Again, talk to your doc.

  • avatar Stu

    Warmest wishes for the holiday and thereafter.
    Glad you are feeling better.

  • Glad you are feeling better. Would love to read some blog posts composed at 14K! Makes you wonder how some can climb Everest without O2. Happy Thanksgiving.

  • avatar James Saxon

    Hope you feel better sucking on the O2. It helps. Take care of yourself and I will eat some turkey for you. Travel safe.

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Thanks all. My heart is in pretty good shape but 4000m is not 2000m!

    later and love, a

  • avatar C G Gustavsson

    To the best of my knowledge one can get high-altitude sensations already slightly below 2000 meters. I got a touch of it at 2100 meters in Namibia – headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, swollen ancles and more. I think there may be a component of pulmonary oedema in people who are not completely healthy from the heart aspect.

  • avatar Mats Bergström

    Artie, you use to say to stay low!
    Listen to you own advice and do that, no more 4000 m high… 🙂

    Glad you are ok now!