On the day I went to Rainbow Mountain, I had been in Cusco for a few days already and had visited the Macchu Picchu, Humantay Lake and The Sacred Valley. In fact, Rainbow would be my fourth and last trek on my list of things to do in Cusco. Considering the previous treks had gone well, I only expected mild symptoms of altitude sickness and that if they were to appear, I thought I’d be able to get rid of them with coca leaves.
So as part of our trek, we took a bus which came to get us at our hotel at around 4:30 in the morning. The bus drove us the midway up the mountain, where we had breakfast before starting our hike up Rainbow Mountain. As we progressed through the mountain, all seemed normal. I could feel myself becoming increasingly out of breath, but that was to be expected at such at high altitudes so I went on.
Things got more complicated when we arrived at the 5.1KM altitude mark, with only 700 more meters to climb up. Each step became more difficult than the previous. I became dizzy and increasingly out of breath. It became obvious that the rest of my journey up would be incremental and that several breaks would be required for me to get to the top.
Things became worst while climbing the last 100 meters. My friend, who was completely unbothered by the altitude pressured to go faster. However, not only was my breath affected it seemed my thoughts were getting confused and clouded. I remember halfway through the last 100 meter, I remember sitting down and contemplating whether or not I should keep climbing or just make my way down. It took me about 20 minutes to hike the last hundred meter and but made it to the top.
However, my time at the top of the Rainbow Mountain was spent in a sort of haze. My friend shepherded me around the top of the mountain taking pictures from every angle as I halfheartedly smiled, dizzy, out of breath and exhausted. After 30 minutes, we finally decided we could leave.
I set out hiking faster than my friend. Unlike him, I spent very little time admiring the landscape and only stopped to pick a few colored rocks on the way down (yellow, blue, red and green). The way down took an hour and half and upon the arrival of the whole group, we had lunch.
This is when I noticed something was wrong.
I usually have a good appetite and I each bite I took felt forced. I also began to notice a throbbing headache, the worst I’ve ever had, hands down.
I eat a lot, and nothing can stop me when it comes to eating. However, it seemed that the lunch was being forced down my throat. I had no appetite and my head began to throb. What followed was a long three-hour bus ride back to the city of Cusco ‘with no pee-stops. So not only did I have the worst headache of my life, I also had to pee. Hands-down the worst bus ride of my life.
I didn’t seem to be the only one having a headache as I heard many people complainingut it. A girl who sat next to us also puked before getting on the bus and during the bus ride. When she noticed the tour guide she was about to puke, he didn’t even stop the bus. From having been in this situation many times, the tour guide quickly grabbed a bag and opened it to let her puke inside. Not a single drop went on the floor which was quite impressive, considering how much movement the bus was going through. They also had disinfectant ready, which they used for her face.
My situation went from bad to worst when we arrived in Cusco. My headache became worst, with every heartbeat propelling a burst of sharp in my skull. My headache was soon later joined by a fever that brought own cold sweats.
At that point, I was feeling hungry and figured that if I ate something, perhaps I would feel better. So, I ordered a BLT sandwich from room service. Once arrived, I had no appetite, eating felt so wrong even though I felt hungry.
My headache progressively got worst, and I became very worried because the was pain was getting excessive and unbearable. But things finally turned to the better because of my friend.
He went downstairs to get me a munia tea and asked the reception if there’s anything that they knew about which could help my situation. The receptionist decided to the send one of their on-site paramedics to my room.
Once arrived, the paramedic checked my lungs, the oxygen level in my blood and my heartbeat.
He then connected me to an oxygen tank for 10 minutes, which at first did not make me feel any different. The paramedic then left, and I went back to watching cartoons. Soon enough, I found myself grabbing eating again. The pain in my head down to a third. My fever did not wave, but after all I felt so much better that I didn’t care. I even danced around a little, which reassured my friend that I was back to normal.
I must give a big thank you to the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Cusco for sending help. I felt awful, they stopped the pain, and I really appreciate what they did for me. I do give wonder to what would of happened without the paramedic. Perhaps I would have been forced to the hospital like so many others after who come back from Rainbow Mountain, which would of been a big bummer.
I must also give a big thank you to my friend, who cared for me while I was sick and went find help. Thank you!