“The journey, not the arrival matters” – T.S. Elliot
With that quote in mind, let’s discuss connecting flights, immunization recommendations and pre-trip preparation before we consider the joy of the journey itself.
Arequipa, the starting point for the 2011 Wet Planet Peru Rafting and Kayaking Expedition, is located 1000km south of the international airport hub in Lima. There are three options for making this connection: The most stress-free option would be to book this connecting flight in advance. I like to use the search engine kayak.com to search for flights. The second way to make this leg of the journey would be to fly into Lima, then arrange the flight there. The advantage of booking the flight in this way is getting domestic flight pricing, which would represent a savings of about one hundred dollars. Gian Marco Vellutino recommends using the Peruvian airline LAN over TACA. The third way is to take an over-night bus known to locals as el bus cama (the bed bus.) Cruz del Sur and Ormeno are the largest and most reputable bus transportation agencies in Peru. “Bed” is a bit of an exaggeration, but these double-decker buses do have recliner seats, restrooms and meals. The duration of the trip is 15 hours and costs about $20 U.S. dollars. If time is a limiting factor, this method of travel is not recommended.
The Center for Disease Control is a United States government entity which provides health information for travelers to foreign countries. On the CDC’s website, many of the immunization recommendations are elevation specific. With the exception of Lima, the Wet Planet trip itinerary does not include traveling below 2000m, the elevation zone in which the CDC recommends most vaccinations.
Let’s discuss some considerations for traveling in the high altitude Andes region of Peru. On Day 3 of our journey, we will depart Arequipa and travel high into the mountains where we will begin our six day descent of the world-class rapids and whitewater of the Rio Cotahuasi. On the way, we will cross a mountain pass at 15,000 feet elevation. There is not much time to acclimate while riding in the shuttle vehicle, so it is common to experience some mild symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). Hydration is the best remedy for AMS, and I’ve found a product called Emergen-C to be quite effective as well. While teaching skiing during the winters in Colorado, many of my clients experience AMS, and the vitamins and minerals found in this product seem to help alleviate the headache and nausea that is characteristic of AMS. For centuries, indigenous cultures in this region have chewed leaves of the coca plant to combat these symptoms. Modern medicine has proven hydration and Ibuprofen more effective in treating mild altitude sickness, and this practice has become more common.
So, while preparing for the upcoming journey: remember:
“Half the fun is getting there.”
Growing up, I heard this fatherly phrase enough times for it to annoy me then and stick with me today.
The conversation usually went like this:
4:30am Dad – “Time to wake up and drive for hours and hours to go skiing!”
5-17 year old me – groan
Dad – “Half the fun is getting there!”
5-17 year old me – louder groan
On a river trip, the take-out is not the destination. The beginning and everything in between is what truly matters.