I’m not going to lie. I was more than a little bit concerned about altitude sickness on my recent trip to Peru.

I’m not exactly in the best shape of my life at the moment. And everyone I know who had been to Peru before spoke darkly about debilitating headaches and bouts of crippling nausea.

The best way to avoid altitude sickness, of course, is to approach your lofty destination slowly, taking time to acclimatise along the way. 

My flight flew straight into Cusco (via Madrid and Lima) so that wasn’t an option.

An American aid worker I sat next to on the flight from Lima to Cusco suggested drugs – something with an active ingredient called acetazolamide, she said.

When I arrived at my hotel they plied me with coca tea, a mildly narcotic brew made from dried coca leaves. They had a little prep station in the foyer where you could brew yourself some at any time of the day or night.

Coca tea in Cuzco (Peter Moore)
Peter and the oxymeter (Peter Moore)

In the end I took it all. 

Copious amounts of Coca tea.

A generic altitude sickness drug called Acetak (I had been tempted by the ads for Alti Vital, used and recommended by 9 out of 10 alpacas, apparently, but Acetak was considerably cheaper.)

And time. I ascended the two flights of stairs to my room very, very slowly.

It paid off. I had a slight headache on my first night but I put that down to dehydration from the long flight from London.

But when Norma from Intrepid whacked a pulse oxymeter on my finger the next morning I had a blood oxygen reading of 95 and a resting heart rate of 84.

“Like a local,” she said.

I’ve never felt prouder in my life.