Quito – Ecuador
My first experience with height in South America was when I flew from Cartagena to Bogotá. I left Cartagena in shorts and t-shirt with pure sunshine and 35 degrees celsius.
I got off the plane and it was at least 15 degrees less, no sunshine and I suddenly realized that I wasn’t at sea level last anymore but at 2650 m above it !
Not only was I suddenly freezing after weeks or months of heat but I was suddenly short of breath when moving , especially when I took the tram up to the Montserrate at 3200 meters.
After I drove out of Cartagena some days later I reached a campground in Medellin at 2600 meters so that I had to get my down jacket out again and was happy to sit by the campfire with other travelers ! I slowly got used to the altitude and was keen enough to ride my bike from the campground to the tram station and back – 15 km up- and down – pretty hard at that height.
Leaving Medellin towards Ecuador I was driving at altitudes around 3000 meters all the time , crossing a pass at 3770 meters and finally entering Quito at 2850 meters the highest capital city in the world.
I not only got used to the height and moderate temperatures but also to the vast flora around me with lush green where everything was growing, pants that I knew and others I had never seen before. Many I had only seen in botanical gardens so far were just growing along the roads here !
I was therefore more than surprised after driving down from over 3000 meters in Ecuador to the border post in northern Peru at almost sea level finding myself surrounded by desert and heat.
As I continued south I followed the Peruvian coastline and the panamerican highway which is surrounded by desert all the way to Lima and even further south.
But , once I left the coastline towards the mountains from Nasca to Cusco I was suddenly climbing up to unknown heights entering a plateau at 4500 meters above sea level where I could hardly walk for some meters !
In Cusco our camp was at 3600 meters and it was really hard sleep the first night or be active at all. After a couple of days when attempting to walk the uncounted stairs up the Machu Pichu mountain from 2600 m to 3060 m the real challenge was there ! Very exhausting !
Meanwhile I am kind of used to heights around 3500 m which is the „normal“ altitude around here. The past 2 days we were more or less constantly driving at 4500 m with a maximum altitude of 4850 m , the highest point of this trip so far.
Currently at Titicaca lake at 3800 meters .
Theo is doing great at this altitude. We are going slowly up the several turns like yesterday from 3500 m constantly up to 4850 m and we were still able to pass the busses and trucks that reach maximum speeds of 30 km/h here. Of course it is not like driving at sea level and the whole rig is about 4.5 tons , so that is hard work and I am glad we are doing this good with no major problems ! Good car ! Keep going !!!