Friday, May 15, 2009
As mentioned before, Quito stands at an elevation of 9,300 feet. This altitude has had an impact on all of us. When we arrived here we anticipated being out of breath. What we didn't expect was the same occurrence a week later. Every time we walk up the stairs to our 4th floor apartment, we are reminded we are not at sea level. lisa and I have also had dull headaches when we get up in the morning. Our sleep is also affected, not sleeping well at all. We are tired a lot. When I lie awake lying on my back it is hard to catch my breath. I can feel my diaphragm laboring. It's funny that rolling over on my side makes a big difference. Just sitting here writing it's hard to get a really deep breath. Not satisfying.
Changes in elevation in our travels here make a difference too. We dropped to around 8000 feet on our day trip to La Mitad del Mundo. Much, much better. At the other extreme, taking our one hour trek yesterday between 13,400 feet and a touch over 14,000 feet was exhausting. I was gasping for breath and taking short steps to proceed upward. Our twenty minutes of just hanging at one place felt really good. Surprisingly, it wasn't bitterly cold . lisa and I have frozen in the past when we were at elevations lower than this. Being on the equator allowed some hikers to the Pichincha Volcano peak at 15,800 feet to go up with just t-shirts. We shed our three to four layers of clothes when it got too hot.
Dumb me. Of all days to forget to put on sunscreen. We were exposed for only a couple of hours and I now have the worst sunburn since the head has been shaved. The sun is much more intense at the equator than at the 39 degree north latitude we have at home. And it's much more intense at 14,000 feet than near sea level.
Negatives, negatives, negatives. On the positive side it's beautiful here. I look out the window while washing dishes and see the mountains loom over the beautiful Basilica a couple of blocks away. While on the trail at altitude, I observed alpine grasses with red, purple or yellow flowers all the way to 15,000+ feet. Gorgeous. They even have dandelions up this high!
I like mountains. Always have. Our trip to the higher elevations here was a “high” I wanted the whole trip. And I finally got it.