And just as suddenly I was transported to another world.
Appearing out of nowhere within the sea of the Andes, we'd land in the tiny Cusco airport, 3399m above sea level, without incident. I'd meet another traveling acquaintance on the way from Lima, plans would made for later on drinks. A prearranged driver would take me a chatty 25 minutes to the center of town.
Soon I'd become acquainted with Cusco, its many churches, complicated history, and lore. Poor but beautiful, full of cobbled charm and indigenousness. Textiles, tourists, some of the best food I've ever eaten.
But at this point I was terrified.
So many google searches gone awry: terms like altitude sickness, soroche, lungs filling with fluid, aneurysms, nausea, migraine, fatigue....
I'd psychologically braced myself for the worst.
I would eventually compare the reality of what I felt to having had one too many midday beers when you're not yet hungry for dinner. Add to that extreme exhaustion and breathlessness and I was feeling... weird.
Coca tea was served for free, in abundance, believed to ease the symptoms. In spite of my needing, as minimum, fourteen hours of sleep that day, I'd say it worked.
Countdown: three days to catch my breath.