We all stood at the passport check. The control clerk asked, together?”
“Yes, family.” I say.
He looks politely confused and asks “What kind of family” waiting for me to explain the role of my husband and two adult daughters I think quickly and respond, “dysfunctional but happy.”
Bop, bop, bop, bop on all four passports. We are in Cusco!
I digress here to talk about acclimatizing. It is the top subject everyone brings up as they prepare for adapting to Cusco flying from sea level to over 12,000 feet in the Andes. Air gets thin. Expect faster heartbeats, labored breathing and cramps. We will be at the highest at the end of the week as we hike up to almost 14,000 feet. This is why staying in Cusco for a few days is critical to a good trip. Not dissimilar from another kind of acclimatizing. Family acclimatizing.
This pertains to any number of people coming off of an individual year of stresses, strenuous travel from different places for three days, anxiety about preparation, packing and to and from airports and layover hotels and finally bop, bop, bop, bop…welcome to Cusco, we are all together for the next 12 days. So are our eating timeframes, boiling points, personalities, sleep patterns, openness to feedback, discomforts, and four way permutations of relationships. Acclimatize that!!! There are all sorts of medication for altitude acclimatizing. You just have to adapt differently for family.
The memories recalled later life are the ones sifted out from the real time experience. “Remember whens” probably will not include dad’s meltdown trying to figure out timing, Jess as the first to fall victim to “sorojchi” (altitude sickness), the lights that wouldn’t go out resulting in someone coming to our room to fix it at 2AM, sleepless patterns from exaggerated heartbeats.
Two things I recommend in family acclimatizing. First, not everything has to be done together. Second, meal choices and times should have rotating volunteers. Additionally, your kids are really are adults!
So we put this into effect on our first full day in Cusco following a volatile first evening. Everyone tired. Jess feeling really crappy and wrapped under covers. Lindsey doing her thing but sensitive to others. Billy in neutral state. Me watching over the dynamic and seeing how I can make it all Pollyanna. Dinner was a decision of bringing in from different places and having a community snack table. Thank you concierge for the connecting room with a middle common area. The preliminary discussion and plan for the next day. Not the best timing.
So, with a fresh look on Day #2. Jess waking up better. A late sleep in for some to 10:30 and Lindsey takes morning stroll in hotel followed by a good find for breakfast. I suggest the meal management program as we design the day. Jess and Lindsey ready to roll. We all agree on any combination of group to do their thing. Meet in room at 5:30. Dinner at 6. Lindsey and Jess decide on spa treatment to rest and relax. Billy and me to explore local craft markets and a walk through Cusco.
It was an easy day. Still mindful of the “after getting” or “not getting” soljchia we drink our coca leaf tea before and after meals, take it a bit slow and drink a shitload of water.
The craft market was a short walk. Cusco is clean and quiet. It is also very colorful. Locals approaching with baby llamas or adult llamas for photo opportunities. The soul and friendliness of the people an instant reminder to me of why I love South America. Everyone here is basically here for one reason, acclimatizing for Machu Picchu. It is not difficult to tell how people are getting to their destinations. Backpacks and shoes worn by everyone you pass are tell ale signs that indicate bus, train or multi day hike. Designer handbags vs., worn in backpacks. Sockless loafers vs. Gore-Tex.
me and my llama
Rendezvous at hotel at 5 was met with happy moods, review of our different few hours since lunch and some snack local snack.
We head out to “the pizza place” advance decision on schedule and in agreement.Walk is short. Seating is easy. Menu okay for different palettes.
We order. Perfect.
Twenty five minutes later the server return and in mix of Spanish and English not unlike mine over the past few days she says “No Mas Pizza.”
“You mean you’re out of some of the ingredients we asked for (we have one semi-vegan, one vegetarian, one mindful eater and one eating light after a not so feeling great night).
“No mas pizza.” What she meant was there was no pizza left and this is a pizzeria at 6 PM on a Monday.
There we sat with three half finished Coca-Cola’s and a decision. It was clear we wanted pizza. A clear moment of our flexible acclimatizing system now at risk of relapse. Jess quick to fill in the silence recalled another pizza place down the block. Easy transition we thought.
Pachumama’s (the mother of the earth) was just fine and they also had a pizza menu but we were skeptical until we ordered and it was confirmed.
After a fine dinner and good interaction and everyone feeling good we came back and light our next to last night Chanukah menorah candles. Discussions for tomorrow plan follow the same adaptability. Billy walks to get water and chocolate for all. Lindsey sewing a hole in my pants. Billy had the sewing kit. Two sisters in one bed playing cards which I remembered to bring.
Billy reading. Jess just won fantasy super bowl back home. Lindsey cuddled in quiet space with kindle. Cookies, chocolate and water on community table. Me just taking it all in as I write.
So keep in mind that while some family, friend or group vacations may need physical acclimatizing never forget that all need people acclimatizing. Understand the individuals and understand their contribution in making the group a blessed and downright lucky one that makes the memory of the time eternal.
Thank you, Lindsey, Jess and Billy for me the luckiest guy around. xo