A real concern of many people traveling to places of high elevation is altitude sickness. You never really know who it will affect and I'm sure that it makes for an incredibly unpleasant experience if you should be one to suffer from it. Best to be prepared...
One of the great things about being a teacher is that you have unlimited access to people who know about stuff when you need to find something out. :)
So, I consulted science teacher extraordinaire Ms. Picard to find out what this is all about.
According to her, "Altitude sickness is a combination of reduced air pressure and lower oxygen concentration that can affect the nervous system, lungs, muscles, and heart. The entire breathing mechanism relies on a difference in pressure between the atmosphere, your alveoli, and your bloodstream. When the diaphragm contracts, it moves downward and your ribcage moves outward. This creates negative pressure and draws air into the lungs." Yikes! That sounds a little scary...
Luckily, there's always Bear (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Tdlh4zlhjY) to help provide a little more drama and put things into perspective:
Whoops! :O I'm not sure that made me feel any better...
The truth is, however, that I doubt I will have the problems that other people have with altitude for a couple of reasons.
1. I'm not Bear climbing Mt. Everest.
2. Many people who have issues when they go to Machu Picchu have trouble because they don't give their bodies enough time to acclimate to the change in altitude by making the trip too quickly, either by train or by bus. I am hiking to the top over 4 days.
3. I plan on drinking tons of water, eating light meals that are easily digestible, and listening to my body.
4. I also plan on chewing cocoa leaves and drinking the tea as the people of the area have done for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. When in Rome...
For a little more information (let's see how you do in Spanish!!!):