Things don't always go to plan... I had booked my train ticket to Machu Picchu, and my entrance ticket to both Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu a few weeks in advance, anticipating a free afternoon in Aguas Calientes, the town in the valley below Machu Picchu, whose almost sole purpose nowadays is catering for tourists to the famous site above.
I didn't anticipate an investigation of Peruvian medical care, and some stitches in my forehead to show for it...
I'd been planning to go to the hot springs, but first to try and go up Putucusi, a summit immediately above Aguas Calientes, and had started looking for the path. I'd asked at the tourist information centre, and been erroneously sent down to Puente Ruinas, where I was told to go back up to near town. I didn't locate the start of the path, so I sat down for a rest on a bench in the main square.
After a while I began feeling hot and slightly dizzy. I thought it was just the sun, so I stood up to find a bench in the shade. After walking a few metres, the blood rushed to my head, the dizziness suddenly overwhelmed me and I felt my balance and sight deserting me. Fainting at least resulted in reviving me, as I banged my head hard on the ground.
I suppose there could have been worse places to faint. Two helpful American tourists immediately helped me to my feet, brought me some cold water and checked I was conscious and thinking clearly. Since there was a police station across the square, a number of police officers also came very quickly, doing a bit of first aid on my bleeding head and hand. They brought a wheelchair over, but I was able to walk with one of them to a nearby clinic, where I spent an hour with a doctor stitching up the wound on my head and bandaging my hand.
So I didn't get up Putucusi, instead spending the afternoon resting in my hostel, and I didn't get to the hot springs either, since I had bandages and the bleeding took a while to stop.
On reflection, I think I must have been dehydrated. I've never fainted before, but on this occasion I had been suffering from diarrhoea for the past couple of days. I had been drinking, and eating a little bit, but presumably not enough. I hadn't been feeling particularly unwell, apart from a churning stomach, and I'd already taken a four hour journey and walked for an hour or so that day, so I didn't expect anything like this to happen.
Nevertheless, after a night's sleep, I got up at 5.00 in the morning for my long-awaited Machu Picchu trip. I was feeling marginally better, and as it turned out, I had actually recovered just in time.
Only 400 people per day are allowed to climb Huayna Picchu, out of the 2000-3000 people per day who visit Machu Picchu itself. I had a booking for the first slot, at 7 AM. We all queued up and were gradually let through. It's a good thing the Incas built steps up the peak, because it would be a steep climb without them. Even with a good path, it was quite a climb, with several narrow places to crawl through or under too. The view from the top (and looking back while going up) was amazing, the view of Machu Picchu being something entirely different from the standard picture.