Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Does going to altitude help you reduce fat mass?


Fat Metabolism at Altitude

Increases in the energy requirements of individuals, and the subsequent breakdown of energy stores such as fat, have been shown to result from time spent at altitude amongst both healthy and obese individuals. Thus, leading to the suggestion hypoxic physiology has the ability to induce favourable changes in weight and fat mass amongst a human population.

It may therefore be suggested that exposure to hypoxic conditions, or altitude, has the potential to serve as both a preventative, and treatment method against the growing problem of obesity in today’s society.


The exact mechanisms behind such reports however are largely unknown and continue to be debated due to the large number of confounding factors present during field work and expeditions. Factors including changes in diet, increased physical exertion, extremes in weather conditions and lack of food availability can all play a role in weight loss at altitude.

Moreover differences in findings within the previous research highlight the complex nature of inquiry and the difficulty in investigating the effect of hypoxia in isolation on these factors. Nevertheless such findings of weight loss and changes in body composition have been attributed to other physiological factors including suppression in appetite (leading to a subsequent decrease in food intake and thus a negative imbalance in the energy equation) and biochemical alterations in fat and carbohydrate metabolism. Perhaps more importantly, previous research has also attributed a major part of these losses in weight to reductions in fat mass further supporting the potential for use in a health and clinical setting in which a loss of fat mass would be beneficial.

One of the physiological investigations being carried out during our time in Peru intends to address such an issue with weight loss, taste sensation, energy expenditure and fuel utilisation (the amount of fat, carbohydrate and protein used to fuel our bodies) all being measured at different stages of the trip. The investigation aims to answer the following research questions;

1.      Does an eighteen day exposure to hypobaric hypoxia have a significant effect on an individual’s body weight?
2.      Does exposure to hypobaric hypoxia alter the energy expenditure and fuel utilisation of healthy individuals?
3.      Does energy expenditure and fuel utilisation alter throughout differing stages of acclimatisation to hypobaric hypoxia?
4.      Is there a lasting effect of altitude exposure on energy expenditure upon return to sea level?

During our 18 day stay at altitude basal metabolic rate (BMR) (the number of calories required to fuel the body’s expenditure at rest) tests will be carried out at three differing stages of acclimatisation and be compared to the results of the same tests carried out both before and after our sojourn. Of particular interest is the question of whether or not individuals expend more energy whilst at altitude and if so if this is explained by the aforementioned confounding factors or if there is an underlying alteration in biochemical factors.

Integral to the accurate assessment of such parameters is the use of the Cortex MetaMax 3X which has been used throughout the investigation in both the laboratory and altitude based sessions. Pictures below.



As previously stated findings from this study may add to the current understanding of weight loss, energy expenditure, taste sensation and the biochemistry of fuel utilisation at altitude and may lead to the development of a weight loss technique through intermittent hypoxic exposures for an obese population. Furthermore if such an investigation can go a small way in informing the physiology behind weight loss at altitude as intended, there is potential for this information to aid those wishing to maintain weight during trekking in such conditions.

video




Friday, 12 April 2013

Eager expectation

After a very relaxing day pottering around Cusco, bartering in the markets or perusing the museums, the team are now busy packing for tomorrow's trek to Machu Picchu. At 5pm the Llama Path trekking company came and gave us a talk about the trip and what to expect, with a few surprises regarding the wake up times and the expectation of tipping. (Surely you should not being asking for a set tip in advance - by definition a tip is in relation to the quality of service received??) Anyway, we are all in excited spirits and are preparing for our 4am wake up call and 4.30am departure.

The research kit will be coming with us. Mark has been presented with the unenviable task of carrying the scales, which are incredibly light but just an awkward shape to carry around for 4 days. These Seca scales were kindly provided by Cranlea medical equipment suppliers as the lightest available, they have been great so far - with an incredible amount of usage and knocking around. The other issue is that everyone will have to be completing their research daily diaries very early throughout the trek (between 3-5am everyday). This may make for some slightly disorientated or unhappy measurements going on in the dark.

Anyway, I for one am excited and am looking forward to the challenge that awaits. Roll on tomorrow...



Day Nine - Goodbye Huacarpay School

Farewell Huacarpay - the gloves are off!

The day started with Ben's fat study where the subjects took part in a taste test to see if altitude affects their taste receptors. Preliminary evidence suggests that taste is suppressed at altitude, but we will see from the findings.



However taste senses were heightened as few enjoyed billy bear ham and squidgy cheese, that accompanied the usual bread and strawberry jam at breakfast this morning. 

The track was calling for the third and final time, with walking boots at the ready we set off at 9am for a memorable day ahead. Being the last test it was typical that everything went perfectly and everyone was very organised! Spirits were high as photos and videos were being taken left right and centre, soon to be put together as our educational video about participating in a 6 minute walk test at altitude. There were variations in performance and walking styles, which of course had to be videoed as some were very controversial as to whether they were a light jog. Although two were still struggling slightly from pooru, it seemed that most have eventually acclimatised to the altitude throughout the time in Cusco and the 6 minute walk tests. The runners of the group couldn't resist a quick 100m race at the end of the session. Tensions were high and a photo finish was prepared as there was controversy over running shoes. Nevertheless it was a clear win for the shod runner, aka James, leaving a barefoot Harry slightly behind!




Off to a hot and sunny Huacarpay (31 degrees) where a ceremony and food was being prepared for everyone. As the gardening gloves and paint covered clothes were left behind it felt strange not getting our hands dirty, but was rewarding to admire our hard work and see how appreciative the children and teachers were. While the food was being prepared, the boys were teaching their amigos the soccer am crossbar challenge, needless to say there was a "language barrier" or their "trainers were too big", so their amigos taught them a lesson instead. While the boys were being boys and burning some energy, the girls got their bronze on and assisted the teachers on the thank you feast. When lunch was served we were able to enjoy the delights of alpaca, chicken and homegrown vegetables, such as potatoes and sweet corn and plenty of salad. This showed how grateful they were for all our hard work, and we were thankful for the food we received, especially the fruity finish.


We then all gathered in our newly restored coliseum where our farewell ceremony took place, filled with thank yous from us and our new amigos. We were presented with a handmade card, recycled denim wallet and keyring and freshly picked flowers to show their appreciation of all our hard work over the 2 weeks. We were then able to give our goody bags to our amigos, although some didn't quite believe it was for them! They all opened them as soon as they sat down and liked everything inside, such as bubbles, doodle pads, pens and pencils and frisbees! There were plenty of photos taken to remember our last day at Hurcarpay and emails were exchanged so we are able to keep in touch. On arrival back at the hostel everyone was eager to walk into the plaza for an English meal at Paddy's Pub, which went down very well!


Now that's what I call Peru 2013

This is a light hearted blog with little science behind it but will hopefully tell you more about our experiences on the trip so far. It also shows that our cognitive ability of knowledge of music as well as imagination has not declined in the low oxygen levels. This is:

Now that's what I call Peru 2013

1. Hot, hot hot- Arrow
This song is for the students who spent a total of 900 minutes cycling in a heat chamber at 40 degrees Celsius for the study on the effect of heat acclimation. Each person averaged 268 miles throughout the heat acclimation sessions.
2. Sweat- Snoop Dogg
There certainly were a lot of sweaty people at the end of each early morning session before lectures. Special mention to Luke Holland who regularly looked like he was drowning in his own sweat and regularly lost 3kg in sweat in a 90 minute cycling session.
3. Milkshake- Kelis
This refers to the gorgeous/disgusting milkshake containing ice cream and double cream used for the fat metabolism study it really was an opinion divider.
4. What's your flava?- Craig David
The second part of the fat metabolism study was looking to see whether the subjects could taste a variety of flavours and whether that changed while at high altitude.
5. Walking on the sunshine- Katrina and the Waves
The six minute walk test has taken place out in cold Eastbourne, in the labs and in the hypoxic chamber. However we have chosen this song as we think it is very apt for our final 3 walking tests on the local Cusco athletics track while basking in the sunshine.
6. Hips don't lie- Shakira
Some of the walking techniques used in the walking tests have been unique to say the least. The most successful technique found so far is swivelling the hips like Shakira herself (the learning effect has been taken into account)
7. What's it gonna be- H2O and Platnum
The hydration study has led to regular conversations about urine which is an extremely bizarre topic conversation for a group in their late teens and early 20s. The study has involved a lot of drinking of water (H2O) in order to stay hydrated.
8. Turbulence- Lil Jon and Laidback Luke
The song title is a very good description of a lot of our flights particularly the last one from Lima to Cusco.
9. No air- Jordin Sparks
It may be a pretty obvious one but this refers to the lack of oxygen in Cusco that really does seem to leave you with no air.
10. Ain't no mountain high enough- Marvin Gaye
The first thing you notice while looking out of the tiny windows of the aeroplane is that there doesn't seem to be anywhere flat to even land a plane. I think most people will agree that the views created by these mountains eclipse the torment of walking up and down them. Lets see if we still think this after the Inca Trail.
11. I'm horny- Mousse T
The whole group has been shocked by the driving standards in Peru, where it seems instead of looking you have to listen to the horn of the car that they are just about to crash into.
12. Who let the dogs out?- Baha Men
The number of dogs in Cusco is astonishing with one constantly in sight. However it isn't like Eastbourne with dogs firmly attached to their owners, instead these are stray dogs scavenging for food and chasing the runners amongst the group.
13. Rollin'- Limp Biskit
If we were to put all the rolls we have eaten in a line, we could probably create our own trail to Machu Pichhu. Us bloggers have had an average of 4 rolls a day, but when you can but a roll for the equivalent of 7p you can't go wrong.
14. Jammin'- Bob Marley
And what better filling to have with these copious amount of rolls than jam. In a new country without the same standards as we are used to, strawberry jam has been the safe choice for lunch. Added to being provided with jams and rolls for breakfast everyday as well.
15. Highway to hell- AC/DC
We have already talked about the poor driving standards but a particular scary experience is the drive from Cusco to the outskirts of the city in Huacarpay. This long stretch of road really is the highway to hell with appalling overtaking the norm, whether that is over train tracks, round corners or when another coach or lorry is driving straight at you.
16. Another brick in the wall- Pink Floyd
'Hey teacher leave those kids alone' sounds a bit harsh on the teachers at the school as they have been lovely and welcoming throughout our welcome but we think this is the best song for the kids of Huacarpay school. The kids have welcomed us with open arms and we have made some special bonds. At the end of the work at the school we exchanged gifts and had some great pictures taken with kids who seemed to really appreciate the hard graft we put in.
17. Hi ho hi ho- 7 Dwarves
With our pic axes, spades and sickles the group have resembled the 29 Dwarves while working at the school.
18. Wonderwall- Oasis
Wall building turned into a theme of the work we completed at the school which involved a lot of hard work and frustration in building it up. They truly turned into wonder walls and something that the incas would have been proud of.
19. Circle of life- Elton John
One of the major changes made to the school is the coliseum which has been changed adding a circular concrete path.
20. 5 colours in her hair- McFly
One of the final jobs of the project was to paint the playground equipment, tyres and lines for the football pitch onto the playground. It resulted in a lot of messy people, who seemed to get more paint on themselves than the things they were supposed to be painting.
21.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Day Eight - Tools Down

April 10th

After a delayed start this morning due to much needed paint buying, we eventually reached the school, and discovered we would be planting with the children. All of the plants were blessed by the children, and then our amigos showed us how to prepare the ground and plant - with some of the children being more particular than others! Having furrowed the ground to the children's satisfaction spring onions and lettuce were carefully planted and watered, in some cases slightly drowned!

Having completed the gardening, it was time to finish painting. The remainder of the tyres and playground games were spruced up, whilst Becca and Laura attempted to paint a straight (slightly wonky) halfway line. Penalty spots and headApril 9th

We awoke to the sun shining on yet another glorious day in Peru with most of us still in awe from dinner the previous night at the newly discovered Irish bar, Paddy's Pub. Serving up delights such as steak sandwiches, shepherds pie and even chocolate brownies for decent prices, there is no doubt that this popular tavern will be visited multiple times in the coming days before we head off on the Inca Trail.

With the coach leaving at 9am we had an early start of hydration testing, breakfast eating and making our sandwiches for lunch. Breakfast saw the welcome return of scrambled eggs along with the jam rolls, basic yet still delicious and enough to last us until lunch time.

Upon arriving at the school, the group seemed motivated, refreshed from a good nights sleep and you sensed the enthusiasm within the team. Once there, the same steps followed before beginning the work; carrying tools and equipment from the coach, applying sun cream and organising ourselves into groups to focus on a particular job.

Once split into small groups, work could begin!

The jobs included removing small rocks from a huge pile of various sizes; this was carried out by Ben P, Harry and Neil before wheelbarrowing them over to the coliseum for Luke H and Kane to start constructing the path.

A larger group helped clear the grass by the tyres in the playground and then advanced into painting them, giving the playground a pristine new look yet still keeping its original character. Painting the apparatus was carried out by Sophie P and Lottie, among others, using bright colours to revive the dull appearance of the play area. The strimmers were once again used to full effect by Luke N, Alan and Dom. Alan also assisted mark in attaching doors to the greenhouse.

One area that needed particular attention was the guinea pig enclosure. Security was enforced through the addition of wire netting by lee and Oli, with Ben D and James working from the inside. Hopefully the rodents will appreciate their new and improved home!

Approaching the final hour of the day a game invented by the group to use the remains of 3or 4 tyres was created (allowing the children to bounce on them like a bouncy castle of some kind). This involved digging and then placing the tyres into the right positions so it was a safe and friendly game to the Peruvian children. A few laughs were shared at the end of the day when a comedic duo of Kane and Ben P encountered some issues when attempting to paint the top of a slide. Alex and his photography work was used throughout the day to capture photos of the group working 'in the moment'. I'm sure all of you reading this will get to see them in the near future!

As the day ended Paddy's Pub was on the agenda again...

A terrific trip and experience so far to help others around us and have the satisfaction of making a difference to the children's and the school's future.

The time of our lives yet we've only reached the half way mark, with so much more to come!

Thanks for reading

Kane, Ben and Alex 😊s and volley lines were also painted to give the children some new games to play. Kane and Ben finally finished the slide after 2 days of painting, and needing to climb on each others shoulders to reach the more difficult parts. The ecological teaching table and benches were also given a new lease of life today with a British stamp of red, white, and blue.

Whilst the painting was finished, a group was working hard on the guinea pig house. A convection heating system was constructed using rocks and tarpaulin, to ensure when the guinea pigs move in they will be kept nice and warm.

The final task, and possibly the largest, was cementing the path of rocks made in the children's coliseum. The cement was carefully mixed using only shovels on the playground, and poured across the rocks. A few of the children tried to help, but to little avail. After a whole day of hard graft the cement was laid and smoothed, making the coliseum look like a completely different place from the tall grassy area that was there before we began.

Due to heavy traffic on the return journey, the driver took a detour which turned out to be shorter! That, topped with some interesting driving from both our driver and the oncoming cars - risqué overtaking - made for an...alternative trip back!

After a hard final days grafting, the majority of the renovation crew piled into Paddy's pub for some well earned grub (should we move in?!), with the chocolate brownie tasting even more delightful than the first taste!!

Day Seven - Guinea Pig Hotel

We awoke to the sun shining on yet another glorious day in Peru with most of us still in awe from dinner the previous night at the newly discovered Irish bar, Paddy's Pub. Serving up delights such as steak sandwiches, shepherds pie and even chocolate brownies for decent prices, there is no doubt that this popular tavern will be visited multiple times in the coming days before we head off on the Inca Trail.



With the coach leaving at 9am we had an early start of hydration testing, breakfast eating and making our sandwiches for lunch. Breakfast saw the welcome return of scrambled eggs along with the jam rolls, basic yet still delicious and enough to last us until lunch time.

Upon arriving at the school, the group seemed motivated, refreshed from a good nights sleep and you sensed the enthusiasm within the team. Once there, the same steps followed before beginning the work; carrying tools and equipment from the coach, applying sun cream and organising ourselves into groups to focus on a particular job.

Once split into small groups, work could begin!


 The jobs included removing small rocks from a huge pile of various sizes; this was carried out by Ben P, Harry and Neil before wheelbarrowing them over to the coliseum for Luke H and Kane to start constructing the path.

A larger group helped clear the grass by the tyres in the playground and then advanced into painting them, giving the playground a pristine new look yet still keeping its original character. Painting the apparatus was carried out by Sophie P and Lottie, among others, using bright colours to revive the dull appearance of the play area. The strimmers were once again used to full effect by Luke N, Alan and Dom. Alan also assisted Mark in attaching doors to the greenhouse.

One area that needed particular attention was the guinea pig enclosure. Security was enforced through the addition of wire netting by Lee and Oli, with Ben D and James working from the inside. Hopefully the rodents will appreciate their new and improved home!


Approaching the final hour of the day a game invented by the group to use the remains of 3 or 4 tyres was created (allowing the children to bounce on them like a bouncy castle of some kind). This involved digging and then placing the tyres into the right positions so it was a safe and friendly game to the Peruvian children.



A few laughs were shared at the end of the day when a comedic duo of Kane and Ben P encountered some issues when attempting to paint the top of a slide. Alex and his photography work was used throughout the day to capture photos of the group working 'in the moment'. I'm sure all of you reading this will get to see them in the near future!


As the day ended Paddy's Pub was on the agenda again...

A terrific trip and experience so far to help others around us and have the satisfaction of making a difference to the children's and the school's future.

The time of our lives yet we've only reached the half way mark, with so much more to come!

Thanks for reading

Kane, Ben and Alex 😊

Day Six - Back to School

After feeling refreshed after a weekend filled of relaxation, not too many steps and good food we completed our morning hydration tests (well drilled 6 days in) then we headed down to the stadium for our second of the trips 6 minute walk tests. It was already a hot morning so we all ensured that we conducted as many baseline measure in what little shade we had. Everyone put in a great effort and are feeling more acclimatised as the days are passing with less than a week till our big trek to Machu Pichu. By the end of the morning we had another set of great data to take back home with us to analyse. One more walk test to go!



After a quick stop off at the supermarket to save a few individuals from hunger who forgot their lunch, we travelled to Huarcapay for another day of the schools makeover! With a weekend away everyone realised how much we had actually achieved last week and this week we were able to relax a little on the digging to allow the more cosmetic tasks such as repainting the playground games, sanding and painting the benches and the large task of sweeping the entire playground with 4 indoor brooms! A new addition to the team were two brand new electric strimmers and to Alan and Luke's delight they got to work finishing off the edges and anything we had missed with our picks. The Dream Team were also working on building some real life Inca terraces next door to the chicken house with a monumental effort on their behalf enabling crops to later be grown, much better than the almost vertical slope that was there before.

The day stayed dry with no afternoon thunderstorms with 60 litres of water consumed and sun cream applied, re-applied and re-applied once more. Also seen around the playground were troops of workers armed with paintbrushes and paint pots sporting some fetching blue face masks to block out the rather strong aroma of paint!

Overall a productive day, with some interesting tan lines appearing, and lots of jobs nearly completed with the general consensus that its amazing how good a lick of paint can look! Great job team!

Laura

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Altitude Illness - Self Report

One of the main issues with travelling to Cusco is that as its at a high altitude (~3400 metres) it can lead to altitude illness. The most common type of altitude illness is Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) which occurs in 20-70% of people going to high altitude. The symptoms of AMS are a headache as well as one of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, dizziness or lightheadedness, sleeplessness and fatigue. In our group we have been completing an AMS questionnaire on a daily basis to measure the degree to which people have been developing symptoms associated with AMS. I am one of the people that have experienced symptoms suggesting that I have a poorer tolerance to altitude.

AMS. SpO2. Heart Rate
Day 1 morning. 5. 85. 66
Day 1 evening.  8. - -
Day 2 morning. 3. 85. 69
Day 3 morning. 4. 85. 69
Day 4 morning. 0. 94. 63
Day 5 morning. 0. 95. 72
Day 6 morning. 1. 92. 74

On the first full day in Cusco, even though I had a good long sleep the night before as I hadn't slept much on the plane journeys and I was already showing signs of AMS. I had a moderate headache, which is the main symptom of AMS as well as moderate light headedness. I also had an oxygen saturation of 85%, which was low in comparison with the rest of the group. Throughout the day the headache and dizziness became severe and I put an AMS score in the comments section as I felt it had significantly changed from the morning. The headache was very strong and had similar characteristics to a migraine as I struggled to cope with bright lights, therefore I was instructed to take ibuprofen. This did dull the headache down and allowed me to get a good nights sleep. If this had not improved my symptoms or had i felt as bad in the morning I would have been given Acetazolamide.

The onset of the illness usually in the first three days of reaching high altitude and usually lasts the same period. This is certainly the case with me as my questionnaire scores were greater in the first three days of the trip. In this period I consistently had a headache of a mild or moderate intensity as well as other symptoms. My saturation also stayed low at 85% while my resting heart rate remained relatively consistent. I found that the feeling was very similar to a hangover.

Those at greater risk of AMS are those who make a rapid ascent, people who have had a recent cold and retain fluid at altitude or do not urinate excessively at arrival at high altitude. Due to travelling from Eastbourne at sea level to Cusco this would make it a rapid ascent therefore predisposing people to the illness. Also on the first day I drank 4.5 litres of water, a bottle of coke and a cup of tea but only had five urinations. This suggests that I was retaining my fluids as well as not urinating excessively at arrival. Although i would have had a higher than normal sweat rate due to the excessive heat. I also experienced high altitude oedema in my ankles and lower legs which occurs more frequently in those with AMS.

After the first three days, my oxygen saturation significantly improved as well as my results on the questionnaire. This fits in with the idea that the illness occurs in the first days, after this period the results and my general feelings suggest that I have become acclimatised to the low levels of oxygen so that the necessary amounts of oxygen can be transported to the cells.

We haven't had any members of our group suffer with severe AMS, High Altitude Pulmonary Edema or High Altitude Cerebral Edema. This would be unlikely normally, but more so as our group are specifically measuring responses, very weary of symptoms and have been treating any symptoms early and appropriately. As we have gone past the time when you are most likely to have altitude illness hopefully nobody else will suffer with any altitude illness. We are carrying on the questionnaire and physiological measures to identify any problems that may arise. The next danger point is the increase in altitude along the Inca Trail which goes up to ~4200 metres but hopefully everyone will get through unscathed.

James


Monday, 8 April 2013

Day Five - Chincheros

After a relaxing evening spent by the river enjoying the hotels plentiful supply of coke, Sunday started with a delicious pancake breaks fast and a beautifully scenic morning run by Holly and Jacob, with Jacob putting in his fastest effort since he arrived being chased by two TINY stray dogs!

Others of us weren't feeling so good and a trip to the local doctors was needed. There was no cheery bright waiting room with magazines but a somewhat deserted basic building, but it served its purpose and with Alan, our translator tour guide and a the Spanish speaking doctor we left (after an unsure consultation fee) a prescription hopefully on the road to recovery!


On the other side of the town, the group gained an Inka after Luke's eye was caught by not on an authentic poncho but a complimenting leather hat! Once on our way after an impromptu toilet stop was made in mother natures crops (Peruvian time should never be taken literally) we climbed higher reaching the height of trip to 3800m to Chincherous town. Everyone took in the markets sights (and smells) putting our haggling skills to the test with James scoring himself a great bargain of 2 pairs of wooly alpaca socks for 8 soles (£2.30).

After many a souvenir was purchased and we had battled our way through the rather persistent $2 llama keying sellers. The group and our convincing South American (Luke) made our way up the cobbled steps to the Inca site to a local church perched on the hill. We were greeted by the sounds of a catholic service. We continued to explore the ruins and terraces trying to capture the best snaps of the sights and in Oli's case a picture with a local!


This marked the end of our sacred valley tour. Once we dropped back down to Cusco a free afternoon was enjoyed by all. Some of us ventured out to the local square unaware of the Sunday festivities going. These included games, plenty of delicious smelling street foods and what could only be described as Cuscos equivalent of a kids talent contest (gangnam style has reached Peru...)

Our busy day was finished with a quiz hosted by Oli consisting of a variety of topics, anagrams and even some maths questions based around Peru and our research and the winning team was of course the staff (Alan, Neil and Mark) with Holly, Nikita, Jacob and Ben second and coming away with the
souvenir llama! Well done guys!

Laura, Holly and Nikita

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Day Four - Sacred Valley


So guys... our sixth day in Peru took all 29 of us on the sacred valley tour. With few of us still feeling a tad peaky to say the least we headed up the winding road that exits the back of Cusco past the Jesus Christ statue. Our chatty tour guide informing us all the time of the influx of eucalyptus from Spain in the 1900's, the sprawling topography and various inca traditions that have sprouted from Cusco being the physical and spiritual capital of the Inca people.

Our first fleeting stop saw us pull in at a side stop overlooking a deep valley with towering mountains flanking a tiny market village. After realising why we were struggling with sightseeing thanks to our guide's indecisive left and rights we made the quick hop down the valley and took a break and our first taste of a Peruvian market. As we were soon to find out both Alex and Dom couldn't resist the temptation to buy a useless yet amusing garish balaclava each. This wasn't their last purchase.



We carried along the winding road that at times offered a plummeting shear drop deep into a sprawling valley with the town of Pisac nestling astride the Urubamba, Vilcnota, river. An impromptu stop in another lay-by provided Alex and Dom's second purchase, a bird whistle, that as you can imagine thrilled everyone else on the bus. Our journey took us onto our first Inca experience with a ramble across the precarious Pisaq ruins.

Now chica's and chico's this is where we started to feel that we were being immersed the Inca world. A few of the less fortunate among us held back on the bus with the ill effects of Pooru, Peru's equivalent of the Delhi Belly, still doing its worst. The ruins tour took us on a circular route of a hillside settlement that consisted of both older inca and more recent ruins. This also gave us an insight into the terrain that we'll face a week from today when we set foot at the bottom of the inca trail. Some people were second guessing their fitness and almost everyone was blowing by the time we'd made it back to the bus. It's going to be a hard effort...right?





With a few tired bodies we clambered aboard the bus and made our way to lunch. The journey had an unknown length but luckily the incredible views and sceptical driving style of our bus driver kept us all entertained. At one point while rounding a sharp hairpin bend on loose gravel and with two cars overtaking us, horns blazing, a large lorry rounded the corner. He'd never make it surely... amigos... I assure you, he made it with inches to spare, plenty of room! A gasp and sighs of relief turned to raucous laughter as the pocket size lorry driver with only a handful of teeth beamed a toothless smile through the window not a foot from us.





A bus load of hungry, wearisome UoB staff and students rocked up at the plush looking La Alhambra restaurant that for all intents and purposes seems placed solely for the travelling contingent and seemed totally out of place surrounded by a road strewn with mud brick huts and unfinished buildings (Kane).

The buffet was a miracle for a few broken bodies and with everyone having their fill and a few having more than their fill, naming no names Ollie, we retired to the gardens that provided a welcome break from the monotony of the bus journey. A small group of llama and an alpaca provided entertainment and as you can guess guys some of the students got a little too close to comfort! Kane was once again in his element surrounded by the fruits of nature and bonded immediately with the well groomed alpaca.



A shorter hop on the now more up beat bus delivered us to the Ollantaytambo ruins. Our idiosyncratic tour guide once again showed us the vast doings of the incas almost five an a half thousand years ago. A beautiful amphitheatre of enormous steps rising some one hundered foot plus from the valley floor ascended the mountain before us. There were many a groan at the though of yet another ascent but as the steps fell away behind us and as the guide regaled us with stories of the ancient Inca people hauling huge igneous rock cubes up the unimaginably steep incline we were captivated.





The huge steps provide the Inca's with plentiful farm land that was otherwise unmanageable. We started to realise and respect the knowledge and ingenuity of these ancient people. Their temple made of vast pieces of stone were perfectly placed to worship the movements of the sun and the stars. You know guys this is the most important aspect of Inca life.





With a new understanding of the ancient people and a few bargains found in the market at the foot of the ruins we made our way to our hostel for the night.

So señor a a señoritas we can only finish on the fact that Luke Holland polished off a whole Guinea pig, head and all. Lets hope he doesn't feel the wrath of Pooru tomorrow... thanks guys!

Harry

Day Three - Fat Testing & Ceremony

Oli having his basal metabolic rate measured in Cuzco
using the Metamax 3X 




The day started bright and early with lots of testing as both the hydration and fat metabolism studies were taking place.




















Ben's fat metabolism study required the subjects to lie down for 45mins before a basal metabolic rate test using a Cortex Metamax 3X and a measure of their lipid profile was taken using a Cardiochek.

The study is looking at the effect of an 18 day altitude sojourn on fat metabolism and energy expenditure. Today's collection follows on from the sea level testing prior to travelling to Peru.





Half the fat study cohort resting before their tests - Cosy
After data had been collected and we had eaten another hearty breakfast of rolls and jam with the added option of fruits, yoghurt and sugar puffs, we departed for the third day at the school.  Arriving at the school just after 10am, after buying more local bread on the way. We were a few down on numbers today due to the altitude and a few upset stomachs, but the remaining group of 25 set upon the tasks in hand. Extremely hot, work was tough going, but the group keep motivated extremely well.


A ceremony at lunch with the school children and teacher took place, with the burning of the cocoa leaves we made a wish on when we arrived at the school on the first day. Each child gathered their corresponding student "buddy" and each took a turn to throw some mud onto the burnt out fire! The children said their prayers and thanks, which Arron translated into English for us.
After lunch, some of the group went for a short walk round the lake, admiring the amazing views and scenery.
Arron at the ceremony in the coliseum  

The afternoon work was tough going as temperatures climbed, but the group continued as best they could with weeding the playground and clearing all of the chopped grass and soil. Heavy rain brought an early conclusion to the work, with everyone being extremely tired. The bus journey back was a lot longer than normal as the earlier rain had left the roads flooded.

An early night was had by many, although some ventured to the nearby restaurants for either pizza or chicken and chips (everyone being adventurous!!)

A good but tiring day, with everyone looking forward to tomorrow's Sacred Valley Tour.

Jacob and Rebecca

Day Two - The Walking Tests



First on the agenda was completing another morning of hydration testing, taken place during our first morning of rain. 



Once hydration testing and breakfast was eaten we made our way to the local athletics track to complete our first day of six minute walking tests at altitude. The general consensus was that there was a clear difference between the walk tests completed today and those done in eastbourne. An unexpected experience was sharing the stadium with club cienciano, cuzcos local football team and local press.




Once the walking testing was complete and the data was gathered, we made our way to the school and begin a days work. Yesterday's projects were continued at the same intensity along with new ones. The coliseum has been completely transformed, weeds were removed followed by a new path being built. The medicine garden clearing was completed, and the entry road and path were levelled and improved. The access road work was influenced by a local farmers wife who gave some advice on trench digging.




Proceedings were interrupted by a huge storm that rolled down from the mountains, and littered us with hailstones and rain. Once lightning had ceased work could then proceed. The children's playground was also cleared, meaning the children can now play on equipment they could not before. A day of real hard work was put in by everyone and the school grounds look completely different after only two days.



Projects for tomorrow that have been started include a wall being built to support a path which will allow access to the chicken coup and the agricultural area, projects such as this will have a real long lasting effect on the functionality of the school. The coliseums path is also to be finished and the play area will be cleared further.



Lee, Alex and Dom.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Day One - First visit to the school


We all awoke early this morning from a mixture of jet lag and dehydration, but feeling refreshed from travelling. This morning started with breakfast and hydration testing and we all had lower O2 saturation than in England. Some of us feeling better than others, Harry and Jacob started the day with a run around the nearby mountains, which although they new it would be different to back home, they were shocked to discover how tough it was.



We then drove to the school passing through other local towns with our trip organizer Aaron telling us lots about the sites and cultures. When we arrived we met all the children for the first time, we were greeted with a hug and they all seemed happy to see us. A welcome ceremony took place, where we were paired with the children and tried some of the beans they had been harvesting. This was followed by a sacred tradition where we each made a wish on 3 cocoa leaves, which were then burnt to give thanks to the mother mountains. All of the children we keen to show us around, which ended in a big football match, and pushing them on the swings. After exploring the school grounds, we realized we had quite a lot of work to do over the next week, but we all had lots of ideas and enthusiasm about how we could help. Once we had paused for lunch we got to work clearing the weeds, and became familiar with the equipment we will be working with for the rest of the week, such as pick axes and sickles. 



After only an hour of work we seemed to have accomplished a lot and the grounds visually looked much better! It wasn’t all hard work though as we were kept entertained with Dom managing to catch an escaped chicken after us chasing it around the playground! At around 3pm we got on the bus to come back to the hostel with everyone feeling a little tired again but most have us seem to have coped with the altitude so far.  On the journey back Aaron arranged for us to eat at a local restaurant this evening, we aren’t too sure what to expect but we’ve heard the local delicacy is guinea pig and alpaca steaks!



Alice, Alice and Sophie