Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Machu Picchu with our baby girl!

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Hi there fellow travelers! Long time no see..I've been spending some quality time with the family, and by now you should know quality time can only mean one thing: traveling!

Who said traveling with a child is difficult?

2 Months ago, My wife Karin and I decided to go back to where we started off 10 years ago: Machu Picchu. Times have changed since then and our personal situation has evolved as well. Since August 2004 we are the proud parents of Edie Annemare, our by now 1,5 year-old daughter. Edie is used to traveling, as our line of work pushes us around the globe throughout the year, but we had never before taken her to places too far off the beaten track, let alone high altitude. Therefore we were a bit anxious to know if we would be doing the right thing by bringing her along. We were basically weary of Altitude Sickness, or “Soroche”.

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Soroche is caused by 2 main factors:

Lack of oxygen in the air:

The higher you go the less oxygen you will find per m3 of breathable air. Therefore your lungs will obtain less of this existential gas per each breath taken, while your brain and heart need the same amount. Therefore you need to breath more often to get the same amount of oxygen, which gives you the feeling of being “out of breath” constantly.

Lower outside air pressure at higher altitudes:

Due to the fact that at 3,400m (10,000ft approx.) altitude there is the same amount of meters/ft less air above your head and therefore less air-pressure on your body then at 0m/ft. At sea-level your body has to have built up a certain inside pressure, to withstand that outside air-pressure. This is done through nitrogen bubbles in your bloodstream. These bubbles have a certain size and strength as to create an inner pressure that meets the outside pressure. Once you get to a certain altitude (for me the barrier lies at 3,000m/9,000ft) very quickly (for example in a plane), your body may have difficulties adjusting itself to the sudden difference in outside pressure and for a while (mostly a maximum of 24 hours) your inside pressure may be higher than the outside air-pressure, causing a series of possible discomforts, such as headache, dizziness, intestine unrest, etc. This all has to do with the fact that your body tries to make the nitrogen bubbles in your bloodstream smaller and readjust itself to the outside pressure, but hasn’t gotten there yet. Normally this is no big problem and you will get over it within 24 hours.

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After some research, it turned out that actually smaller children do not or hardly suffer from this sickness, as their bodies tend to adjust themselves much faster then those of grown people. So, we took the plunge and it turned out to be a great experience. People ask: “why would you do it at that age, when they do not have any recollection of it later?”, but we feel children are as susceptible to travel experiences as they are to languages at that age; their mind is a spunge and they will pick up a lot from a trip like this. Maybe they will not remember much in the future, but at some level (I have no medical proof of this of course, but it feels right and some of our friends who traveled with small children confirm it) it will make an impression, open up their mind, make them more open to the different ways the world can present itself… Or at least so we hope…

Bottom line is, we had a great time, Edie as well, and we feel we can take her along on many more of our trips, until she has come to the age where it becomes necessary for her to be in school and with her friends. It will give us a couple more years of traveling freedom and we hope will open up our daughter’s mind for the world. We sincerely feel that getting to know different cultures and ways of living should help in becoming a more tolerant person, and as far as tolerance goes, one cannot start learning early enough.

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Best regards from Buenos Aires!


Anonymous said...

Nothing is sexier than a handy dad babysitting his cute little girl..would you marry me?

Bart de Graaf said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thanks for the kind offer, but I am happily married and plan to remain so for –bueno- ever… Hope you enjoy the blog and in case you would like to get married to someone else one day, I know a couple of very nice places on this side of the planet! Have a nice day, Bart

Anonymous said...

Bart. Thanks for the tutorial on air pressure. You might consider
schooling you kid(s). We did. For the primary grades, they will get a
better education than they would attending a school. The travel will
enhance their understanding of the world and is a great opportunity to
a second language. Its not for everyone but it worked for our 3 kids.







Bart de Graaf said...

Dear Carlton,

Thanks for your comments. I am just sharing some thoughts here, of course, and everybody should make the proper enquiries before actually taking such an endeavor. According to your sites I do not need to tell you anything though as you seem to have been all over the globe already! Good idea about the home schooling, will certainly consider it. In case you ever make it this way let me know, maybe we can help you out. Best regards, Bart


Anonymous said...

As the years go by and you talk about your trips and show Edie the
pictures of her there, she will keep that in her mind. Even though she
will probably not remember the trip itself, she will remember your
memories. Keep traveling. It's so enriching.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brat,

I was very excited to see your blog. We are planning a trip from La Paz Bolivia to Lima. We will be traveling with my 3yr, 1yr and my mother in early sixties. I want to know if you could give me some advice on how your daughter handled the trip. I want my husband to truely experience Peru and he has never traveled outside of the US. We want to see as much as possible but a afraid to book a tour due to the inflexability. Of course we want to keep costs down as much as possible also. Here are our thoughts please let me know if you think it might be too much for the girls.
July 10 Lake titikaka catermeran 2day/1night
July 12 train to cuzco
July 13 Sacred Valley
July 14 Macchu Picchu, night in Aguas Calientes
July 15 Free day Macchu Picchu
July 16 Tour Cusco, get on and afternoon plane to Lime
July 17-19 get on bus to Nasca see what we can see
July 20 get on plane back to US at 6am.

Thanks for your thoughts and comments in advance.

Bart de Graaf said...

Dear Julie,

Thanks for your reaction and I will be very happy to give you some more advice on your trip.

Therefore I do need to know a couple more details, such as how you plan to start your trip (if you plan to start in La Paz, I would advise you to do things the other way around, for example). Please contact me on my work-mail: bart@cat-travel.com,
so we can make the proper readjustments to your itinerary

Look forward to helping you on your trip!
Best regards,


Bart de Graaf said...

Dear Marylin,

Thanks so much for your reply. This is exactly the feeling I have about it!

Certainly hope my Edie will feel the same later… There is no second chance in being a parent is there?

Anyway, I guess you speak from experience, so I will follow your lead!

Thanks again, keep in touch


Anonymous said...

I love your travel blog. I am travelling to Peru this summer for the first time. I will be working in Cajamarca for 5 weeks at a school for street kids. I will definitely get in a bit of personal travelling in while I am there. I can't wait!

Thanks for the travelling and the pics on your personal website. Your daughter is adorable and you guys are an inspiration as how wonderful and easy travelling as a family can be. I agree as well that children will get the idea stuck in their heads early on about travelilng, etc. It is good to instill this adventurous and openness in children early on. This education and willingness to get to know the unknown (whether it be an unknown culture, religion, or even just seeing that there i s no reason to be afraid) is what is going to save us all. I recently travelled to Egypt and have to admit I was nervous coming from a Scandinavian country. Even knowing about the bombs, etc. I had the most wonderful time and would recommend anyone and everyone to visit. It was great.

Next stop... PERU! If I need a tour, I will look up your company =)

Thanks for the blog!

Crystal from Norway

Bart de Graaf said...

Dear Crystal,

Thanks so much for your great reply. I am somewhat surprised by the amount of positive responses I am receiving lately, but that means something clicks and that is good. If only it motivates me to write more! Haha.

I want to wish you a great time in Cajamarca, the (still) unknown gem of the north! I like that town very much. While you are there please do not miss a trip to Chachapoyas and visit Kuelap! Amazing place. Or stop a couple of days in Huaraz on your way to Lima. Etc etc etc, so much to discover in Northern Peru…

Also, I wish you all the best with your work; there are many children in dire need of many different forms of help in Peru and I really admire people such as yourself who take the time to really go and deliver.

Light on your path


travel plaza said...

Hi Bart,

I just found your blog through Travel Rants. You have an amazing thing going! You are a very cute family. I love traveling too but have not done too much of it in the last few years. My two kids love to travel too and so we have started traveling again after a long wait. I just started a blog about our most recent road trip from Illinois to Arizona. It was an amazing experience and I started writing about it so it would stay not just in my memory, but so we could go back and read it and the kids could relate too when they are older. Do check it out when you get a chance and let me know what you think.

Travel plaza.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bart,

Just a note to say thanks for the comment you posted on my family travel blog, and I really do hope to visit more of Latin America in the next few years (we're moving to Texas this summer so Mexico's an obvious first stop, but I want to see Brazil and Chile and Peru as well.) The photos of your daughter in a backpack brought back memories; my husband carried both of our children that way when they were little.

I see that you are Dutch; we lived in Brunssum, near Maastricht in Limburg, for several years, and my son went to a Dutch kindercentrum while I worked at a NATO headquarters. We loved the Netherlands! The biggest surprise for us: Rotterdam was a great place to visit, especially the Cube Houses.

Best wishes with your tour company,

Sheila Scarborough
Family Travel
: See The World With Your Kids

Anonymous said...

Hello Bart,

We are travelling to Peru with our 5 year old son and 1.5yr old daughter this Friday. I was happy to see the pix of your daughter in the baby carrier since that is how I plan to carry my daughter around. Do you have any advice on food/ milk etc.



Bart de Graaf said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bart de Graaf said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bart de Graaf said...

Dear Andy;

Thanks so much for getting back to me.

For your 1.5-year old I would say try to change as little as possible in her diet and daily rhythm. Also plse make sure to only use bottled water and then still boil it thoroughly, just to make sure. Take into account water takes somewhat longer to really boil at 10,000ft! As she will not be walking around much yet, I don’t expect you will have many problems with her. In case she does experience trouble during her first night at altitude, plse advise the hotel-desk or find a doctor.

Your son might have some problems adjusting. Make sure that he does not eat too much on the day of your travel to and arrival at altitude and give him some sweet hard candy to suckle on while in the plain; this may help to avoid some of the consequences of the altitude-difference to his body (although as said before it might very well be he has no problems at all whatsoever).

Make sure both you and your children drink enough water when you get into the mountains as dehydration happens easily there, without one noticing it.

As for milk: In Lima and Arequipa supermarkets you can get good formula baby-milk powder, but in the rest of the country it might be more difficult, so make sure to bring enough along from those places. For food, plse do not buy food in the streets, anywhere. All cities you will probably visit have decent to good restaurants, so you do not need to go out of your way to get a healthy meal. Please in general be careful with fresh salads and ice-cubes as both may have tap-water in them. Better ask for steamed or boiled vegetables and ask for your sodas without ice.

Have fun; Peru is a great country, with an enormous diversity of landscapes, people and food!! Please enjoy every second of your trip, as I am sure you will love the country.

Happy trails



Anonymous said...

Thanks Bart for your advise,

My family had a great time in Peru -even with our 5 yr old and 14month baby. We visited Cusco, Machu Pichu, Ollantytambo, Pisac, Lakr Titicaca and Isle Taquile.

We had no problems with altitude sickness except for slight headaches on our first day at Cusco.

As you mentioned we avoided fresh salads and only drank bottled water but otherwise ate everything else.

You can see our photos at

Thanks Again


Bart de Graaf said...

Dear Andy,

Tx for your response! Happy to hear you had such a good time and that all went well. Could not see the pics (you gave me an email address, not a weblink), but I am sure they were great!

Happy trails


Anonymous said...

Sorry about the link. It is ashandy.smugmug.com


Ernestico said...

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I am in Peru right now with my 1.5 year son, Ernesto and now I feel better mentally to go there with my baby. Thank you for the proof that it was ok for you. Is there anything I should be prepared for when it comes to my baby?

Ernesto's mom

Bart de Graaf said...

Dear Ernesto’s Mom, good to hear our experience was of use to you. As for your baby, make sure he drinks plenty and only monitor that he sleeps alright/behaves as “normally” as can be expected. Trips like this are strenuous for little children (although I think a little strain of this kind can only be good), so he will behave differently than normal anyway, but if you feel he cannot breathe well, has head- or other aches etc due to the altitude, it might be wise to check with a good physician. Please check with your hotel desk manager for other tips and contacts.

Have a safe and beautiful trip!

Best regards


Anonymous said...


I just checked your blog and I can see you made it to Machu Pichu, congratulations!!! Ahh by the way, your baby is a doll!!


Bart de Graaf said...

Hi Caro,

I read your entry and almost thought we must know each other! But I checked out your blog and guess I was confused by the nice tone of your message. Thanks a lot for your kind words and I will be happy to share more of my travel-experiences and –pictures on my blog! Wish both you and Chris all the best and keep in touch!

Happy trails


Anonymous said...

Hi Bart,

I am thrilled to have found your site! I am an avid traveler and new mother. I am hoping to travel to Peru when my daughter is approx. 18 months old but am having a difficult time figuring out the logistics. Things like the need for car seats etc. start to take over and I'm not sure how to reconcile my backpacking heart with my concern for safety as a mum... Can you tell me a little about how you traveled around Peru with your beautiful daughter and what a reasonable itinerary may be for a 10-14 day trip with an child of this age?

Thanks so much for your help,


Bart de Graaf said...


Thanks for the kind message. I'm glad the post proved useful. Why don't you send me your email address and I'll email you what I consider to be a reasonable itinerary for a 2 week tour around Peru with a child. I look forward to hearing from you and hope that all goes well. Travel on!


Unknown said...

Dear Bart,

I find your blogs so interesting, congratulations on traveling around the world!!!
We are planning to go to Machupichu and our son will be almost one year old by then (July) so we were wondering if he could handle the altitude in Machupichu. In case that he gets soroche what will be the best treatment?
Thanks for all the good info you post!

Natski said...

Hi Bart, it's very inspiring to see you and your wife and your gorgeous little girl getting out there and having such great adventures. I was wondering whether you hiked the inca trail or just went to the ruins? We're hoping to visit Peru next year when our kids will be 2 yrs and 3.5 years old. We really want to visit Machu Picchu and, if possible (and not irresponsible), we'd love to hike the trail. I'm not sure if that's a realistic prospect? We've got backpacks to carry them in- I've read that you can hire porters to carry excess luggage -could you hire porters to carry children of an equivalent weight? I'd really appreciate your opinion. Thank you and best wishes for the rest of your travels :-)

JP said...

I'd like to hear the answer to this question as well. We are veteran hikers used to having kids on our backs. I don't worry about the strain of carrying them as much as the safety of the trails. I don't mind steep or uneven surfaces, but wouldn't want to do any narrow squeezes along perilous drops, etc. Would the hike from KM 104 be reasonable for our young family? What about the hikes surrounding the ruins?

Also, do you think it would be safe to take the kids (they will be 8 months and almost three then) up to Cusco afterward? Would the standard two days in MP be enough to manage the risk of altitude sickness?

Thanks! Jody

Anonymous said...

I think it is not dangerous to hike up, altitude would not have been a problem. It's not a playground, there are steep drops, areas off limits, sometimes slippery conditions in summer.

Your baby seems to be very cute and co-operative. She(?) is too small. I think before going, you did not tell your kid what's awaiting her, since she could not realize. Perfectly you supervised her. That's the way making them feel the magic of Machu Picchu - they have surely enjoyed it just as much as you did.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bart,

I hope you won't mind my email.

My name is Gaelle. Together with my partner Seb, we are French and have been living in Australia for 5 years with our 2 year old and 4 months old sons.
We are going back to France permanently in December 2009 and will be taking 2 months on our way back to travel South America.

I had a look at you blog and thought you would be of good advice for travelling South America with young kids since you have travelled there with your young daughter.
We have a few countries in mind but we still need to decide which ones to pick.

What we are mainly concerned about is health care, potential illnesses and altitude for our kids.
The countries we are thinking of are: Argentina, Chile and Peru and potentially Central America - Costa Rica (on our way back).

If you don't mind, is there any advice you could give us re. these countries: is it easy to find a good doctor/hospital in these countries? Is there any country you wouldn't recomend re. illnesses (I have heard of yellow fever and dengue in some of them)?
How did you manage to take your 1.5 yo daughter to Machu Picchu? Did you fly or catch a bus to accomodate gradually to the altitude?

Is there any of these countries you wouldn't recommend for any reason?

Thanks a lot for your time and keep updating your blog: it is really great!


Bart de Graaf said...

Hi Gaelle,

Thanks for contacting me. Long time since we received a response to that
entry! Was a great time we had in MaPi, I can tell you that. We are as a
matter of fact in some busy times now as our new webpage
www.globalencounters.com will go online coming Monday and several others in
the weeks after that, so please permit me to be a tiny bit brief:

The four countries you mention we have extensively traveled with either one
or both of our two daughters of now 1,5 and 4,5 years old. Peru and
Argentina of course since we lived in Peru for almost 8 and are now already
in Argentina for 4,5 years. Chile we crossed several times between the other
two and we spent quite some time in Costa Rica before and after setting up
our office there during several trips. I would say none of them are
potentially dangerous or unadvisable to travel with children. As a matter of
fact they are all very child friendly, as most Latin countries and people
are. Of course you need to always be careful wherever you go and do not
leave your kids out of sight, just as you wouldn't in Australia or France
I'd presume. But, apart from that they are all perfectly apt for travel,
with or without kids.

Altitude, now that is a tricky thing. From what I wrote in my entry about
MaPi with Edie, you have already been able to find out that children and
elderly people are more often less susceptible to altitude sickness then
people between their ages. Once I was walking the Inca Trail, panting and
having to stop to catch my breath every 10 paces or so, when I was blatantly
passed by a lady of at least 75, who joyfully whistling hiked past me, as if
the dead woman's pass was on sea level... During the later visit with Edie
(she was 1,5 at the time) we had similar experiences (well, I did; Karin
seems to become more energetic the higher up we get); me in bed for at least
24 hours and Edie crawling around as if nothing bothered her. She spent most
of her time between the backpack and the baby-bed of course, but still. I
would say you have more to fear from the altitude then your kids, so take a
few precautions into account: do not drink alcohol the days before arrival
and during the first couple of days there, until you are sure you are going
to be fine; do not drink any gasified water or sodas, but restrain yourself
to flat water and tea, coca tea can be a great help and will be widely
available in for example Cusco; take it easy and don't strain yourself. You
may want to request your local pharmacist (you can also get them locally, of
course) for altitude pills (normally a combination of glucose and nicotine)
that will help you do a little bit more with less oxygen, but in general
following the above precautions should keep you within the 99% of people who
will see the symptoms of headache, dizziness and upset intestines linger
away within 24 hours. If they do not, but increase to unbearable
intensities, if you feel constantly out of breath, can't sleep for more than
one night and/or experience other symptoms of sickness you did not have
before you got on altitude, have your hotel call a doctor at once. They will
probably administer oxygen to relieve the pain and in the worst case you
will need to be transported to a location of lower altitude. These last
situation only happen in 1 or 2% of the cases, but you need to know, just in
case. Anyway, as said, they will probably happen to you and not to your
children! You may want to inform yourself further, for example by following
this link:
estURI=/healthatoz/Atoz/ency/altitude_sickness.jsp which I just found
through typing "altitude sickness with children" in Google, or check with
your doctor. Last note: we flew straight from Lima (50mts) to Cusco
(3400mts) and it only knocked me out for 24 hours; rest of the family did

I would say the real trouble when traveling with young children (especially
if they aren't used to too much yet) is when they start feeling homesick or
insecure due to the constantly changing surroundings. This may also be extra
tiring for them, well it probably is, and that may also play a role in the
hardest part of the trip: the nights. The only challenge we had with our
younger ones was to sleep at night. We have started out taking them
everywhere from the moments they were born, but have always tried to
compensate by having the sleep with us in our room whenever we're on the
road. This way, if they wake up in yet another room, it will be relatively
quick for them to realize they're not alone, or for you to remind them of
it. With Edie we made the mistake in Cusco to put her in another room and
that was kind of disastrous; we learned quickly.

From a health point of view I would not worry too much either. Of course I
do not know about your children's health situation, but if they are in good
shape and you take good care of them, wash their hands and make sure they do
not constantly put everything in their mouths what they come across, you
should be OK. Like you, they will be sensitive to greasy stuff, tap water
(and -ice cubes!), raw salads (usually washed with tap water) and badly
cooked meat. All four countries you wish to travel to have health clinics
from very poor to very great quality standards; it is up to you which one
you pick. My advice is to make sure you take the best travel-health
insurance you can get, to be insured that in case of need you can simply
pick the best clinic available. Of course it completely depends on the
destinations you want to visit if a doctor/clinic will be available at the
spot; take the traveled path and you should be ok, get off the beaten track
and prepare to encounter less and less of what you are used to back home.
Check with your local doctor or national health institute if you need any
special vaccines for the countries you want to go to. Take into account
though that these may not be fully informed on the exact local situation
(which tends to be the case with Yellow fever and Malaria for example; these
illnesses and their spreading areas tend not to be very geographically
containable, so in case of doubt please check your embassy in the country of
choice or vice versa.

Hope this more or less answers your questions! Let me know if we can assist
you any further.

Happy trails!

Anonymous said...

Hi Bart,

I have just read the other questions and your advice and both have put my mind at rest for my family trip to Peru. I have a 5 year old and 2.5 year old and was really concerned about taking them to Machu Picchu, due to altitude and the size of the place. My mind is now alot more at ease. We leave on Saturday and are going for 2 weeks. It does sound like the adults are going to suffer more!!

Thanks Rebecca

Will let you know how it's gone.

Noah Read said...

Thanks for your post. We have a little one that we are thinking of heading to Machu Pichu with in a few months. We appreciate hearing that you had a good experience. And my answer to the question about why you would bring a child when they won't have any recollection is "I want to go, and if she remembers it somehow all the better."

Anonymous said...

Hola! We are taking our 10 months old baby to Machu Picchu in about 2 weeks, and i would love to get any tips from you. Thank you soooo much!!

Anonymous said...

Good for you guys! I am contemplating taking my 5 month old to Machu Picchu but fear the baby might be too young for such altitudes. Having gone through the experience yourselves, any thoughts?