What it’s like to do a homestay in the Peruvian Andes

The right side of my mouth goes numb as coca leaves swish around my molars and cheek. Our local guide Angelito passes a plastic bag around the van so we can spit out the numbing remnants. 14,000 feet and it feels like I have a herd of alpacas sitting on my chest. My breathing is labored and anytime we make a pit stop, my walking pace feels like I’m going one step forward and two steps back. After landing in Arequipa and piling into a van with my fellow travelers, my body is slowly acclimatizing. My eyes are doing the same with the view. I can’t tell if I’m feeling dizzy because I’m flirting with hypoxia or if it’s because the landscape is so breathtaking.