On Saturday April 16, 2016, one of my dreams came true ! I went to the Rainbow Mountains in Vinicunca, Peru. I had seen a Facebook post on about places to visit in Peru and since then it has been a dream.
A few days previously, we had booked our day trip through a travel agency situated on the Plaza de Armas in Cusco (next to the Irish pub). The agency’s name is Gregory Tours Peru. We paid 65$ each including transportation each way, breakfast, lunch box, our guide, a porter with a horse and, if needed, oxygen. We had a look at other agencies but I think we did quite well with this one for the price. Usually it’s around 100$ per person.
Olivia, Iona and I had an early start on Saturday morning. We woke up at 3 am as the car was coming to pick us up an hour later. I slept nearly all the way, it was a two-and-a-half hour drive to get to the starting point of our hike. Around 6 o’clock, the sun came out and I couldn’t sleep any longer; also the road was made of gravel, it was narrow and very windy. I felt a bit scared at the speed of the car and the cliff edges at the side of the road but we eventually got there safely. We stopped at 4’300 m to eat breakfast. I had a massive ham and cheese sandwich with coca tea to give me energy.
Just before we started walking, I took some coca leaves with a bit of activator stone to give me energy. I chewed the leaves and my tong and cheeks became a little numb. I think it did help me for the first bit at least.
At 8 am we started walking uphill between all the lamas, alpacas and sheep. The first bit was tough: for 45 minutes it was steep. Then, we arrived in a long valley which was quite flat and easy until we reached the park entrance where we had to pay 10 Soles (3$) each. From then on, it was got tough. There was a long steep climb which felt like it would never end (the kind of feeling of when you see a point and you think it’s the top but is not). When we got to the ridge at 4’800 m, it took a while for me to get my breath back. I continued walking but after 15 minutes I had to stop again. I tried chewing some more coca leaves but I nearly vomited, so I rode the horse for about 20 minutes.
While I was waiting for my friends before facing the final steep climb, I ate a Peruvian cereal bar which was very good. I tried some coca leaves again but had the same feeling as before. I was a little worried because my hands and lips where becoming blue. Maybe the cold or the lack of air, I don’t know..? It was getting cold up there so I took out my down jacket, my headband and my gloves which I bought in San Pedro Mercado the day before (they are really warm). My friends arrived 10 minutes after me.
The last bit was ahead of us. To get to the pass we walked another 20 minutes. When I got up there I was so happy ! Finally seeing all these colours was a blast for me. To get a better view, we walked a long ridge at 5’100 meters high where we had a 360° view ! When I got to the top I had to do a little yodel sound : WOOHOO ! I DID IT !!! I got to the top in about 3 hours ! I took some time to appreciate the view and took a few photos and selfies of course. I said thank you to our guide half a dozen times as I was so happy !
We don’t see these sort of landscapes in the Alps, the Alps are either grey or white and maybe a little green on the lower parts. These mountains in Peru are so colourful. The grass is green like in the chocolate factory of Willy Wonka (the film : “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”) and the earth is coral red. The mountains are a mixture between the two colours, they’re a not as rocky as the Alps. Of course, half of the Alps are at lower altitude than the mountains in Peru.
I’m so happy and proud of myself ! It has been a huge effort for me as I’ve never been this high. I didn’t think I was capable of doing something like this, I think the spinning classes I took this winter might have helped, thanks to my coach !
One very important piece of advice if you want to do this trek: wear good hiking boots ! I promise I saw one girl wearing pumps ! What was she thinking ?! Maybe a nice Sunday walk in the park ?! Well no, it is not ! Even if it might be an easy hike for some people, I think it’s very important to have good gear. For example, this is what I was wearing :
– Hiking boots (La Sportiva)
– Down jacket (Rady’s)
– Rain jacket (the North Face)
– Thermal jumper (Columbia)
– Trousers not shorts (preference : tracking trousers, the North Face)
– A pair of gloves
– A cap and maybe a wool hat for those who tend to have cold ears.
– Sun cream (index 50)
– A good camera to take great photos
– Some water (I took a 2,5 litre bottle. It was to much for me and it was heavy. Maybe take a 1,5 litre bottle, it should be enough).
The hike down was ok but I was a bit disappointed because the agency told us we would go on an other trail but we came down the exact same way as we went up. The first part was fine until the entry gate where we ate our lunch. From there it seemed we would never arrive at our destination. It was very long. Even though I had just climbed the same path only a couple of hours earlier, I couldn’t remember it being this long ! One hour later we finally arrived to the car park. At last, we could sit down and relax a before driving back to Cusco. As we sat down, we had the lovely surprise of seeing Ausangate mountain (6,384 m) covered in snow, peaking through the clouds !
Te trip back to Cusco took us 3 hours, I slept all the way back… This hike was tiring !
I would recommend this trip to anybody who loves mountains and hiking ! It’s possible to do a longer trips of several days. If you love amazing landscapes, GO ON !