We haven’t posted in a long time because we had very limited wifi while traveling through Patagonia, but we’re back! Time to catch up on everything from the last few months in South America, starting with Rainbow Mountain!
The infamous Rainbow Mountain was pretty high up on our list of places to visit during our time in Cusco. We had seen so many incredible pictures of the beautiful mineral-created colors all along the mountainside, and we knew we needed to go.
We had a 3 am wake-up call for our Rainbow Mountain tour. After walking down to Cusco’s Plaza de Armas, we were picked up in the collectivo (shared van). We had a 3 hour ride to our breakfast spot, which was a very small farm that hosted about 25 of us for a light meal before our long hike. Emily and Colin were also minutes away from adopting a farm kitten they were enjoying more than the food.
After breakfast, we had another hour ride to the start of our hike. About 15 minutes into the drive, we had a slight car accident; none of us are really sure what happened. What we gathered was our driver took a corner a little too tight and ran over a good size rock that gave us a flat tire. One guy ended up on his back in the aisle, and I’m pretty sure I bruised a couple ribs (always wear your seatbelt – if there is one…). The driver and our guide immediately jumped out of the van to start fixing the tire, and luckily everyone was okay (though no one really stopped to make sure). All a part of the adventure!
After a 30 minute delay and a lot of joking about “What a great start”, we finally arrived. We were given a small briefing with everyone, and we couldn’t help but notice some of the gear and shoe wear choices made by some of our group. After our first 15 minutes of hiking, we had our first break. (At this point, we were worried it would take us more than a day to complete). Luckily, once everyone caught up, our guides instructed us to keep going until we reached the gate to buy our tickets. 15 minutes later, it started to hail, and it was hailing and snowing until we summited. There were quite a few groups on the trail, and over time we kept hearing guides say things to the effect of, “We can’t promise there will be a view when we get to the top.”
Since we had been in Cusco for almost a month, we didn’t really have any troubles with the altitude. We found the first 90% of the hike up wasn’t too rough even with the weather. The last 10% up was definitely not easy; you could feel the air thinning out, and by the last 10%, it was steep and slippery from the snow. When we got to the summit, our tour guides followed just minutes behind us, and we found out half our tour group had quit the hike and went back shortly after the hail started. The summit at 16,500 feet was amazing, although we didn’t have the best views due to the clouds and fog.
Even without the anticipated “rainbow” on the mountain, we all felt a huge sense of accomplishment. It was all smiles and relief on the faces of the few of us who had made it up. 15 minutes after leaving the summit, the weather was clearing, and we had amazing views for the rest of the hike down.
Our tour guide played some music on his phone for our descent. After reaching the bottom, we got back in the vans to head back. An hour into the drive, we stopped at the same little farm to share a dinner together. On the drive home, after such a physically exhausting day, pretty much everyone fell asleep. After an 18-hour, very interesting and overall fun day, we stumbled back into our apartment in Cusco.
All in all, we had a great time.
If you’re planning a trip to Rainbow Mountain, most tour companies only charge the equivalent of about $30 USD. Since the peak of this trek reaches very high altitudes (much higher than Machu Picchu), make sure you give yourself enough time to appropriately adjust. Here are some more tips to help you out as you prepare:
Things to wear/ bring on this trip:
- Hiking Boots
- Rain Jacket
- Hiking pants (especially ones that can zip into shorts, as you’ll potentially experience a huge range of temperatures)
- Comfortable day pack
- Snacks during the hike
-William Tyler Weihs and The Everyday Travelers