“When it rains, look for rainbows, when it’s dark, look for stars”
Vinicunca, or more popularly known as Rainbow Mountain, has only just came into it’s popularity over the last few years, resting in the Ausangate region just outside of Cusco. The drive out through the valleys of the Andes almost being just as stunning as the mountain itself, passing by fellow sought after destinations in Peru like Moray and Salkantay fields. While lavender hues and shades of carnelian bleeding into terra cotta reds are around every corner and outside every window, of the tour bus, flying through the burning colours of the Peruvian Mountains, with beauty taking your breath away, your day is starting nothing short of perfect….early, but perfect.
That morning was cold, it was our second day trip with Trexperience, we had unsuccessfully tried to sneak out a hotel blanket, woke the security guard while coming to a “bolted locked” door, only for him to stare us down while he slid the lock up off the handles without unlocking the bolt at all. I mean, if the idea is for it to seem locked for outsiders, it’s working.
We were once again picked up early by Juan at Trexperience to beat the crowds although most others, unlike Humantay Lake, had the same notion and we had quite a few tired yet eager travelers eating breakfast along side us. I’m not sure who brought all the dogs, but I made SO many friends that morning, and by make friends I mean trade Peruvian bread for quality pat time.
Trekking up Rainbow Mountain.
We began the trek and within minutes I was out of breath, completely. Rainbow Mountain starts at an elevation of 4,326 metres or 14, 189 ft for my Americans out there, ending at 5200m / 17,060ft. Yep, you’re pretty much climbing close to 1000 metres at what I’ve personally experienced to be the hardest air to inhale to date, I’m sure if I climb Kilaminjaroo or Everest I’ll have another thing coming, but this was no joke.
Daniela took a horse up but I was pretty determined to climb the whole way myself, although halfway I seriously considered getting a horse but luckily one of our guides Alex motivated me to keep going. He also gave me coca leaves and what Peruvians call Condor “pee” actually an Andean scent called Agua de Florida, to rub on your hands and inhale, bringing about cleansing, healing and purification.
By the time I was at the point of taking two steps and stopping repeatedly I decided “Nah, that’s it. I’m getting the bloody horse.” I tried to bargain with one of the horse shaman and he told me it was illegal because I was TOO CLOSE to the top! I don’t know much French but I do know the F word and I thought it pretty intensely, maybe muttered it into my sweating chest and began my two-step tango I was performing up the mountain with Alex dragging me by the hand for help and of course, motivation.
The last leg is truly the hardest, it was icy and a little slippery and very steep, with very thin air. But once you’re up, you’re UP!
Look at that.
There really aren’t many words to describe something so organically beautiful in nature like Rainbow Mountain, it’s like stepping into the Grand Canyon in the USA for the first time, sailing through Ha Long Bay in Vietnam or floating alongside the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. I won’t be surprised if this beautiful destination gets added to a world wonder list. It truly is breathtaking.
There is of course a catering to tourists, dressed up Alpaca’s and those trying to sell taking your photo etc but it wasn’t overboard.
Somehow the walk down was amazingly quick, infact I think I half ran it, mostly due to hunger and knowing delicious food was waiting for us at the bottom, beginning to regret sharing my breakfast with all the doggos.
The team at Trexperience definitely know how to put on a good spread with quite possibly the best guacamole I’ve ever had and if you know me, you know guacamole is pretty much my blood type tied with coffee. The team is also so friendly and informative, I loved the conversation and encouragement during the climb.
There was one point we found some ice and wrote our names in it, laying down as well on it and it was nice to take that time to play, have fun and most importantly be present in the moment. It felt like hanging out with friends more so than a “guided tour” although when curiosity did strike the guide side of it was available to tap into with information at the tip of your trekking pole.
It was definitely one of the toughest hikes I’ve ever done, but one with one of the greatest rewards and truly great company along the way, so once again Trexperience managed to turn a tour into an experience, true to their name and offering transparency and a welcomed what-you-see-is-what-you-should-expect attitude and always going above my expectations at that.
If you’re looking for day trips from Cusco, Rainbow Mountain is a must, and if you’re looking for day trips in general, Trexperience would be my 100% hands down recommendation for any and all tours from Cusco through the Andes. It’s exactly what you see, an experience, they’re passionate, they offer what is promised, you make great friends and walk away with an experience to look back on and tell of for a lifetime.
To check out what they have to offer visit their site at trexperienceperu.com