The Rainbow Mountain (or Vinicunca Mountain) in Peru has become a hit lately. The psychedelic look of the mountain, the fact that until recently this place was reachable only after an extensive 5-days trek and the altitude of 5,100 meters attract a lot of adventure seekers to this place.
The mountain is hidden deep in the Andes and can only be reached by a long day trip from Cusco or as part of the Ausangate trek. We started our trip at 3 am on the not-so-deserted streets of Cusco. At this time the last party seekers are just leaving the bars and the first fruit vendors are starting to prepare for the day. At 3 am, I tend to feel the cold in Cusco more intensely than usual and the only thought in my empty head is about the lovely pillow I left in Canada. After 3 hours drive in a bumping minibus during which I dozed on and off, I made the mistake to look out of the window. The sun was out, shining over the beautiful mountain landscape and the bus was driving, jumping, sliding, or whatever it was doing on a road that has no right to exist. It was one lane dirt road with steep uphill rock on one side and even steeper downhill on the other. For my bad luck, I was on the downhill side and one look at the river that was hundreds (to me it looked like a thousand) meters below, woke me up better than any coffee.
We finally arrived around 7 am in a tiny village, had breakfast, used the washrooms (some girls of the group were very distressed by the look of a hole-in-the-ground type washroom) and started the trek at 4000 meters. The trek to the top is 8 kilometres and it was piece of cake at this altitude (who am I kidding). For the last few hundred meters we were breathing like steam engines, but somehow we did it.
During the trek, all the locals we met smiled and laughed at me, all the lamas looked at me with curiosity, and even some chickens followed me. Later that night, when I looked at the pictures, I found out why. Back in Toronto, I didn’t pay too much attention while choosing my hat and I reached the top of the mountain looking like a hen. Very funny, ha-ha.
Did I mention that it was cold and there was snow?
Everyone probably would say that Cusco is an amazing place – beautiful mountains, fascinating Inca ruins, charming colonial city center. In my opinion, Cusco would have been an amazing place, if it was not for the tourists and especially the tourist industry. I’m saying all this with the clear understanding that as a tourist, I am part of the problem.
The tourist wandering the streets of Cusco are heavily outnumbered by the representatives of the tourist industry. They are chasing the tourists viciously, trying to sell them something – tours, street food, shawls made in China and labelled 100% alpaca, massages, or simply corraling them in a restaurant. Without exaggerating, I had to say “no, gracias” every 10 seconds when walking on the Cusco streets. I understand that people are trying to make living, but in the end, it’s a frustrating experience for both sides.
Yes, Cusco is an amazing place. It would have been even better without the tourist industry and without everything built after the concrete was invented.
I wish I had the chance to visit it some 100 years ago.
The Sacred Valley of the Incas: Ollantaytambo, Moray, Chinchero, Salinas de Maras
Another brilliant post. Btw, another good training of being hassled by shopkeepers before your India trip. 🙂
I need more training. Could you help? 😉