This was another spontaneous decision I made while in Cusco. I had no idea how tough a hike it was mostly due to the high elevation. As before, make sure to bring enough water, food, and sunscreen for a 4 hour hike.
The tour starts at 4:30 am as with most Cusco tours I’ve been on. After a long 3 hour drive toward the Ausangate mountain area, you are fed some breakfast and Coca tea. It is a really scenic drive during the last hour as you ascend and circle the mountains to the trail head. Horses, Alpacas, and Llamas everywhere.
Once at the trail head, you are already standing at 14,189 ft (4,326 m). The total distance from the trail head to Rainbow mountain peak is more than 5 kilometers and the final elevation is 17,060 ft (5,200 m). The difficulty is similar to the 2nd day of the Salkantay trek. At this altitude, every step becomes a struggle as your lungs receive less oxygen then you’re used to and your heart rate is constantly fast. Here we go again.
The locals run an interesting business here. They are very comfortable at this altitude and can run around effortlessly while us tourists are taking a step every 2 seconds. They pass by with their horses hoping you’ll give up and pay them to take you to the top on a horse.
One by one, people fall like flies and end up on a horse. I must’ve been asked over 10 times on my way up. There were a few times when I thought that I couldn’t get to the top and considered the horse option, but I’m too stubborn.
Halfway up, I became dizzy from altitude and had to just stop. At that point, I ate a bar and drank water, Tylenol helped I think. Remember to keep drinking water. I thought to myself, I’m not sure if I can make it, but I have to try. Just breathe, one step at a time, no pain. The hike seemed like a big blur as Ausangate mountain looks down upon us like ants. Eventually, you reach a point where you can see people on top of Rainbow mountain. But at my sluggish rate, it’s an another hour away. Imagine walking slowly (one step every 2 seconds) toward something that is an hour away. Imagine the struggle, dedication, and patience.
The highlight of everyone’s day is finally standing on Rainbow mountain. YES!
As with all mountains, make sure to have reserve energy for the descent.
This concludes my 8-day Peru adventure. The high altitude makes the hiking trails twice as tough but the landscape is amazing and worth the effort.
Peru has it all: scenic cities and towns, deserts, beaches, nature, jungles, Andes mountains, glaciers and lagoons, endless hiking trails, good food, nightlife, and llamas. I hope my posts inspire you to travel to Peru and experience it for yourself.