|Take this tour with FlashpackerConnect - Rainbow Mountain "Vinicunca"|
We traveled throughout Peru for a full month. Longer than we expected with our limited time in South America, but not nearly enough to cover everything. We explored the city of Lima, the mountains in Huaraz, the area of Cusco, and the Sacred Valley of Machu Picchu. We spent nearly half that time trekking in the Andes mountains and exploring the vast landscape. Our most recent trek was the Ausangate Trek. Traditionally done in 5 days circumnavigating the massive Ausangate Peak, a sacred mountain for locals as it is the largest in the area.
After reading bits and pieces of this trek on line, I stumbled upon a picture of what I can only describe as a rainbow in the mountain. This soon became an obsession for me to find out where the mountain was and how we could get there. Knowing that it was close-ish to the trek we were planning, but not able to find any information online we were at a loss. We were so close, we just had to go see this mountain. We went in to guide shops, scanned social media, and still came up empty handed. Now with one day before we were to take off, we stumbled upon a distorted map of an old trail. Having somewhat of an idea where the mountain was we made some notes on the map and took off.
Vinicunca Mountain (Rainbow Mountain) in Peru is one of these places where travelers have yet to discover. A secret that has been kept so well there is no information about it.
The journey will take you minimum 6 days to complete. A high altitude adventure that will keep you begging for oxygen as you strut above a constant 14,000 feet. You cross 5 passes ranging between 15,000 and 17,000 feet. You pass thousands of roaming alpaca and llama. You walk through beautifully diverse landscape that changes daily from snow capped peaks, to neon red desert mountains, to marshy pampas. The real reward however is when you arrive at the painted hills hidden deep in the Andes. Resembling a rainbow, this mountain will require extreme route finding, harsh camping conditions, and a strong determination, but it will not leave you disappointed.
Want more? You are rewarded on the first day and last with a relaxing soak in natural hot springs and the best part is you will be on a trail that gets very few visitors each year. This is a destination not to be missed for any adventure seeker.
The start of the trek we were instantly greeted by herds of alpaca and llama, starting around noon we only hiked a few hours before the clouds came with uninvited rain and we set up camp for the night. Content that we were stationed right next to a hot springs we waited out the rain and enjoyed some coca tea to stay warm before enjoying a nice long soak to prepare our muscles for the extreme days ahead.
Day 2 we prepared our less than desirable Peruvian oatmeal. Everyone always says, "when you're on the trail it really doesn't matter what you're eating as long as you have food" well in this instance, that's not the case, and unfortunatley we brought two large bags of it... our only morning substance for the next 5 days. We fueled our bodies out of shear necessity and took off to conquer our first pass of the journey. We continued on for the next few hours with Ausangate mountain in full view, passing deep blue lakes, and transferring into a desert-like landscape.
Day 3 was "The day" the day we were to find the rainbow. Preparing for a difficult day ahead, (and high hopes of finding what we were looking for) we were up early, fixed our oats and took off a few hours earlier than usual. First thing ahead of us was a steep climb up a daunting 16,000 foot pass, over 1500 feet of elevation gain in less than a half a mile. Steadily, we make our way up taking frequent breaks to marvel at the snow capped peaks behind us while chunks of ice the size of a car break off and plummet into the glacial tarn below. One step after another we again pass herds of alpaca, and we traipse over lavender colored sand; already it feels as though we are in a different world, but it's only a precursor of what is to come.
At the top of the pass we grab for our map to have another look. Every few minutes it seems we stop to check our map to make sure we are on the right track, and gasp for more oxygen.
We make our way through the lush green valley and begin to climb our second 16,000 foot pass for the day, hoping the whole way that this was the pass we needed. Three hours later we reach the top, and a rush of emotions stream through my veins. We could see it. The mountain we were looking for. It exists, and it was only a few hours with in reach. Not that it was going to be an easy task to get there though, we still had many miles and a deep valley in standing in our way.
We made our way down the side of the mountain covered in dark red sand and scree, half way sliding to a small lake. We relaxed, reloaded with water, and chomped down some peanut butter tortillas. It was still before noon, and very few clouds in the sky. On an adrenaline high, from our discovery, we took off again for the ultimate view of the rainbow.
When we finally arrived at Vinicunca I was again overwhelmed with emotions. It was better than I could have ever imagined and it was just us and the Andes. Surrounded by a splattering of neon reds, electric yellows, and soft blues. It was as though it shouldn't exist in reality - as if Dr. Seuss created it himself. We sat there in silence awed by the beauty that exists in this world, and stunned that so few travelers have ever been here.
|Rainbow Mountain "Vinicunca"|
|Rainbow Mountain "Vinicunca"|
The rest of the trek was nothing short of a backpackers dream. We crossed four more passes, slept under a sky crowded by stars and colors from the milky way, swam in some beautiful (yet cold) lagoons, and didn't see a another trekker until the last day where we again rested our muscles in a natural hot springs.
Brandon and I have seen some amazing things and been on a lot of adventures, but this is one that we will never forget. A journey to the secret, painted hills of the Andes mountains where we walked into the unknown. What will your next adventure be?
NOTE: If you would like to take a day trip to the Rainbow Mountain or a multi day trek on the Ausangate visit www.flashpackerconnect.com for more information or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book a tour. You are now able to get to this amazing place on a day trip from Cusco, Peru. Have fun!