The preset 3am alarm went off trying its best to encourage us to get up. Today we were tackling Rainbow Mountain.
We booked our tour a few days before with Conde Travel (www.condetraveladventures.com) after asking a few companies in Cusco what they offered. Conde Travel’s price already included the entrance fee to the Mountain, English speaking guide, breakfast and lunch and pick up from our Airbnb and they just seemed a lot more confident and legitimate in what they offered.
We were told we would be picked up from our Airbnb between 4/4:30am and this wouldn’t be a problem. We were only five minutes from the centre by car and had given them the address and square where we were staying. In the morning, 4:30am came and there was no sign. 5am came and there still was no sign. At 5:15am, after waiting outside in the freezing cold for an hour and fifteen minutes we decided to go inside and watch from our window. Within this time we had already whatsapped the two numbers on our receipt but had received no response. Once inside Peter sent a message on their ‘live’ chat and called them through whatsapp. At 5:30am we received a response from someone saying they would phone the driver to see where they were. We got a message to say the driver would be ten minutes, and right enough they were. Later we asked why there was a hold up and apparently they couldn’t find a few of the addresses. We’re still unsure whether we would or wouldn’t have been picked up if it wasn’t for us leaving them several messages.
Anyways, that was our unpleasant part of the tour. It gets better I swear!
We drove about an hour and thirty minutes where we stopped at this local family’s house for breakfast. It was a typical South American breakfast of bread, butter and jam with Coca leaf tea but we also got a pancake each. There were several other nationalities on our trip including French, Italian, Dutch and Bulgarian. We then continued for another forty-five minute roughly where we reached the entrance to Rainbow Mountain.
To walk the whole way it took us about two hours and twenty minutes. The actual walk is easy but you quickly feel the altitude and that’s what slows you down. You ascent from around 4000m to 5200m which is rather steep. The local people offer their horses to take you up for a fee which several people in our group did but we were determined to not give in. For this trip I would seriously recommend plenty of water, coca leaves to chew on, oxygen canisters and snacks. Oh and suncream! Very important! Even though it freezing at the top you can get badly sunburnt. Believe me, my fair skin will tell you.
Our tour guide Willy explained to us that the mountain only became a tourist attraction a year ago because it was previously covered in ice and snow. It’s now accessible to tourists due to global warming. Something very bitter sweet about that!
We were given thirty minutes to go to the summit, take our photos and come back to the meeting point.
On the way up we noticed a small Peruvian girl, literally no older than five climbing to the summit by herself. She was crying and when we tried to communicate in Spanish with her it was clear that wasn’t her language. She continued to cry whilst still climbing to the top of this mountain. Very puzzling and worrying. I couldn’t understand where her mother was?! Once at the top we comforted her while other tourists offered her some chocolates. She later was taken down to where her mother was selling juices and sweets to climbers.
It took us around an hour to descend all the way down the mountain to the car park where we waited for the others to arrive. We stopped off at the same place for lunch where we had a lovely meal which included soup, mixed veg, rice, potatoes and ham. This is typical food for Peru and Bolivia from what we’ve heard.
Unfortunately in the car journey back one of the other girls was sick. I don’t think her body coped with the climb at all. By what was more unfortunate was Peter was sitting right next to her.
I think I’ll finish there…