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Hiking Rainbow Mountain

Once upon a time, a great rainbow fell from the sky and landed in the mountains of Peru. Well, at least it could have happened and it sure does look so, but there is a more scientific explanation behind this amazing destination. So how is this surreal mountain?

Located 3 hours by car or bus from Cusco, Rainbow Mountain or Vinicunca as it’s named in Spanish, is a really colorful mountain ridge located 5100 meters above sea level. Even though the crowds are increasing each year, it’s still not very touristic so you can get a really nice day in the Andes mountain without crowds worth mentioning. The reason why it’s not very crowded is that it’s a pretty challenging hike: you hike from 4200 meters up to 5100 meters, so you will get short of breath of even suffer from headache and nausea. But does good things come easy? I don’t think so. It doesn’t matter if it’s mountains, work, sports or relationship – if you want success, you have to commit!

I was picked up by a van at 3 AM in Cusco and we set course towards Vinicunca. The first 1,5 hours the roads were OK, but the other half of the ride they get really curvy and bumpy. Especially the last hour, it’s only dirt road with steep cliffs down in the valley. I actually puked twice on the ride, but I’m very sensitive for motion sickness. So I reached the starting point a little out of shape, you could say.

We arrived around 7 AM and it was freezing cold, but that changed as the sun came up shortly after. A quick breakfast and we were ready to go – a group of approximately 15 people. If you want, you can rent a horse in the start and it takes you almost to the top, leaving only 10 minutes of hiking. Since I felt really bad, I actually rented a horse but ditched it after 1 kilometer. If you have two legs, why don’t you use them?

We were really lucky with the weather so it was warm and mostly blue skies, though they said it could be freezing cold. About 2,5 hours later we stood on the top and the view was amazing! So was also the view along the hike where you could see the Ausangate mountain with an altitude of ca 6 380 meters above sea level. We spent around 30 minutes at the top, and then set up a pretty high pace on the way down. The longer you stay in the high altitude – the bigger the risk for getting sick with headache and nausea!

After a quick lunch in the “basecamp” we set course towards Cusco again. This time no motion sickness and to actually see the roads we were driving on this morning was really amazing and sometimes almost a little scary too.

I truly encourage you to do this if you are in the Cusco area. It can be tough, but I can ensure you it will be worth it.

– Spend at least 2 full days and night in Cusco to acclimatize. I stayed one week!
– Bring water, minimum 2 liter preferably 3.
– Bring snacks! You get a small breakfast, but you will need some fast energy along the hike. Carbohydrates keeps the altitude sickness away together with water.
– Bring clothes for all seasons, we are talking high altitude mountains after all.
– Negotiate the price in Cusco. You should not pay more than 90 Soles = around 27 US Dollar.
– If you don’t feel hiking the entire way, share a horse with another person. Some people in our group did.


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Rainbow Mountain

Ausangate mountain


Killing time in Cusco

After one week in the city and area of Cusco I find it about time to write some words about this place. Even though I was here a couple of days before going to Machu Picchu, I’ve deliberately been waiting with my “sentence” on this place. I thought it would be more fair to pick my words right before leaving, instead of right after arriving.

Cusco is located in the Andes mountain range on an altitude of 3400 meters above sea level. As I disembarked the flight from Lima (which is on sea level) it only took me a few minutes to feel the altitude. I got a little dizzy, but luckily enough it didn’t last for more than half an hour – which I was really glad for. Many people suffer from altitude sickness when they arrive in Cusco. Headache and nausea for a couple of days is some what normal they say. The only medicine is actually time – give your body time to adapt to the thin air. There are other tricks that can help like drinking lots of water and eat food rich on carbohydrates. And also, not to forget, here in Cusco they offer you coca tea and to chew coca leaves. Coca leaves you say? Yes, it’s the ones they make cocaine from. Rumors say it helps against altitude sickness, though there is no documented research supporting it. I have been drinking the tea, but chosen to stay away from the leaves. I think it’s just placebo and don’t want to fall victim to this gimmick which I believe is just a way of commercializing even more on the tourism here. Speaking of tourism by the way – how is the city?

Cusco is the center for tourism and adventure in Peru. The city it self is not so impressive I would say, but the surrounding areas are. Here you  can visit high mountains, deep valleys, jungle, ruins and of course Machu Picchu. Totally I’ve spent a week in here, with 2 days in the Machu Picchu area. If you ask me, it’s more than enough! Perhaps you need 1-2 days to acclimatize to the altitude and then 4-5 days to some nearby trips or maybe a mountain trek. The city does not have much to offer: some architecture, ruins, average food, a big scenic square and all this you can actually do in a day. The reason I’ve spent almost a week here is to acclimatize to a coming high altitude mountain summit. The days have been filled with hiking the surrounding mountains which more look like hills, eating food, relaxing and spending time with some really great people in the hostel. Here I’ve met som really nice people from France – au revoir, amigos. And also, the local market has been visited every day. A full worthy big, tasty and healthy meal for 1,7 US dollar is just amazing.  It’s been a great week in this very touristic city and I definitely recommend to visit, due to the surrounding attractions. Now this restless soul is ready to move on.

Tonight is (hopefully) my last night in Cusco. 03.00 AM the coming night I’m leaving to summit a really high mountain, Vinicunca on 5100 meters above sea level. The hike it self is not very technical, but the high altitude will be really challenging and I’m expecting headache and in worst case also vomiting. At the same time, I know that my fitness level is far above average and so is my experience with hiking, mountains and high altitude. Though, I choose to be humble because you never know how you will react to extreme altitudes and I know from earlier that it can be a nightmare. Fingers crossed! The reason I wrote “hopefully my last night in Cusco” is that the plan is to leave Cusco for Bolivia tomorrow with the night bus at 10.30 PM – on the one condition that my head is not too bad after the long day tomorrow. Time will tell!

A small curiosa: I must say that I really start to enjoy the nomadic life. The freedom and not having any duties is something I wish everyone will experience at least once in their lives. I will just go where the flow takes me, or the night bus.