After 2 days in Cusco and no time either side of our treks it was now or never for Rainbow Mountain. We voted now!
We booked through our hostel for the next day. They picked us up at 3:30am and we had a couple of hours drive to the restaurant for breakfast. After a lot of pancakes and coca tea we drove for another hour and a half to get to the mountain. We got there and prepared for the journey by choosing a team name of ‘Super Hikers’ given to us by our guide Paco. I was extremely nervous at this point not knowing how the altitude would affect me but so sure I wanted to walk and not get a horse up. My overactive anxious mind went from thinking of scenarios ranging from fainting to having to be rolled back down the mountain sausage roll style. I explained how nervous I was to Paco and he stayed close by supporting and checking in with me every now and then.
On the way up we stopped many times for the toilet, to de-layer and to top-up with coca leaves. Paco entertained us all with stories about the Incas and the Quechua and kept my mind off the limited oxygen. After walking for what felt like a long time but was only around an hour we made it to the top! Chocolate squares all around as Paco showed us where to get the best photos and we all admired the amazing colours of this mountain. After stroking a few alpacas and getting our passports stamped we headed over to The Red Valley.
The Red Valley certainly lived up to its name! This was an 30 Soles each (£7.50) but worth it to see the Mars like landscape and not walk back down the same way we came. Again Paco knew the best spots to not get other tourists in the photos and we had some more chocolate. This was about another hour and we were back to the bus ready to head back. On the way back we stopped back at the same restaurant where we had lunch and more coca tea before heading back to Cusco for an early night. Trek cost = 135 Soles (£33) each (includes breakfast, lunch and transport) The Red Valley = 30 Soles each (£7.50)
A note on altitude: At Rainbow Mountain your body takes in only 11% oxygen compared to the usual 22% Chocolate and sugar help Stay hydrated Chewing and sucking coca leaves really help with the headache and the tingly fingers and toes Aqua de Florida helps to clear your head and airways Talk to your guide and the people around about how you feel. Altitude sickness can be terrible, real or psychosomatic. Some tour companies take oxygen tanks with them for anyone who needs it. They will never sausage roll you down the mountain. You can get a horse up or down. I think the cost was 60 Soles up and 20 Soles down.
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This was great preparation for our Salkantay Trek the next day, read about it here