The odyssey of the rainbow mountain

Just a three hour drive from Cusco lies the incredible rainbow mountain (montana de los 7 colores) at 5.000m above sea level. You might have guessed by its name that it consists of different colors that run parallel to each other. The colors originate from minerals that deposited here over millions of years. The stripes are supposed to originate from plate tectonic and earth movement. Of course we had to go and see this ourselves!

Unfortunately the easiest way to visit rainbow mountain is by a tour. Getting there and back individually takes at least two days and there is a risk to get stuck somewhere. So we had to go buy tour again, and this is how the odyssey started…

When we came back from Valle Sagrado the night before the trek, Sandra was really sick. She had a cold, fever and a stomachache. We arrived to the hotel at 8 pm and she had 7 hours to recover, because we would be picked up at 3:30am for the rainbow mountain! When the alarm rang she still had a fever and wasn´t sure if she could go and climb up a mountain to 5.000m. First she decided not to go, but then everything changed…

Jens waited and waited to be picked up. After one hour, we contacted the agency and were lucky to reach someone at this time of the night. Then we heard a lot of excuses… We can´t reach the guide, the tour is cancelled because of bad weather…. We were really angry, first of all because it was in the middle of the night and secondly we were leaving Cusco the next day and this was the only chance to visit rainbow mountain. Sandra fought with the guy for an hour over the phone until he sent a taxi to follow the group. It turned out they just forgot us. This seems to be very common, it happened to some friends just one week before as well. Sandra was awake and so pissed of by that time that she decided to join the tour now.

So we drove the three hours in taxi. After one hour the police stopped us. The taxi driver didn´t have the license to take tourists here. Of course, he also didn´t have money, so we had to pay his fee. We were so annoyed after everything that happened that morning, that Sandra made another angry call to the agency. They promised to return the money.

After a while we finally found our group. They were just leaving the breakfast spot. We told the guide that we had to eat as well, with a six hour trek ahead we needed to eat! So the whole group (of 60 people!) had to wait for us. Then we went on for the last 20 minutes to the start of the trek. You start hiking at 4.300m above sea level. The rainbow mountain is at an altitude of 5.020m. We had been that high, but we never walked at that altitude. Especially when you are sick, it is really exhausting! We walked the 8.5km really slow… If you are lazy or can´t make it, you can hire a horse. We didn´t even think about it, because we still believe if you can´t make it up the mountain, you shouldn´t be there. Look at these young and fit Argentinan guys sitting on a horse:

It was hard to resist the urge to point our fingers at them and laugh. How can you be so lazy? The worst part was that the horses were sometimes led by 10 year old children who walked up the mountain in sandals through the mud (it was freezing cold!). How can you do that? That´s child labour! After running up and down quite a few times we saw some really exhausted horses that couldn´t even walk anymore…

Despite the many people walking up at the same time, the landscape was stunning.

We made it to the top after 3.5 hours. Sandra, feeling really bad, couldn´t make the last 100 meters, but the view from where she was was already great. 100m doesn´t sound much, but at this altitude after more than 3 hours of walking it can be too much. She could have made it after a short break, but we didn´t have time. So she stayed down there with here new Peruvian friend who walked with her all the way. Jens sprinted up the last 100 meters for the full view. We must say – the effort is definitely worth it. We have never seen anything similar. Pictures do not really show the real colors we saw up there. It looks like a painting! Please enjoy the pictures:

Jens posing on the top to photoshop Sandra in afterwards ;-) (Don´t know why he thought I was that much taller than him...)
Jens posing on the top to photoshop Sandra in afterwards 😉 (Don´t know why he thought I was that much taller than him…)
The view from the top
The view from the top
No photoshop! We both made it to this point!
No photoshop! We both made it to this point!

It was really cold and windy on the top! We also had to make it down quickly, because the guides already yelled at us 😉 We had paid extra for a tour which would lead us down another, more beautiful way then the one we came up. But guess what? That never happened! Another reason for a big fight with the agency, who never fully returned the money. In terms of friendliness and service, this was the worst tour we ever did!

We walked back down for another 2.5 hours and were totally exhausted when we made it!

How much longer??
How much longer??

After a quick and well deserved lunch at 4pm (after just a small breakfast at 7am) we drove back to Cusco. We arrived around 8pm, so this was one of the longest days ever…

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