Saturday, April 8, 2017

Peru Trip: Rainbow Mountain

Today we hiked rainbow mountain (elevetion 5,100 meters). It is the highest hike I have ever done. We have all been psyching ourselves to complete it. It is a streneous 11 mile hike with an 800 m ascent across very muddy terrain. We were unvertain as to whether the effort would pay off or if the vies would be cloudy or worse at the end.

It wad a gamble and we took it. It ended up being extremely difficult because of our breathing, but the weather held up until the Whitneys and us got back to the bus. Others, morw slow that us weren’t as fortunate.
We started our morning at 2:50am and were picked up at 3:30am at iur hostel by one of our tour guides named Carlos. He is a 23 year old who was born and raised in Cusco. Our second tour guide Gabriel or Gabo translated into english.
Our group was.made up of 10 people. The four of us, two.griends from London, one guy from Spain, one Argentinian and another coulle.from Clombia. This last xoulle.was completelyumprepared for the hike. We had to wait 20 mins in the bus for.them to leave their hotel, because they weren’t ready. When rhey finallt came out the were not wearing hiking clothes, just jeans, fashion Sneakers with no socks, a top and a medium weight jacket. No extra water or sun screen or any type of layers.
Our driver, like several others we have had, was pretty scary. I am sure he is familiar with the road since he drives the route daily. He took us full speed though bumpy umpaved roads that twisted and turned to follow the raging river below us. I was sitting next to the window and there was never a shoulder cisible between the bus and the cliff.
The drive took approx 3 hours. Shortly before we arrived at the stadting point of our hike we stipped for breakfast. A table for 20 people was set up inside a long rectangular room. At one end hung a curtain separating us from the kitchen. The guides helped the family who ran the establishment bring out the food which consisted of herbal teas like tea de anis or mate de coca, and chamomille which the locals drink to diminish the effects of high altitude (nausea, headaches, difficulty breathing, dizziness).
We were also served bread and strawberry jam and encouraged to use the facilities.before begi ning our 6 hour hike. The bathrooms were built as a separate unconnected structure similar to an outhouse. There is running water to a fauce outside the facility and plumming is connected to the toilets. People are expecter to fill the bucket with a quart of watter and take it with them into the bathrooms. In this case, once I closed the wooden door the tiny room became quite dark. You are also expected to have tour own toilet paper. Once you are finished you dump your bucket of water into the toilet to flush. Toilet paper is not allowed in the toiled and must be disposed in the waste bin placed in the bathroom. Sometimes, depending on where you are, you are actually expected to pay 1 sol to use the bathroom. If you are a patron of an establishment bathrooms are usually free But they still may not have toilet paper. The only trash cans are the ones inside the stalls, therw are none for afteryou was your hands or to dispose of other things.
Approximately 15 minutes after leaving breakfast we arrived at the base of the hike. From there we stared hiking through marsh and mud the best we could to reach the rocky part of the trail. Todd pointedout that some grassy mounds looked more like moss covering a rock than grass. He was correct. So we began a game of leapfrog hopping or stepping on the mounds to get across. Something else we got good at was distinguishing betwrrn wet and dry mud. Sometimes the two would be next to each other but one could sustain tou vs the other that would absorb your shoe. After a few minutes we were out of the initial mud and to the rocky ascend. This laste for another 15 streneous minutes until we reached a leveled area where natives were offering to carry the hikers ob tgeir horses for 70 soles (a steep fee).
We have been leeping track of all the methods pf transportation we have used on this trip. So far we have ridden on planes, boats, cars, sleeper bus, train and canoe. Claudia decided to add horse to her list by riding one on the hike. She still had to hike the harder spots since the animals can’t handle the strain.  Thw next 40 minutes were mostly flat and everyone felt relieved. Then it was steep in parts followed by flatter areas.
The last 30 minutes were the hardest. We could see where we were going. It was straight up and then a sharp right turn and climb for 100 meters along a mountain ridge.
Baby steps and deep breaths helped me get there. By that point I was weezing, not from exercion but from.lack of sufficient oxygen in the air. A few minutes of rest helped me recover. Todd and Jordan came up shortly behind me and they too were struggling. Jordan was dizzy and all of us suffer from headaches. This makes rhe hike sound horrible but conquering something really dofficult makes it all the more slecial and that is the way I feel about Rainbow Mountain.
We spent 20 minutes taking pictures on the top and then it was down again. The hikw back was much quicker. We were done in half the time. I found that if I sat down and rested my head would start hurting so I booked it back and seg the pace for Todd and me.
We made it back just in time to avoid the big rainstorm. We waited on rhe bus until the last person made it back almost an hour later. She qas a girl from.Londob and the altitudw really got to her. The guide had to find her a horse to ride back, she was caught in the heavy rain and still had to so some of the most difficult parts.
By the end Carlos was litterally dragginf her by her wrist behind him. Once we left in the bus she felt so sick qe had to oull over so she could throw up.
Lunch wes served in the same placw qe had breakfast. We were offered soup, agave juice and coca tea. The food consisted of alpaca cooked qith onions and fries and aerved qith a side of rice. It was surprisingly tasty.
Our way back was crazy too. The driver was rushing back the whole way. Once we pulled into town we learned that a peocession was scheduled for Holy Monday. The bus could get to our hotels so we werw dropped off on a side street and told how to get back.

The flow of people heading towards and walking away from downtown was incredible. Everyone qas pushing, shoving, sqeezing around us. It reminded me of how I envision black Friday lines to be at Walmart. It took us one hour to walk four blocks. We were trying to reach the main square to pick up our train tickets for the later that night but we decide to head back to Ecopackers instead. Eventually we conneced with the travel agent who was hepling us and got our tickets and left Cusco heading towards Puerto Maldonado that night.

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