Rescue horses and rescue inhalers

Well with a title like this, what do you expect? Just this. Rainbow mountain was an experience like no other, for many reasons: the magnificent mountain itself, the amazing people I met along the way, and of course the title of this post.

Rainbow Mountain, or montaña vinicunca in Spanish, is a 3-4 hour hike from 4500m to 5200m in height to the top of a beautiful mountain of colors and many more in the distance.

To be on my way to la montaña de los colores, I had to be awake and ready to go by 330 am. At 315 I was ready and walked down to the Plaza de Armas where I waited for over an hour with another man (who waited longer as we weren’t in the same tour group) until a woman in patterned leggings yelled out my name. I shot up to meet up with her and another couple before boarding our bus to take us to Rainbow Mountain.

Catedral en Plaza de Armas at 330 AM

After stopping for breakfast, getting a talk about the history of the mountain, time limit, and random facts about the area, we were off on our hike. I met a few nice people at breakfast and the bus whom I talked and walked with for a bit. 1 was from San Francisco, 1 from London, 2 from Lima, and one from a small town in Chile. We discussed our travels and lives back home, before myself, and the ladies from Lima and Chile started not being able to breath too well. We trudged on (we were far too gone to turn around and get a horse) but all of a sudden none of could breathe at all, so we sat down. I took a few hits of my rescue inhaler as one of the guides ran to get us oxygen. The 2 guys from San Francisco and London had been all through South America and had done hikes like these frequently throughout the past 6 months. Us ladies, however, had not. Along with the oxygen came some rescue horses for our group and another group of people past the halfway mark.

 

We all mounted the horses, oxygen in hand, and continued up the mountain.

 

The horses can’t take you all the way up the mountain, so for final 200m or so we had to walk up to the top (which happens to be the steepest part of the way).

 

My new friends and I finally made it to the top and with the little breath I had left in my lungs, it had been taken away by the unbelievable sight I witnessed. The colors of the mountains were unlike anything I’d never seen. I know it’s just how the minerals formed, but it was absolutely surreal. I never had seen something so enchanting in my entire life.

 

I spent about 20 minutes up there, recovering from the rest of the hike up, taking pictures, taking other people’s photos, and just enjoying the earth’s creations.

 

I finally started my descent from the mountain and made it as far as I could with no horse until, oh yeah, I couldn’t breathe anymore, so I found a horse, and all of my other rescue horse friends, where we descended the rest of the mountain together.

When we made it back to the start of the hike, there were 10 of us in the bus. Our guide came and told us that we would be waiting a minimum of 2 hours for the rest of the people. We all figured that we would just nap until it was time to leave. Luckily, another guide said that he had an empty van ready for us if we wanted to go now. So, the 10 of us (each friend of mine I’d made that day was on the van with me which I thought was pretty ironic) and our guide started back to Cusco, stopping for lunch and then finally back on the road to Cusco, everyone napping on and off until we were each dropped off at our hostels where we had ample water, ample air, and a nice warm bed for the night.

Alicia

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