Spectacular Peru

Posted by on Aug 5, 2017 in Blog | No Comments

I had seen a picture of Rainbow Mountain in Peru earlier this year and I knew it was a place I wanted to see. When I started researching it and discovered that it was close to Machu Picchu the Googling increased. It was time for an adventure! I wanted to go on a trek and I chose the Ausangate Trek (+ Rainbow Mountain) 6 day for the spectacular scenery and the remoteness. It was spectacular, and remote. In fact I couldn’t believe most days we were walking in the most incredible landscapes and only seeing alpacas, llamas and a few local Quechuans. Rainbow Mountain has become a popular spot as now many tour operators offer 1 day trips from Cusco but we arrived early, first actually, and only got a glimpse of the hordes of people as we passed back by there on our return.

I was with a small group that I had booked through Flashpacker Connect: our amazing guide, Noah, who spoke perfect English, Spanish and Quechuan and was always happy to take us on the path less traveled, and two other delightful trekkers from Switzerland. We also had an incredible cook, and two horsemen that set-up camp for us and led the four horses that carried our gear.

Trekking in the high Andes is no walk in the park. The trek takes place at 14-17,000 feet and while I definitely felt the lack of oxygen on the numerous uphills, luckily I didn’t suffer from other altitude related woes. It was a fit group and we always unanimously chose more uphills if it was a better view or more adventurous route. These were my type of people!

Mornings and nights were absolutely freezing. We were wrapped in our cocoon sleeping bags with an extra blanket and layers and were awoken early each morning with hot coca tea to start our day. The Rainbow mountain day started at 4am with snow falling. After a hearty breakfast we set off on the trail with our headlamps, headed uphill in the snow — it felt like a true expedition! As the sun rose and the snow slowed and stopped we literally stepped from a black and white landscape into spectacular color. It was beautiful and surreal. The next morning without snow was even colder and as we set off in the dark, the frozen earth sparkled like an endless field of diamonds. Just magical!

Every day I was in absolute awe. We were very small in these huge, incredible landscapes. There were snow capped peaks, with the sacred Ausangate mountain towering at 20,945 ft (6,384 m.) There were expansive, stark landscapes, exquisite lakes and glacial views. In addition to the herds of alpacas and llamas we saw vicuñas, chinchillas, foxes and numerous birds. We had amazing weather and during the day stripped off multiple layers.

Before the trek I spent a week exploring Cusco and the surrounding area including a few days in Pisac to acclimate to the altitude. I did lots of hiking and walking and saw incredible Incan ruins, the amazing salt mines of Salineras de Maras, visited many museums, did lots of shopping, and ate lots of very good Peruvian food.

A large teacher’s strike (joined by additional protesters striking about the cancellation of a planned airport) wreaked havoc on many tourist’s travel plans including mine. There were roadblocks to get out of Cusco or out of the Sacred Valley towns, and the train to Machu Picchu was shut down for two days. It was a little touch and go for a few days but luckily I had extra days after my trek and was able to rebook my trip to Machu Picchu. Subsequently, with extra time in Cusco, I took a super fun chocolate making workshop one afternoon. Things are always better with dark chocolate.

Despite the crowds, Machu Picchu was indeed an incredible place to visit.

Peru was truly spectacular. I took so many photographs and am only sharing a few here. Click on each image for a slightly larger view. I may select a few to finesse and print and likely will use many for painting inspiration. I think I’m ready to return to the studio!