Vinicunca rainbow mountain Peru

Vinicunca rainbow mountain Peru

Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain

For my second day in Cusco, I've booked a trip to Vinicunca, the coloured mountains, with Bloody Bueno Peru, including a hotel pickup.

Waking up at 2am, I had to wait for the pick up which was supposed to be at 04:30am. The time was too short to actually trip to sleep a bit more, so I got ready and waited.

At 04:15, or 15 minutes before the planned time, the hostel concierge knocks on my door. The transport to the Vinicunca tour is here!

I am actually the first to be picked up, in a Mercedes Sprinter, which can seat 18 persons.

We went all around town to pick up everybody, until the vehicle was full. At around 5am, we could start heading to our first stop, Cusipata.

On the way, the road was simply beautiful, especially after we left Cusco city, as the sun had just risen.

We drove for 2 hours, starting with the highway in Cusco, in quickly joining smaller mountain roads, crossing beautiful small villages, and we shorty started going up the mountain on muddy tracks, passing bridges, small rivers, and of course driving on winding roads.

As I have a fear of heights, or vertigo, I was definitely not feeling very comfortable on these roads. However, I closed my eyes when we were driving real close to ravines, and starting to think about praying...

Bloody Bueno Peru website

Breakfast in Cusipata

At around 7am, we arrived in Cusipata, the base camp of our tour operator, Andean Adventure Travel Agency E.I.R.L., which seem to specialize in Vinicunca trek, where 3 other Sprinter parked and had as many guests as ours, making the whole group about 60 people including guides and drivers.

We went in the main building, where we were all seated, more or less by vehicle, and quickly served our breakfast: bread, butter, jam, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, coca.

We rather ate in silence, probably all still being half asleep and not really used to wake up at 3am, or taking a nap in a car on bumpy roads, which isn't that easy.

After the breakfast, the guides introduced themselves, along with the drivers. Our guide was Violeta, a nice lady which actually was doing most of the talking.

We separated into two groups, one English speaking, and one Spanish speaking, to get the instructions for the day.

Under the roof of that big seating area, was a small shop selling all the necessary: Chullo (Peruvian hat), gloves, scarves, plastic poncho for the rain, drinks and snacks.

I actually came only with my t-shirt and a sweatshirt. I initially came to South America to enjoy Caribbean sun, not to go anywhere below 20°C... I was the only one actually only in t-shirt, everybody else was wearing sky gear, and I had my sweater around my waist.

Well, it's 9°C, and we are still at 3300meters, similar to Cusco elevation, nearly 2000 meters below our final goal of 5036 meters, and the sun doesn't seem to be about to show up... Maybe I should get something to wear ? Vinicunca weather, just like Cusco, might change fast from a beautiful sun to a rainfall.

I therefore buy a poncho for the rain (S/5, 1.5$ / 1.3€), a scarf (S/15, 4.5$ / 4€) and a Peruvian hat (S/15, 4.5$ / 4€), plus a small snack, an Oreo knock-off for S/2.

Mhh... it will most likely be rainy, we will be walking on muddy path, and the guides recommend us to rent a stick to avoid slipping too much, advice that I actually follow, renting a stick for S/5 (1.5$ / 1.3€)- and I will definitely not regret it, as all I have are my city shoes, and not at all mountain shoes...

After that small interlude for shopping, it is time to get going, but before all, we all start to queue for a toilet stop, before going back in the cars for a one hour ride more.

Getting at the bottom of Vinicunca Peru

At around 8am, we start the second party of our trip, a one hour trip on very small and very dangerous mountain roads, to go up to about 4400 meters, where we will start our hike.

The trip is even worst than the previous one, making me feel very uncomfortable. I'm very happy not to be the one driving, I'd never be able to do that!

We drive along ravines on one side, with sometimes only a few centimetres for the driver to operate, and cars coming on the opposite direction from out of nowhere, as the roads are turning behind mountains every few meters.

Well, I mostly close my eyes, and try not to think about it. I repeat myself internally "he knows what he's doing he knows what he's doing".

At about half trip, we start seeing some snow covered peaks around us. Wait, what, are we really going to the snow ???

I'm not prepared for that at all! Well maybe we don't go to these peaks, after all, we're here to see the Vinicunca mountain, not to walk in the snow, right?

Mountain hike

And that's it, we arrive at the base camp, where there are actually already tenth of other Mercedes Sprinter parked on a large parking area, with what looks like a few huts selling different kind of stuff a bit above.

We get out of the car, and we are at about 4400 meters, I've never been that high before!

We regroup on the hill, and I start to understand what altitude sickness is: I don't feel like I can really walk straight or fast... my head feels a little heavy, and I don't feel like moving fast.

However, for now, we just walk a few meters, regroup, and hear again the last recommendations from the guide: it is about 9:20am, we have until 10:50am to reach the top, which is 4.5km away, there we can spend up to 30min, and then we have to come back to the car, which should get us there around 1pm.

All right then! Our group is called the Champions, and our guides have the flag of the city of Cusco, a rainbow, this is how we'll find them.

Okay, let's start!

During the first hundred meters, all is fine, but I walk slowly though. The first kilometre, after which we are promised some toilets, seems hard because the path is narrow, and very slippery.

Not very steep, we probably don't even reach 4500m after this first kilometer, but very tiring because I am very often close to slip.

I pay much attention to where I walk, go slowly, watch very carefully where I'm stepping, and pay attention to my breathing.

The first kilometre on the mountain

At the end of this kilometre, we do reach the promised toilets.

A queue quickly forms, as there are only 2 of them for the 60 of us, which nearly all feel like going there.

Yes, we could go around in the nature, but it isn't very comfortable, as we are on steep mountain side, there are people passing around all the time, and... guess what? It starts to feel cold!

The toilet costs S/1, and is a Turkish toilet behind a brick and mortar protection.

After my turn, I keep going up, 3.5 kilometres left, and probably about 500m of elevation to climb.

It starts now to feel intermittently hard to progress, and breaks are needed more and more regularly.

Sometimes I suddenly start to feel slight headache, and a difficulty to move my arm which holds the stick, and my legs.

It seems like when I start breathing from the mouth instead of the nose, it does get a bit better... maybe it's not the case. Anyway, I regularly stop to breathe, and pay attention all the time not to panic and to breathe properly.

We quickly get pretty close to the snow, and suddenly start being able to walk in the snow... Wait, aren't we coming to take coloured sunny pictures of the rainbow mountain Vinicunca Peru ?

Another person next to me actually asks himself the same question, and we have a conversation about it. We walk next to each other for about 20 minutes, but I have a slightly faster pace than him, and end up losing him after a while.

Reaching 5036m and the rainbow mountain

That's it, in front of us, far off in the mountain, we can see people disappearing in the snow fog, which seems to be the end of the trip.

The road starts to get steeper, and it snows on us – I take out my poncho to avoid getting totally wet.

That last part has some kind of stairs, which are extremely slippery, some people actually fall, but nothing very serious, we all progress slowly and pay as much attention as possible.

It is becoming harder and harder to breathe, and we all make more regular and longer stops.

Also, the steps seems to get higher, getting us faster a bigger elevation, but also making us feel faster the symptoms of altitude sickness.

Finally, I reach the top! The view is... well... pretty much... white)))

There is a huge fog of snow all around us, and we can't see much.

For the rainbow mountain Cusco, well... one side is snow covered and totally white, and the other side is kind of dark at some parts. We can probably guess a few colours in that small area that isn't snow covered, but one of the rainbow colours, or the promised 7 colours... not at all.

In any case, it was an awesome achievement to get there, at 5036 meters above see level, and we all are happy to have a short and well deserved picture break.

I ask some girls around to shoot me a few pictures, and I do the same for them.

There are a lot of people here, and we are packed on the small top of the mountain.

Okay, that was it for the rainbow mountain... I try to locate some people of my group, wait a bit, have some water, get my snack, until I see some people I know that are getting down, and decide it is probably time for me to go down as well.

Trip down the rainbow mountain

The 4.5 kilometres back from the mountain feel a lot lighter, no need to stop for the altitude sickness.

It is easier to walk a little faster, as it is less slippery going down than it was to go up.

After the snow covered area, about a kilometre away from the mountain top, it stops snowing, and I take off my poncho, for at least the next 2 kilometres.

Suddenly, some light hail starts falling down, nothing bad, but it starts to be more slippery, and I see several time people falling down.

It nearly happens to me twice, but at last moment I manage to land on my free hand.

The hail turns into hard rain, and everybody starts rushing to get back to the cars.

I stop to put my poncho back on, but a little late, I am already more wet than I wish I was.

However, I make it to the cars, and, just when I arrive there, the hard rain changes to what is close to a snow storm.

I get in the car, take out the towel I was wise enough to take with me, and try to use it to dry my hair and my clothes, while we wait for the last persons of the group to join us, including the guide that is closing the march.

We probably wait more than half an hour, and the snow is getting harder and harder. Poor guys that are still under it, trying not to fall in a ravine and to get back here as fast as possible!

They finally arrive, the group is complete, and, guess what... that is the exact moment the snow has chosen to stop falling, that's right =)

With the dirt roads we are gonna take, that are now totally wet, I cannot get myself to watch it... I close my eyes the whole hour that we need to get back to the camp for lunch, and probably have a nap.

Lunch

Back for lunch in Cusipata, we all cannot wait to get a warm drink, would it be coffee, tea, or coca infusion.

It does feel so good! Everybody seems to feel very cold, and a large part of the group are actually from Europe: Austria, Holland or Germany.

Really guys, you feel cold with 10°C? It's like they never had a winter in Europe... I feel pretty good, even if I am wearing now at 4400 meters high the same clothes I was wearing 2 weeks ago under the sun of Panama...

Anyway, getting a warm drink, and being quickly served a delicious warm soup, we start talking a bit, all in Spanish, with my lunch neighbour, an Austrian girl travelling alone like me, and the lady in front of me, which have a Spanish language school, and is actually taking to the trip her group her German students.

Interesting conversation, and we slowly start to feel better, holding a warm soup and drink in our frozen fingers.

After that, the buffet opens, and everybody rush on it, we all are starving! Large choice of food, with rice, pasta, potatoes, different kind of vegetables, sauce, etc. It feel really good.

The lunch getting to an end, our guide Violeta explain us a bit about the mountain. The colours are actually coming from minerals erosion, and this kind of mountains can only be found on 4 places on Earth, one in China, one in Argentina, and two in Peru.

Trip back from Cusipata to Cuzco

Time to get back to the city, and the trip is pretty calm, most of us being tired and feeling cold.

We however get to keep enjoying the beautiful mountain scenery for most of the trip, and it feels more secure than the way to the mountain.

Maybe I am getting used to mountain dirt roads?

During the trip, my seat neighbours, a couple, explain me that they are from Lima. They offer me a mandarin.

Wait, why is it green? Mandarins are orange, are you sure about what it is?

Yes, he tells me they are orange in Lima, but they are green here in Cusco, however they are good.

Okay then, I take it with pleasure, and it actually tastes good. Not the best mandarin I had, but very welcome after this long trip.

I thank them, and, the night slowly setting around us, we mostly remain silent until the end of the trip.

Back in Cusco, the transport drops us at a square, which name I didn't understand, but that is only 2 blocks away from my hostel Cusi Wasi, amazing!

As next day is for rafting... time to go to sleep early again, Cusco doesn't really feel like holidays!

Free walking tour Cusco

In summary

An amazing day, and a trip totally worth it, not really difficult for a standard mid age healthy person, but a bit dangerous as the path is not secured, and get very slippery.

However, it is a good idea to take walking shoes, a good jacket, gloves, winter hat, and scarf, unlike me =)

From Cusco Peru elevation of 3340 meters to 5036 meters, more than the highest peak in Europe, it is a big trip, which should be taken seriously.

Cusco to rainbow mountain, for a rainbow mountain tour Cusco, takes around 3h by car.

The trip was as follow:

  • 4:15 to 5am, guests pickup,

  • 5am to 7am, trip to Cusipata,

  • 7am to 8am, breakfast in Cusipata,

  • 8am to 9am, trip to the bottom of the mountain,

  • 9am to 11am, going up the Vinicunca mountain Peru,

  • 11am to 0130pm, getting down the mountain and waiting for last arrivals,

  • 0130pm to 3pm, trip back to Cusipata,

  • 3pm to 4pm, lunch,

  • 4pm to 6pm, trip back from Vinicunca Cusco.

Budget for the day:

  • Trip all included with hotel pickup, breakfast and lunch S/80 (24$ / 21€),

  • Poncho S/5 (1.5$ / 1.3€),

  • Scarf S/15 (4.5$ / 4€),

  • Peruvian hat S/15 (4.5$ / 4€),

  • Snack S/2 (0.6$ / 0.5€).

Important security recommendations to consider before booking Cusco rainbow mountain tour
Vinicunca Peru tour with Bloody Bueno Peru
Urubamba river rafting Cusco

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