“This was the worst trek ever.”
“I wish I hadn’t even gone.”
“It wasn’t worth it.”
Those were just some of the sentiments shared by our 10-ish person group following our day at Rainbow mountain. We’d tacked it onto our trip
WHAT IS RAINBOW MOUNTAIN PERU?
Original source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2017/01/21/welcome-rainbow-mountains-peru/#4a2dad176f70
Well, this is only half true nowadays. Though Rainbow mountain might still be deemed a magnificent geological feature, it’s not necessarily as inaccessible as it once was. This mountain, nestled in the Andes of Peru, consists of stripes of red, orange, red, etc. that were formed as a result of mineral layers that have been exposed over time. Though this place was exceptionally remote as recent as two years, lately it has become a very major tourist destination. Following our trip to Machu Picchu, my group and I made the trek as well and even though we’re smiling and our pictures ended up being quite good (Instagramable even!), the experience itself was not the best, leaving many of us to question if it was even worth.
Yes, we had good weather, but not even an hour into our walk we were frustrated by our irresponsible guides and
I wanted to write this post as a very honest evaluation of our experience at
THE WORST TOUR COMPANY I’VE EVER ENCOUNTERED. EVER.
While we were in Cusco, our Air BnB owner had been kind enough to offer to
The day started off with us leaving at the crack of dawn, but, unlike our Salkantay trek, we were picked up outside of our Air BnB. That was awesome! The biggest hiccup that morning was that we were told to be ready between 4:30 and
When we stopped for breakfast, admittedly we were all unimpressed. The breakfast had been included in our fee, but it literally consisted of tea, bread
We started to climb, but we were admittedly exhausted after so many days of trekking. Frustratingly, all our guides could say was “Come on” and “Let’s go”, urging is forward at a more rapid pace. Yes, I’m not joking and, admittedly, we did not appreciate it. It was not atypical apparently for guides to rush their tourist groups up the mountain, which in and of itself could be difficult sans altitude if you’re not properly conditioned. But it’s to the guides benefit to get you down and up as quickly as possible. Fortunately for us, though, we were able to take our time resting and taking pictures. Others were not so lucky, as their guides were apparently barking at them to turn back and telling them they were “too slow”.
As we were really getting to the steeper parts of the climb, my guide finally started doing his job getting me the horse that I had paid for. But, seemingly, the locals and their horses were eager to get all the way back to the bottom. We stopped 2 or 3 horsemen before one finally agreed to take me up to the top. I was lucky. I was one of the first people to snag a horse. For
Also, our guides? They didn’t really “guide” us at all. They
When I got to the top of the mountain, I thanked my horsemen and continued on my way. No money was exchanged because, admittedly, I thought that my guide had paid him up front when he had flagged him down. It was only when I got to the top and started talking to the other people in my group that I realized that the expectation had been that the horsemen were paid by the individual hikers upon dropping them at the top of the mountain. I didn’t do that. To this day, I’m not 100% sure if my horsemen got paid and I feel tremendously guilty about it. I looked for him on my way down. But regardless, I had no additional soles to pay him with. My tour company claims that they did pay him, and yet that was not the case for anyone else in my group. For every other person who took a horse that day, they paid for the horse out of their own pocket, despite it being “included” in our tour package. An extra 70 soles that, we assume, our guide just pocketed.
When we got to the top, we asked our tour guide if he would refund the people that end up not taking horses or who had paid for the horses themselves. He said no problem. So, we continued down the mountain. When we got back to the car and asked again, he started quizzing us about who had taken a horse and who hadn’t and what they had paid, etc. as if he didn’t believe us. The next time we brought it up at lunch, he played dumb. The next time, he said something about having to figure it out at the “office,” which wasn’t an option for the many of us that were flying out early the next morning.
But that wasn’t even the final straw. As we neared Cusco, we asked him one more time if he would refund our money. He didn’t respond. Next thing we knew, we were being told that the bus would not be dropping us off where they had picked us up outside of our Air BnB. Instead, they would be dropped us, almost literally, on the side of the highway. What. the. Fuck.
Now, let me be clear why this pissed me off to the extent it did. Firstly, it was the end of the day when our phone batteries were dying and our ability to order an Uber or provide maps to our secluded Air BnB to taxi drivers was limited. Secondly, none of us had any idea where we were or where to go to get back to our Air BnB. Lastly, and most importantly, earlier in the trip we had gotten a little lost in our taxi trying to find our way back to where we were staying. It was a
At that point, we were all fed up. Nobody said another word about the money they had been scammed out of or the horsemen that these men had likely ripped off by not paying them. Nothing. Honestly, we just wanted to go home, go to sleep and get away from these assholes.
It was by far the worst tour experience I have ever had in my life. And was the view even worth it? I’ll get to that.
HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS ABOUT RAINBOW MOUNTAIN.
First, before you trek to Rainbow mountain, you need to understand that seeing Rainbow Mountain in person is NOT like the tourism brochures or the Instagram image you’ve seen before.
As you can tell, the unedited Rainbow Mountain isn’t quite as spectacular as the pictures make it out. We had good weather too, and there are definitely tourist photos that have been taken that have much more dulled colors than this due to their snowy, windy, and/or overcast conditions. I’ll be the first to admit that the edited photo is the one that got posted on my Instagram. Guilty as charged. Why? Cuz it’s a more impressive photo. But will I lie to you and tell you that that edited photo is exactly what I saw? Not a chance in hell. And I made a point of saying that in my caption on Instagram. This photo is edited, over-saturated, highlighted, contrasted, etc. I’m not a professional photo editor. But with my limited skills, look at how much more I was able to make the colors of the mountain pop out?
I’m telling you this because I want you to go into this experience with clear eyes and realistic expectations. The mountain will likely not look like what you’ve seen online in real life. And you need to be mentally prepared for that.
EXPECT HOARDS OF PEOPLE
There are a shit ton of people that climb this mountain daily to get their photo-op. It might even number the hundreds to thousands daily. And it definitely feels like that. The trails are crowded, but more than that, the viewpoints are crowded. You’re fighting over photo spots with other people and you basically need to resign yourself that there will be other hikers in the background of your photos. To quote a fellow blogger and Rainbow mountain reviewer: “You may end up with a rainbow of people in colorful outfits in your shot, rather than a rainbow mountain.” Haha. It’s not inaccurate at all.
DON’T TAKE THE ALTITUDE LIGHTLY.
When you get to the top of Rainbow Mountain, you will be at an elevation of 5000 meters! This is much higher than any mountain in my very mountainous home state of Washington, higher than any mountain in the Continental US (Mount Whitney is 4,421 meters), any mountain in the Alps (
That’s no fricken joke
Even if you don’t experience full-blown altitude sickness, you will more than likely have trouble breathing. The air is thin at this elevation. The key will be to hike as slow as you need and that you are comfortable with. Admittedly though, this is a challenge with your guides pushing you to walk faster than your willing or able as I mentioned above. Ignore them. Tell them to “Fuck off” if you must. Because if the difference between you going at your pace and you going at
Original source: https://exploorperu.com/blogs/exploor-peru-travel-blog/discover-the-best-route-to-the-famous-rainbow-mountains-of-peru
THOSE POOR HORSES.
I am not going to lie, after taking my horse up to the top of Rainbow Mountain, I felt really bad. The horse wasn’t unhealthy. But I couldn’t
I should have walked it. I should have endured the altitude and exhaustion that my body was feeling. Anything
SO, SHOULD YOU ACTUALLY GO TO RAINBOW MOUNTAIN?
Are the dangers worth it? It’s not just a strenuous hike at altitude, but it’s dangerous. And now, I’m not just talking the altitude itself. The road to the trailhead itself is dangerous, one of the most dangerous roads in all of Peru. There were people on our tour who, after seeing the road and the precarious driving conditions just to get to the trailhead were adamant that if they had known this would be the driving conditions, they wouldn’t have come. Buses falling off cliffs in Peru is a thing that is not uncommon. So consider that. Plus, if you come in unprepared and unaware, the altitude sickness is a legit threat if you haven’t been properly acclimated. You should give yourself at least a few days in Cusco before attempting this trek to get properly acclimated. Or, if possible, do a trek at altitude
Are the photos worth it? While the
Are the sketchy tour company experiences worth it? I think I belabored this one enough already, but just for emphasis, I’m going to give this an emphatic fuck no.
So, what about it is worth it? If you’re motivated by checking something off your travel bucket list, then
I will admit, I’m still intrigued by the other “rainbow mountains” that are around the globe. Are they better? More spectacular? There are ones in China. Are they even more spectacular and worth seeing? I’m still intrigued. And I won’t say that this experience has me put off such geological attractions for the rest of my life. But for now, I’ll be arranging and heavily researching my own tours and attractions from now on. Because this day was bar-none the worst day of touring and exploring I’ve had yet on Remote Year and I will do anything in my power to avoid repeating it.
TIPS IF YOU DO GO TO RAINBOW MOUNTAIN
- Go with a legit guide who doesn’t scam you. Seriously, if you skipped the section where I talked about our tour, go back and read it. We got scammed and completely mistreated by our tour company and it was utter bullshit. Do yourself a favor do some research on your tour company before you go.
- Pack Some Snacks: The breakfast isn’t much and lunchtime isn’t until late. Bring some high-energy snacks to help fuel you up Rainbow Mountain.
- Acclimatize First: It’s a very good idea to have been in Cusco (or other high altitude locations) for at least a few days before you attempt this trek. You’ve likely come to the area primarily to go to Machu Picchu, so consider Rainbow Mountain after that to give your body a chance to adjust to the elevation better. That’s exactly what we did. You may also consider getting altitude pills, bringing coca leaves or coca candies, etc.
- The Coca Is Your Friend: Another way to help with altitude is the tried and true Inca remedy of coca leaves. In Cusco, they not only sell coca leaves so that you can make tea, but they also sell honey coca candies and chocolates in most stores. Stock up. It really does help a lot.
- Wear Hiking Boots or Trail Running Shoes: Even in good weather conditions, the trail is muddy and full of horse shit. So, wearing shoes that you’re comfortable tromping around in said conditions
inis a good idea. Also, trail trunningshoes and/or hiking boots will give you better traction.
- Use Sunscreen: Something many people underestimate is the intensity of the sun at altitude., even if it’s cloudy. Protect yourself skin and don’t forget a hat, sunglasses, and lip balm either.
- Bring the right clothes. I layered up for our hike and I’m glad I did. In the sunshine, the temperature can very quickly swing from pleasantly warm to way
tocold as the sun ducks behind the clouds or as the wind picks up. Between all my layers, I was able to add and remove clothes as necessary. So, I definitely suggest you plan for all sorts of crazy weather swings. As we were leaving, even though the whole day had been sunny, we got caught in hail. Two days before, a friend of ours was snowed on as she hiked up. Just be prepared.