Searching For the Rainbow in the Mountain
Peru has simply been amazing.
I love Peru. So it was not a surprise that I ended up spending two months in this country and having some truly memorable experiences. Not least of which was the remarkable area surrounding Ausungate, the largest peak in the Cusco region. I ended up doing two treks in the area, one traditional circuit around Ausungate, and one very non-traditional search for Vinicunca.
I had head rumors of this incredibly colorful landscape near Ausungate. When I did the Ausungate circuit, I expected to encounter this wild scene. But it turns out the landscape I was looking for was off the circuit, and how to actually get there, very few people seemed to know.
After returning from the traditional Ausungate trek, I began looking into Vinicunca for a return trip. But finding information was incredibly difficult. Most people, even locals who’d guided in the Ausungate region for years, had never even heard of this place. But luckily I found someone online who had been there before, and gave me just enough information to find it on Google Earth.
That meant I knew it’s approximate location on my topographical map. As for specifically how to get there, I did not know. I found a guy who lives in the village of Tinke, the traditional starting point for the Ausungate trek, who claimed he could get me there. So we made a deal and set a meeting time in Tinke.
I found the smiling face of Jose in Tinke and we began to pour over my map and make a plan, but he kept pointing to the wrong part of the map. Turns out there is some other place he thought I was referring to, and had no idea where I actually had in mind. But we decided we would go anyway and just figure it out as we went.
Nervous that this return trip would be a bust, I set off with Jose. We ended up having a marvelous time. The Ausungate region is incredibly colorful, even outside of the magical landscape of Vinicunca. And as we went, we consulted with local alpaca shepherds as to the whereabouts of Vinicunca. We were able to gather enough information from the people who spent their lives roaming these mountains to eventually encounter Vinicunca.
The Rainbow in the Mountain, it speaks for itself.
Getting back to Cusco was no easy task either. As Jose and I did not do a loop, but on the fourth day we encountered a road that would head back to village. When I got to the road, I waited two hours for a chicken truck that picked me up and hauled me in the open air bed, full of local Peruvians, to a town where I could pick up a bus to Cusco. It was a fitting way to end this off-the-beaten-path adventure. One that I will not forget soon.