Adventures in Peru – Part Three

Stewart Goes Walkies is pleased to continue with Allen Lai’s Adventures in Peru. Protests and strikes bring out the best in the travel agent.

Introduction

Late last night the bomb was dropped. One of the travel highlights of the street, the deluxe Inca train from Lake Titicaca to Cusco was canceled due to a strike. So, we were now stranded 10 hours away from our next stop. This is the time an expert travel agent showed professionalism. In a very short time, Gogo Tour managed to secure a deluxe double-decker bus. They not only persuaded two drivers to take up the challenge but also managed to find two local guides,  Alex and John to tag along in case of anything unforeseen.

The trip to Cusco
Escape from Lake Titicaca with this double-decker bus. We stopped at the Church of Santa Isabel, 1767, Pukara
The inside of the church of Santa Isabel Pukara. The church was never completed for some unknown reason

Basically, we traveled along the train track route, but we could stop every now and then to appreciate museums, churches, and restaurants along the way.

The beautiful highland plateau at over 12,000 feet

And, as we were traveling in a double-decker we enjoyed a much better view than if we had been on the train. (Does anyone remember Cliff Richards’ Summer Holiday?)

Passing through interesting small towns
Life goes on, no matter how tough it gets
The Museum Litico Pukara
In one of the museum exhibits, it is believed that the flat top of this statue was for human sacrifice.

We even managed to stop at the highest point of 14,322 feet to shop for alpaca products from local vendors and use their outhouses. We were able to fully appreciate the surroundings. Unfortunately, the once snow-capped mountains are all bare due to global warming. Regardless, we were all in high spirits.

The highest pass we reached, was at 4335 m./14220 feet above sea level. The driver has to keep the engine running in case it won’t start again due to a lower oxygen level
The only washroom available is behind those stone walls. I have to say, the scenery is great. I noticed the absence of snow-capped mountain top due to global warming

We did run into different roadblocks and will stop for several hours. The strikers were farmers demanding more supplies from the government. From what we saw along the way they certainly had our sympathy. We also learned how important it is in a democratic society, even in a third-world country, that people can exercise their rights, and express their concerns through demonstrations and strikes. My hat goes off to the farmers of Peru.

A road block and backed up traffic
Signs of a recent struggle between the police and the farmers

We were able to stop for a pleasant lunch

Fortunately, we stopped at this restaurant for lunch
Nice setting, with good food, and more coca tea

We arrived in Cusco at around 7:30 pm and checked in to the JW Marriot El Covento Hotel, a truly unique five-star hotel offering a delightful blend of historic grandeur and modern comfort.

The JW Marriot Convento Hotel at 11.500 feet

Housed in a restored 16th-century convent in the heart of Cuzco, this boutique hotel also features a tiny museum exhibiting ancient Peruvian artifacts.

The decoration of the front desk was designed by Swarovski and represents Inti, the Inca God of the Sun
In the hotel basement is a small museum. This was originally meant to be a convent and was built on top of ancient ruins
The courtyard retains the architecture of the former convent…
…as did the lobby of the bar

After a delightful dinner, we hurried to our room and got ready for the big day tomorrow. A hike up Rainbow mountain.

Our delicious dinner at the class dining hall

It had been an exciting day, with all the uncertainty and obstacles. But it was also a very adventurous day through which we were able to understand more of the country and the people.

Rainbow Mountain

Today was another highlight of the trip as it was the day we were to hike up the famous Rainbow Mountain. It was only discovered in 2015, thanks to global warming when the snow covering it melted, revealing the natural beauty of the rock beneath. Formed by weathering, environmental conditions, and sedimentary deposits over time, the mountain’s unique mineralogy creates a marbling effect, with laid hues of gold, lavender, red and turquoise.

Located high in the Andes at an altitude of 5200 m for a bit over 17,000 feet above sea level, Rainbow Mountain is just a touch lower than the Mount Everest base camp. It is higher than the highest peaks in Canada and the United States.

As it is nearly a four-hour drive away, most tourists will start from Cusco at around 3 a.m. However, the hotel breakfast was too good to miss, so we started at 7 a.m. We boarded a small van. In the first part of the journey we experienced crazy driving around the city, and then entered the beautiful and quiet countryside as we approach the mountain, that is when the excitement began.

We switched to a small minivan to get to Rainbow Mountain – the scenery was stunning

The van zigzagged along the streets, and then a narrow winding mountain gravel road with sheer drop-offs. The views were breathtaking with tall mountains looming on both sides. I think on a few occasions one wheel actually traveled off-road. Client and the client, until we reach the tiny parking lot. It was from here we started our hike.

Our van continued up the unpaved road, zig-zagging up the gorge
We ascended 5,000 feet to the plateau

The first hundred metres were desperate, a stone staircase going straight up.

We started the hike from the parking lot at 16,000 feet. Every step counted

Then the winding path gradually ascended through a stunning pastoral scene complete with curious llamas and alpacas and friendly locals. That is when the magic happened. The rocks started changing colours. Distinctive touches of orange cascaded through darker cracks of stone overhead, while thick grass and moss brought a touch of greenery to the foreground. The track widened and steepened in the run-up to the final ascent. As we reach the ridge, the grand amphitheatre of the Andean highlands of Peru opened up. It was a truly breathtaking scene, what’s the snowy top of Ausangate Mountain in the Vista on one side and distant mountains clambering over one another on the horizon.

The hike is beautiful
The jagged ridge where Rainbow Mountain is located
We passed several alpacas along the way
We made it! It wasn’t easy but we made it

I can write all I want and post all the pictures I took, but nothing can replace the actual scenery that we experienced there, our hearts pounding, our lungs gasping for air, and our eyes trying to take in all the grandeur before us. Not long after we reached the top and took all the photos, the wind picked up, it became cold and miserable as if Mother Earth was reminding us that we didn’t conquer the mountain. We only reached the top through her mercy. We hurried back downhill and a long bus ride back to the hotel. (SGW – a famous British mountaineer, whose name I, unfortunately, do not recall once said, we do not conquer mountains, we sneak up them while they are not looking).

It was only when we returned to Cusco that I noticed that all six tires were as bald as I am…

That night we wandered around the city centre of Cusco but my mind was still stuck in warm thoughts of Rainbow Mountain.

The beautiful city of Cusco – the ladies went crazy shopping for alpaca products
The city centre – if it wasn’t for the altitude you might have been in any European city
The cathedral at night.
Conclusion

It says a lot about Allen’s tenacity as an explorer/traveler and the professionalism of the travel agent that he and his party were able to complete this section of the trip. SGW is very grateful for this part of his travels and we look forward to Part Four.

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Published by stewartgoeswalkies

Happily married man to a wonderful lady. Living in Hong Kong. In my younger days I enjoyed hiking, camping and rock climbing. I've trekked in the Himalayas and climbed Mt. Kinabalu in East Malaysia.

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