Our hostel was in a great location in Cusco, right beside the San Pedro market where every morning we could go and get freshly squeezed juice for about $2. It was also very close to the main plazas. Late June is a very busy time in Peru there are lots of festivals going on celebrating their winter solstice and their independence. In the Plaza des Armes there was a parade of sorts everyday with hundreds of people gathering to watch groups perform local dances in tradition clothing. My favourite day in the Plaza des Armes was when Peru had it’s first game in the Soccer World Cup. They installed two massive screens near one of the cathedrals and people were crowded around dressed in all red and white. I bought a 2 soles ($0.40) headband so I would fit in better. The atmosphere was electric and the sound that came from the crowd every time Peru got even across the half field line was epic.
I eventually snuck away to get some food and make some lunch for Becca (who was still in recovery mode) and I, even in the grocery store there was a tv playing and the entire store basically shut down when Peru got a penalty kick. Unfortunately they missed the kick and went on to lose the match.
The next couple days we spend exploring the city and its various markets while planning our trekking schedule. Eventually we settled on doing Rainbow Mountain before doing the Salkantay for a bit of a warm up hike. Turns out the warm-up was the real challenge. Our shuttle picked us up from our hostel at 2:50am and we drove around gathering more hikers as we drove. After 1.5 hours we stopped for breakfast, turns out its tricky to really feel like eating a bunch at 5 in the morning but we needed energy so food was consumed. We arrived at the start of the hike at 7 and began the ascent, the parking lot for the hike is already at 4600masl, so right away you feel the altitude. The first 45min of the hike is pretty flat and manageable.
Then the climb begins or more accurately the trudge. We dragged one foot after the other for what felt like eternity until we reached the “top”. Turns out we still needed to climb about 80m to get the classic Rainbow Mountain shot. However, after 1:40min we completed the hike and got to hang out at the top for a while taking photos and taking in the view. Peru’s tallest mountain is actually on the opposite side of peoples lens when they take the Rainbow Mountain picture and it is equally if not more epic, with a massive glacier hanging off of the peak.
After a while we started down and were back at the truck by about 10. It’s pretty impressive how much you can accomplish when you wake up at 2:30 in the morning. We were then driven back to Cusco where we got a pretty delicious lunch at the same place we had breakfast and that food went down much quicker. Feeling accomplished that we didn’t throw up during the hike, Becca and I treated ourselves to our beds at a ridiculously early hour, knowing we needed our beauty sleep because in 2 days we left for the 5 day marathon that is the Salkantay hike. Stay tuned!