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The One with Rainbow Mountain

First of all, none of us can believe how quickly those last two weeks in the Amazon went. It seems like only yesterday we were talking about how far away the 19th was (I hate to use cliches but sometimes a good cliche says exactly what you need it to say).

This week we planted 19 trees, opened 250 meters of new trail (learned that clearing trails through bamboo is the worst), turned a compost heap, built a trestle for tomato plants, cut through a tree fallen across the road using only machetes, and learned that abnormally large spiders prefer to make their homes in the toilets so they can scare young women in the middle of the night.

We’ve also noted that the food changes from region to region (looking back this seems rather obvious; consider how different Southern American cuisine is from Northeastern cuisine). In Arequipa, avocados and potatoes were a part of daily life. In Karina, the soups and breads were made with quinoa and vegetables. In the Amazon, it’s lots of tomatoes, lentils, rice, and squash (usually in the same dish). We’re looking forward to seeing what traditional food in Cusco is like.

Because I’m bad at concluding remarks, I asked the girls what their favorite parts of the Amazon were. Emma and I favored the experience of swimming in the river, while Abi said “I appreciated feeling like an utter badass using the machetes”. India and Davina both said that they couldn’t pick a favorite part and that the whole experience was the best. Indeed, so far, I think these two weeks in the Amazon have been purifying (see The One in the Amazon Part 2 for my utterly romantic description of the Amazonian air). Seriously though, it’s been very cleansing to be so far removed from other people and technology. Between the five of us, we’ve read 20 novels in two weeks. It felt wrong, somehow, to have our phones out when we were at the lodge. It felt better to play cards or games, read books, go for a walk or a swim, or play fetch with the dogs (Inti may be short and round but his four little legs sure do try their best to chase that ball).

So now we’re back in Cusco (and feeling the altitude once again...whew). On Saturday we washed the horrid stinky mass of Amazon clothing (a grand total of 22 kilos of laundry) and even the industrial washing machines of Cusco lavandarías were no match for Amazonian dirt (RIP my two t-shirts. And my sneakers). We also booked a day trip that I won’t say anything about now (you’ll have to HANG around to get the full story or else it’ll ZIP past).

On Sunday, we did the notorious Rainbow Mountain hike. The bus arrived at 4:20am and we picked other travelers up until 5:00am, then set off. At 7:00am, we were treated to hot chocolate and bread with butter and jam for breakfast. At 9:20am, the hike began (also the drive to the starting point was one of the most gorgeous we’ve ever done). The hike is only 4km from start to finish, but goes from 4600 meters (13,800 ft) to 5060 meters (15,180 ft). Oh, and it does that jump in the last kilometer of the trail. The beginning of the hike is actually fairly flat (if very muddy: future travelers, I highly recommend hiking poles and waterproof hiking boots). You can rent horses to take you three-quarters of the way down the trail, but we decided to be adventurous and walk the whole thing. The last stretch upwards is the hardest bit of the hike: you climb rough-hewn stairs up from the muddy marsh to the snow-covered viewpoints of the Rainbow Mountains.

The first viewpoint you reach overlooks the smaller (but equally rainbow-y) peaks of the range. Then, if you’re still, you know, breathing by the time you get there, you can keep hiking up to get to the big peak that’s in all the advertisements and Instagram photos. We were very lucky and had sunny weather right up until we left (though it did snow a bit on our way out). We all managed to get sunburned faces (I have a magnificent glasses tan now) so we’re showing up to the new community red-faced and tourist-y!

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