Saturday, August 17 (Josh Blessing)
Everybody was ready at 2:30am for our hike to the Rainbow Mountains. Our guides were Juve and Carlos, who arrived in a very nice, white tourist van, which are plentiful here in Cusco. They went over the schedule and gave us blankets so we could try to sleep during the 3 hour journey to the mountain. With the van, we ascended to 15,000 feet above sea level (from 10,500 in Cusco) and the last half of the journey was quite bumpy. I downloaded an offline altimeter on my phone so we could check our altitude (via the GPS). The guides then provided us with breakfast of coca tea, coffee, and sandwiches. We were the first van on location at close to 6am, which was a good thing. As the day goes on, the mountains become filled with hikers and tourists, and getting an early start allowed us to get done earlier as well.
The hike went well and was incredibly challenging and rewarding. The children did very well for the most part and adjusted to the altitude probably better than all of the adults in our group. However, the reality is we were all tired simply from not getting enough sleep the night before. This impacted Micah the most who wound up getting carried for a portion of the hike (by me and our guide, Juve). But once things settled, he climbed the hardest parts of the hike on his own strength. Our group made it to the top of the rainbow mountains at 16,500 feet, which I believe is higher than all of the Colorado Rocky mountains! The pictures show just how incredible the scenery is in the landscape although even those can’t do it justice. The rainbow colors are created by minerals including gold, sulfur, and copper. There is a glacier in the distance too where some people can hike for days. Our guide said that there are also similar “rainbow” mountains in both China and Argentina; but the ones in Peru are of course the best! I was very nervous about this hike but am so glad we were able to complete it. Many of our group felt the effects of altitude sickness (headache, loss of breath, etc) after the hike and were provided some oxygen by our guides. That seemed to help a lot. Some of the group did an extended hike into the “red valley,” which again showed the amazing colors of these mountains. Interestingly, we did not see other children on this hike (or at Machu Picchu). Our Rainbow Mountain guide said he had never taken children younger than 10 years of age on the hike.
After everyone finished their hike and returned to the van, we set off for a restaurant for lunch. It was a buffet-style lunch with at least 10 different Peruvian dishes and of course, tea and chicha morada (purple corn drink) to drink. We were very thankful for our guides, especially with the uncertainty of not having our preparation meeting exactly as planned. God provided for us. We even prayed over the crew from the Trek company after our lunch and Mike Hostetter (EMM missionary in Peru) shared a testimony to them as well. Following lunch, the guides showed us an outside game (similar to horseshoes) where you have to try and throw coins into the mouth of a “frog.” The kids especially enjoyed that. Finally, we returned home where we were all exhausted. A few people went into Cusco to see a dance show that we had tried to see on a few other days, but most stayed home and rested and prepared for our journey back to the States. It has been an incredible trip in my opinion with so many memories.