The ‘Rainbow’ mountain, ‘Stripy’ mountain, ‘Colored’ mountain…call it what you will, this natural geologic formation is fast attracting large numbers of visitors and is becoming as popular as more well-known attractions of Peru; and with good reason!
The mountain is known locally as Vinicunca. Cunca in Quechua means ‘neck.’ The meaning of Vini is unknown but could possibly refer to the different colors of mineral layers that comprise the rock formation. Therefore ‘Neck of Colors’ could be one likely interpretation.
Ten members of the Apus Team drove the three hours from Cusco to Pitumarka, and then it was another hour on some fabulous winding roads through local farming terraces, rock formations and picturesque canyons to reach the village of ‘Hanchi-Pacha,’ a small farming village located at 4180 meters above sea level. From here we began our hike, which gradually ascended out of the valley to reach K’airahuiri, after another 1.5 hours and 400-meter altitude gain.
K’airahuiri actually consists of two villages: ‘K’airahuiri Bajo’ or ‘lower’ and ‘K’airahuiri Alto’ or ‘higher.’ After a half-hour hike, we passed through K’airahuiri Alto, where the local community greeted our team. We discussed some options with the villagers for future groups that we plan to bring to the region. We then trekked for another 1.5 hours to the pass. Our climb quickly became steeper and our breathing more labored, as we reached an elevation of 5000 meters in this last section.
All our hard work was rewarded as we crossed over the Vinicunca Pass and attained magnificent views of the mighty glacier, Apu Ausangate!
We had reached our final destination and attained a height of 5000 meters with a total hiking time of 3.5 hours and a distance of 9.5 kms. trekked. However, just a few more meters of climbing up the “neck” gave us a better glimpse of why we had come to this particular spot. At last we could see the amazing view of Vinicunca and its fantastically colorful layers of rock sediment…turquoises, oranges, browns, and reds! We never would have believed this brilliant natural beauty existed had we not seen it with our own eyes!
I first saw a photo of Vinicunca in a gallery and art shop in Cusco called ‘Tawa Concept’ back in 2015; I honestly thought an artist had drawn a very imaginative painting and I subsequently wondered where he had drawn his inspiration. I was then informed that this was actually a photo of a real place in Peru.
Now I know that the place is indeed ‘real’ and not just a figment of someone’s imagination!
Vinicunca, The Rainbow Mountain of Peru: truly a glorious feast for the eyes!
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By Matt Waugh April 2016