We took a much needed rest day in Cusco after returning from our 5 day tour to Machu Picchu and our main activities included sorting laundry and arranging our next couple of days! We booked in for a tour the following day, despite mixed reviews about the impact of the weather on this particular one, Rainbow Mountain. We got picked up at 3am, I definitely think my legs were still sore from Machu Picchu but we were optimistic about our last hike in Peru! We had a three hour bus journey to breakfast before starting the hike. We began at altitude of 4,300 before ascending 8km to 5,035 at the summit. The terrain was extremely wet, mucky and slippy which made it even more difficult-and then it started to snow. I had a little giggle to myself at this point and had lost all hope of seeing the famous rainbow colours at the top but we continued regardless. I had been more than excited to discover peanut butter snickers bars in Cusco, and there was one deep in my backpack that was motivating me to the top for a snack!!
Unsurprisingly we were greeted with clouds in every direction and zero visibility after an extremely tough climb to the top and it was freezing-no feeling in your fingers type freezing!Our pictures from this point of the hike are even a joke – we were having a laugh pointing out the place where the rainbow colours should be, full of sarcastic tones!
We queued for coca tea before making the descent and all of a sudden everything cleared! It genuinely was like magic.. we had perfect visibility of the beautiful rainbow mountain in all its glory-for all of 5minutes!!!
We were extremely lucky!! In fact we ended up being first of our group to the summit and the only ones with pictures of the mountain because the clouds were in to stay for the afternoon-our luck was definitely beginning to turn 🙂
We did a quick swap of hostels that night in Cusco as the one we had made home for almost two weeks was fully booked that night! The following day was march 17th, St Patrick’s day and we had intentionally decided to stay in Cusco to mark the occasion and experience a parade with a difference at the Irish owned Wild Rover Hostel. This was the first time either of us had been out of Ireland for the celebration and I definitely felt a sense of pride for my roots watching all the non Irish people leading such a celebration for the day! We spent some time at the wild rover hostel and met the Irish guys we had previously met at Machu Picchu. In the afternoon the owner of the hostel organized Cusco’s first ever st Patrick’s day parade – We were the parade, everyone at the party kitted in our printed tops, green white and orange balloons and a local band!! It was very very entertaining and definitely one we’ll remember!
We utilized the services of Bolivia Hop to transfer into country number 4. This company operates in Peru and Bolivia under Peru hop and Bolivia hop and is Irish owned by the same owners as the Wild Rover hostel. It was a really good choice and basically has all the key destinations planned out with scheduled stops and the option to “hop off” for a day or two as you wish. We used the system to take us from Cusco, Peru to La Paz Bolivia over the course of four days.
We departed on a night bus from Cusco to Puno. The border of Peru and Bolivia is surrounded by the stunning lake Titicaca. Lake Titicaca it is the world’s highest navigable body of water and the largest lake in South America. It it roughly the same size as Roscommon, Sligo and Donegal put together! Puno is the location to visit the lake from the Peru side and it is known for its floating islands, the Uryos.
As part of the Bolivia hop service there was a scheduled two hour stop to visit the islands if you wished. We took the tour and were happy to see the islands but overall felt that it was a bit commercial.
Our boat dropped us to the first island where the man of the island explained how exactly the islands are constructed and detail about the reeds. We learned that 8-10 families on average live on each island. There are two schools on the floating islands, the highest schools in Puno. It takes 18months to make an island and the blocks of reeds are about 5m deep. We had a tour of a typical house/room on the islands before taking our boat back to Puno.
Once back in Puno we took the bus for another hour until we reached the border crossing into Bolivia.