A humble experience at Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain – Day 495
24 hours earlier I had no idea that we would be coming to see more rainbow mountains. We have already seen some in Argentina and Chile. And I certainly was not expecting such a humble experience at Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain.
The early morning start was all a bit of a daze. I remember us driving through the empty streets of Cusco in the dark, being stopped by the police for a routine check and having breakfast in a café in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. Our guide, Gris from Exploor, chatted away to Tim and Martine, while I and a lovely young lady Andrea from Switzerland snoozed in the back.
The sun rose, and the scenery changed, we were in the Palcoyo area. We were caught in a jam, not of traffic, but by llamas and alpacas and Gris explained the difference to us. In the distance, a lady was herding the cattle with her toddler on her back. These people must be so robust, especially in the altitude we were in.
We passed mountains with potatoes being grown by the roaring river. The water was a deep terracotta, any redder and it would have looked like a river of blood! We stopped and climbed out of the car to be greeted by a wonderful smiling man by the name of Laureano with the warmest hands I have ever felt and he was wearing a fabulously colourful poncho and hat.
We entered the small Potato museum and he preceded to inform us about the museum in his local native language, Quechua. In my wisdom I thought I understood what he was saying, imagining him sharing how his poncho was made, and the dyes used to get the incredible colours. Erm…wrong! He was saying nothing like that and was greeting us as his brother and sisters. The Incas see us all as one. (Mmmm…sounds very much like the Three Principles). We did have a giggle at my original translation!
We learnt about the different types of potatoes, the staple diet of Peru. They have different varieties of potato for different meals. We also discovered how the young ladies need to carefully peel 2kg of very knobbly potatoes in one hour if they want to marry. Similarly, young men have to create and hoe a field using heavy wood and metal tool to prove that they are manly enough to marry.
Laureano found some ponchos and hats for us all to wear for a photo opportunity. The poncho I was wearing was over 300 years old, and the dye was all from natural ingredients such as plants, insects and earth. He admitted that the one he was wearing was made from artificial colours.
He really was such a delightful man with such warm and smiling eyes. Despite living in a very harsh climate with little in the way of possessions, he was full of joy. Very humbling.
Our journey continued up the windy, rocky track, getting higher and higher. We finally reached a small car park with just one other car. Gris instructed us how to breathe – slowly in through our nose and out through our mouth and gave us a large bunch of coca leaves to chew. We were at 4,900m high, and the oxygen levels are much lower than what we are used to. She did inform us that she had oxygen in her backpack just in case!
Unbelievably this area was only discovered two years ago by some travellers and will, I am sure, become a popular tourist destination. Obviously, the locals knew it was here, but for them, it is something they see most days. I write “most days” as yesterday the place was covered in snow with not a rainbow in sight!
For now, the most popular and well-known destination is at Vinicunca which most people go to. It is a much longer and steeper climb to see one Rainbow Mountain, whereas we were here for a gentler one hour incline to view many Rainbow Mountains with hardly anyone else in sight. What a find!
After a toilet break, yes, amazingly there were two little cubicles here, we started our trek and then noticed a local couple in traditional outfits with their young daughter and baby Alpaca. It transpired that Exploor had spoken with these shy and reserved people and gently encouraged them to come and meet us giving us an enriching experience. And it so was. I discovered using my pigeon Spanish that the little girl was four and called Flor, meaning Flower. The mother was delighted that I knew what her name meant. She gave me the lead of the Cria (a baby Alpaca to you and me). I was so thankful; I focussed on looking after this sweet animal rather than forcibly breathing through my nose and out of my mouth. Again, like Laureano, this family were so gentle and joyful. I am incredibly grateful to have met them.
I have realised that part of our journey is to share with you that there are amazing, warm, kind, loving, joyful people all around the world. Yes, there are a few people in the world that sadly have hateful thoughts and act on these. We all read about the horrendous act that a person did on Christchurch, New Zealand recently. However, what about the enormous actions of kindness that were shown from so many people afterwards. Rightly so, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has received praise for her inclusive approach to the Muslim community since the atrocity.
Sadly the media focuses on bad news. However, the press is made up of people. What if we concentrated instead on the goodness that is everywhere? Our planet earth really is full of incredibly kind people. Please, notice this for yourself.
Sorry, I will get off my soapbox now – I just wanted to share this with you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you Martine for your research, Gris and our lovely driver for sharing your knowledge and for a fantastic trip and also thank you to the beautiful Palcoyo community that we met today. What a wonderful, peaceful, intimate time. Oh, and the scenery was astounding.