After hearing the stories of the sherbet coloured Dr Seuss mountains near Cusco I was very curious… Would it take 5 days hiking the Ausangate Trek to reach it? And would we have to pay hundreds of US dollars? Nope, here are the details on how we did it cheaply in a day, and how you can do it to!
I searched online for a few hours and kept coming up with reports from intrepid travellers who had set off in search of Vinicunca. Spending days hiking towards a GPS co-ordinate they’d picked up from a guy with a strong Scottish accent called Elmer, and finally finding the striped mountains of pastel colours before collapsing in a heap. Did it have to be like this?
Even after travelling for 4 months now, and learning time and time again it’s much better to speak to real people instead of Google, it still took me the better part of 2 days before I went in and just asked a few tour companies. Turns out EVERY tour company in Cusco have been offering a one day trip to Colorado Colores (or Apu Ausangate) since December 2015, and if you ask around, it can be pretty reasonably priced. We asked in 5 places and were quoted everywhere from 130 soles to $180 USD. Word to the wise, don’t book this one online, it’s outrageously overpriced. 130 soles is only about $40 USD so why would you book through a website charging $200+??
The bus came to pick us up from our hostel at 3am (even though we were told 3.30am) and a lovely local guide from the Sacred Valley called Elizabeth met our drowsy faces to escort us to the van. We picked up the other 8 passengers and were on the road by 4am. I’d love to give you an idea of what towns we went through on our way to the beginning of the trailhead, but I fell asleep. Google Maps had no idea where we were either, but luckily Maps.me had a reliable grip on things so I have a map to share! I’m not sure how easy it is to get local transport to this point but from about 6.30am there are plenty of tourist vans and cars parked here, loads of people walking the track and horses to hire if you’re a lazybones.
We arrived at the beginning of the trailhead around 6.30 and walked up to a tiny farm village of around 20 small, clay brick houses to have breakfast. The locals were all very well dressed in the colourful, traditional outfits of the area and warmly received us.
Breakfast was included in the cost of the tour and consisted of hot chocolate, tea, wheat coffee and bread with jam which we ate snuggled inside one of the small huts. It was really humbling to have breakfast in the same way as the locals and get a taste of how they live. No running water no flushing toilets, and up until recently (when the government started funding gas stoves) they were still cooking with fire.
After breakfast we were on our way! The walk wasn’t as difficult as I’d been preparing myself for. Don’t get me wrong, it was still tough walking up hill at 5,000m above sea level, but only 3 hours up and about the same on the way back, so manageable. Because we weren’t sure of the difficulty, the 10 of us did pay 6soles each for an emergency horse “ambulance” after a sales spiel from our driver.
Instead of describing our trek, I’d like to show you the direction on the map, then illustrate it in a series of pictures…
As part of the tour we also stopped for lunch on the way back to Cusco, it was a delicious fried trout! I’d recommend booking the tour, I don’t think it matters who you book it with because I think they all put you on the same bus but we liked the guy who helped us out. He gave us a fair price from the start and knew what he was talking about.
Vertigo Travel Peru: Jaime
Calle Plateros 394, Cusco, Peru
vertigotravelperu.com +51 84 222192