As I said before, I booked this trek through a company I found under a super strange circumstance. Naturally, I looked up the company to see if I had just made a horrible mistake and everything checked out. They had good reviews and were recommended on trip advisor.
I woke up at 4 for a 4:30 pick up. I thought these early mornings were going to kill me, but to be honest, I go to bed so early that an early alarm is not as bad as I thought. This time, however, I was a little annoyed because 4:30 rolls around and there is no communication from the company. A half hour later, I am picked up. Had I not already had Ed’s number, I would have been waiting in ignorance. You would think after years of living in Uruguay I would be used to waiting past a set time in Latin America. That is not the case. I am still a punctual American and expect everyone else to be as well. You tell me 4:30, I’m waiting at 4:15. So, I was a tad bit annoyed getting into the van for the three hour ride to the trail head.
But after some tunes and sleep and breakfast with an amazing view, I was in much higher spirits. Our tour guide, Denise, was really great. He was very fun and energetic. I also love when tour guides speak Spanish to me even though they know I am from the states. My seat was right next to Denise since I was the last on, so we had a great chat.
When we got to the trailhead, there were several other tours with ours. This made me a bit nervous because being the first to Rainbow Mountain had been so special; however, I will say that the lagoon is so big, that there are plenty of spaces to get pictures, even with about a hundred people. This may not be the case in the dry season. Oh, and the first bathrooms are really great and free. If you are taking this trek, make use of these bathrooms.
The trek starts really easy. It’s completely flat. We followed a road and then went over a bridge to hit the real walking trail. This took about 20 minutes. Then we stopped at this little farm land where you can camp. This was the last stop for toilets. They are really gross and cost one sole. Not worth it. Denise pointed up a hill to a little shack. “That’s the half way point,” he said. I’m thinking to myself no problem! It’s not as high as Rainbow and it basically looks like a steady 60% incline. Famous last words, am I right?! The first ten minutes are not bad until you realize that we are already up in elevation. So then the breathing becomes more difficult as the heart starts to pump faster. By the half way point to the half way point I was stopping every 30 feet to catch my breath. Men with horses are all along the way. They see you struggle and offer a ride for a price. I was determined to not take a horse and was getting so frustrated being asked every time I stopped. So I popped some coca leaves into my mouth and this helped a bit.
The trek up takes 1.5 hours. By hour one I made it to the shack. Then I remembered that it was the half way point. I looked up at the rest of the trail. I believe ooooohhhhh shhhhiiiiiiittttt was my first reaction. It’s pretty much a strait up incline the entire rest of the way. It’s rocky and wet, which makes footing difficult at times. While this trek is less high, I think it is harder than Rainbow Mountain because it is simply all uphill. I would see a rock up ahead and say, ” ok. Just get to that rock.” Then I would catch my breath. Sometimes I couldn’t even reach the rock before having to stop. Once again, everyone around me in the most impeccable shape struggled. The only ones running up the hills were the horseman and the guides.
And just when I thought I was going to die, I turned a corner on the mountain and hear a woman say, “we made it.” The lagoon was right over a ridge. At first it was wicked cloudy. You could barely see a thing, but then my luck changed and the clouds cleared a bit. While the whole glacier was not visible, it was enough to take my breath away. The second most beautiful lagoon in South America earns its name proudly. The blue and green and cooper colors of the water in contrast with a black mountain with white snow patches is just stunning. And when the sun hits, the glacier is reflected in the water. It’s one of those places that after you take a million photos, you just sit and stare for a bit.
After a few minutes, Denise gave us the information about the lagoon. It’s 4200 meters. It is pure glacier water and it is a lagoon not a lake. He also explained the stacked rocks. They are an Incan tradition to pay respect to the mountain. It is a thank you for the protection and good journey. So we did a little stacking of our own.
I really appreciate this connection to nature. It’s become really important and spiritual to me. And so far, I have had the best luck with the views and my groups. Pachamama is looking out for me, it seems. The Sexy Llamas took our group picture and headed back down the mountain. Needless to say, I was very sore the next day. But it had been so worth it.
Side note: I was only going to half recommend this tour company KB adventure tours, but I will say that Denise sold it along with the place where we eat breakfast and lunch. Also there was an unfortunate incident of forgetting some walking poles on the bus and Ed personally brought them to my hostel for me. So that was a big plus for them. And you really can’t beat 30 usd for the experience. So, now they are recommended.