Sunday 20 June 2021

Tourists flocking to Peru’s newfound ‘Rainbow Mountain’

PITUMARCA, Peru (AP) – Tourists gasp for breath as they climb for two hours to a peak in the Peruvian Andes that stands 5,000 metres above sea level.

They’re dead tired, but stunned by the magical beauty unfurled before them.

An Andean man rests with his llama on Rainbow Mountain in Pitumarca, Peru, March 2. Tourists gasp for breath as they climb for two hours to the 5,000-metre peak in the Peruvian Andes, but stunned by the magical beauty that unfurls before them.

- Advertisement -

Stripes of turquoise, lavender and gold blanket what has become known as ‘Rainbow Mountain’, a ridge of multicoloured sediments laid down millions of years ago and pushed up as tectonic plates clashed.

It’s only within the last five years that the natural wonder has been discovered by the outside world, earning it must-see status on Peru’s burgeoning backpacker tourist circuit.

“You see it in the pictures and you think it’s Photoshopped — but it’s real,” said Lukas Lynen, an 18-year-old tourist from Mexico.

The popularity of Rainbow Mountain, which attracts up to 1,000 tourists each day, has provided a much-needed economic jolt to this remote region populated by struggling alpaca herders. Environmentalists, however, fear the tourists could destroy the treasured landscape, which is already coveted by international mining companies.

- Advertisement -

“From the ecological point of view they are killing the goose that lays the golden eggs,” said Dina Farfan, a Peruvian biologist who has studied threatened wildlife in the area just a few hours from the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu.

A tourist poses for a photo at the entrance that leads to Rainbow Mountain, in Pitumarca, Peru

As proof, he points to a four-kilometre dirt trail climbed by tourists to reach Rainbow Mountain that has been badly eroded in the last 18 months, scarring the otherwise pristine landscape. A wetland once popular with migrating ducks has also been turned into a parking lot the size of five soccer fields that fills each morning with vans of mostly European and American visitors.

There are more serious threats, too.

A group of Andean muleteers break for lunch during a tour guide to Rainbow Mountain, in Pitumarca, Peru. Roughly 500 villagers have returned in the last couple of years to take up their ancestral trade of transporting goods across the Andes. The difference is that now they are hauling tourists on horseback

Camino Minerals Corp, a Canadian-based mining company, has applied for mining rights in the mineral-rich area that includes the mountain. The company did not respond to a request by The Associated Press for comment on its plans.

- Advertisement -

Yet the flood of tourists has meant jobs and hard cash for the local Pampachiri indigenous community, which has struggled with high rates of malnutrition and falling prices of wool for their prized alpaca. Many have abandoned nomadic life for dangerous gold mining jobs in the Amazon.

Now, they charge tourists USD3 each to enter their ancestral land, netting the community roughly USD400,000 a year — a small fortune that has triggered a tax battle with an impoverished, nearby municipality, which has seen no part of the windfall.

The surge in tourists also comes with a responsibility to be good stewards of the environment and their new guests, and Pampachiri community leader Gabino Huaman admits he is not sure they are ready to fully handle it.

“We don’t know one word in English,” he said. “Or about first aid.” Despite the challenges, roughly 500 villagers have returned in the last couple of years to take up their ancestral trade of transporting goods across the Andes. The difference is that now they are hauling tourists on horseback.

“It’s a blessing,” said Isaac Quispe, 25, who quit his job as a gold miner after six of his camp mates were murdered. He returned home and bought a horse that last year earned him USD5,200 hauling tourists uphill. The guides dress in colourful woolen clothes and wide-brimmed, traditional hats to lead the horses.

Farfan, the biologist, said he hopes the Pampachiri can learn from other sustainable tourism endeavours in Peru.

It was the success of one such project, in the nearby town of Chillca, that first put Rainbow Mountain on the map.

For much of the past decade, a group of shepherds had been quietly taking small groups of tourists to the mountain as part of a five-day hike around the fast-melting Ausangate glacier.

Over time, and thanks to the stunning photographs posted on the Internet, the secret got out.

Today the shepherds of Chillca manage four lodges made of eucalyptus wood with a capacity for 16 tourists each. They are lighted only by candle, but have hot water.

Arriving guests are given shoes made of alpaca leather and wool.

At dawn, lodge-keeper Orlando Garcia gently awakens his guests with a love song performed in the Quechua language.

“You always have to be guessing what the client wants, and take care of it so you don’t lose their smile,” Garcia says. “We want them to feel the greatest comfort at almost 16,404 feet.”

- Advertisement -

FACT CHECK:
We strive for accuracy in its reports. But if you see something that doesn’t look right, send us an email. The Q reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it’s accuracy.

Q Costa Rica
Reports by QCR staff

Related Articles

Opinion: Peru’s electoral drama is damaging democracy

Q REPORTS (DW) In Peru, the left-wing village school teacher Pedro...

Peru revises pandemic death toll, now worst in the world per capita

Q24N (Reuters) Peru on Monday almost tripled its official COVID-19 death...

MOST READ

13 Powerful Home Remedies for Acne

Acne is considered to be one of the most common skin ailments on the planet, with a record 60 million people being afflicted by...

Ortega government accuses imprisoned opponents of receiving money from the United States to overthrow him

TODAY NICARAGUA – The Nicaraguan government assures that the imprisoned political opponents detained on charges of “inciting foreign intervention” are “usurpers” financed by the...

Today’s Vehicle Restriction June 19: only “ODDS” can circulate

Today, Saturday, June 19, only vehicles with "ODD" ending plates CAN circulate The measure is countrywide and applied between 5:00 am and 9:00 pm, save...

OIJ investigation into road works corruption leads to inquiries in Panama

QCOSTARICA - The prestige of the company of some of the richest men in Costa Rica hangs by a thread. For many, the MECO...

Lack of space on Racsa’s hard drive paralyzed immigration consultation at the airport this Monday

RICO's DIGEST - We've all had this happen, your computer's hard drive is full and your computer crashes. But we are not the Radiográfica...

American woman found lifeless in hotel bathroom in Sabana

QCOSTARICA - A sad discovery occurred this Thursday morning in a hotel located in La Sabana, in San José, the lifeless body of a...

Today’s Vehicle Restriction June 17: 7 & 8 CANNOT circulate

Today, Thursday, June 17, vehicles with plates ending 7 & 8 CANNOT circulate The measure is countrywide and applied between 5:00 am and 9:00 pm,...

Since 2018 MECO has received contracts from the State for more than ¢139 billion

QCOSTARICA - Almost ¢140 billion colones (US$227 million dollars) is the amount the MECO construction company was able to snare for public works contracts...

“Caso Cochinilla”: Name arose when comparing parasite with hidden corruption

QCOSTARICA - On Monday, the Organismo de Investigacion Judicial (OIJ) moved to the raid, seize and arrest of their investigation into corruption of public...

WANT TO STAY UP TO DATE WITH THE LATEST!

Get our daily newsletter with the latest posts directly in your mailbox. Click on the subscribe and fill out the form. It's that simple!

Log In

Forgot password?

Forgot password?

Enter your account data and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Your password reset link appears to be invalid or expired.

Log in

Privacy Policy

Add to Collection

No Collections

Here you'll find all collections you've created before.