A Horse, a Hike and a Glimpse of Heaven

I really did not want to go to Peru. The Dragonslayer needed to go to Peru for business and really wanted me to join him as he speaks no Spanish and I speak Spanish rather badly, but I can communicate when I have to.  I knew that my wifely duty necessitated that I join him, but my heart was not in it.  In fact I spent a few moment crying real tears the night before we departed.  I had just recovered from my turn with Covid and I was a little anxious about traveling to a crowded third world country. But never the less, I put on my big girl panties, put a smile on my face and boarded the plane.  Lima, Peru in July is cold, gray and damp.  The Covid rules in place are strict: double mask and wear a face shield. Needless to say this anti-ruling following Texas girl was not impressed. But there I was trying to be a dutiful wife and an encouragement to my hard working husband.  Being the good Dragonslayer that he is, he also recognized that this trip was difficult for me.  I would be alone in the hotel all day, while he was at the ginger factory trying to convince Peruvians that hard work was actually rewarding and that starting the day on time was a virtue. (Peruvians are lovely people, don’t get me wrong. But there is something to the Protestant Work Ethic that is hard to translate to this culture.) I was beginning to feel like Count Alexander Rostov in A Gentleman in Moscow, a delightful book by Amor Towles. Count Rostov,  is an unrepentant aristocrat in the bloody aftermath of the Russian Revolution.  His punishment for being part of aristocracy was lifetime house arrest in the Hotel Metropol in Moscow. If he leaves the hotel he will be shot immediately. Through perseverance and imagination, Rostov manages to live a full life within the confines of the hotel. Although I wasn’t on house arrest in the Lima Marriott Courtyard, it did sort of feel like it. Eventually the Dragonslayer understood my wilting spirit and decided he would take a long weekend off from trying to tame the natives and we would have a mini-vacation to Cusco and the surrounding beauty of that part of Peru. So we headed to Cusco. 
Rainbow Mountain, Peru
Cusco is a delightful town up in the mountains near to Machupicchu and Rainbow Mountain.  It never reaches 70 degrees, is always sunny and always full of hikers and adventure seekers. The blue skies in Cusco are the kind of blue we don’t experience in Florida, except in winter.  They are crystal clear and free of clouds, creating the feeling of being in a giant blue dome with crisp mountain air all around. It is quite heavenly. After our visit to Machupicchu, we decided to sign up for a tour to the newly discovered Rainbow Mountain.  How hard could it be? We had survived the climb to Machupicchu and lived to tell about it. So, in our naiveté we made arrangements for a driver to take us to Las Montañas de Colores. I knew it would be a challenging hike, but it was far more challenging that I could have ever imagined.  Our driver picked us up at 5:00 am  for the three hour drive to this tucked away, obscure destination. Once we arrived to the dirt road through the primitive village of Alpaca herders, I felt right at home. The road was a red gravel road just like the roads of west Texas. But this road was winding its way up to an elevation of 16,000 ft through groves and groves and groves of beautiful eucalyptus tress. An hour later we arrived at base camp where a two hour hike begins to the top where you can actually see the Rainbow Mountain. I realized immediately that my super cute Rifle Paper sneakers were not going to cut it for this hike. Everyone else had on hiking boots and carried walking sticks along with their fancy hiking gear. I had cute shoes and no socks. Thankfully the Dragonslyaer spotted the horse option which you could ride for most of the hike and he convinced me this would be the wise option. The thought of riding on a horse on those mountain trails did not look appealing.  But my shoes didn’t look appealing either. Rainbow Mountain isn’t really a hike; it’s more like a pilgrimage. Only those in their early 20’s with 5 years doing Cross-fit are in good enough shape for this expedition. For them it’s still hard.  For everyone else, it’s impossible. But Don Quixote taught me that the impossible is always the preferable. After all to dream the impossible dream, to run where the brave dare not go, to fight the unbeatable foe…..this was my chance to follow my quest no matter how hard, no matter how far. So my horse, my horse guide, Alvin, and I set off.  30 seconds into that horse ride, I was regretting my lack of a better sports bra. But I was determined to be brave.  One our later we arrived at the place where the horses stop because the remainder is too steep for them. I dismounted and thanked my guide for keeping me and my horse from sliding down the mountain. By this time there is no longer any oxygen.  I am feeling dizzy, lightheaded and thinking I’m going to meet Jesus at any moment. Thankfully there was an elderly Incan descendant gentleman selling a special tea made from cocoa leaves that was just the thing for fighting altitude sickness. The guides and Cross-fit 20 somethings assured me this was what I needed to finish the journey. On his table where he dispensed this magical elixir was an old gatorade bottle with clear liquid, a “special liquor” that would assure pilgrims they would indeed make it to the top. We added the recommended drops to our teas and took courage. The final ascent looked perilous but we knew the view would be worth it. So off we went. It was truly wonderful hiking those final steps. That was the part of the journey where all the other pilgrims became your friends. Everyone was encouraging one another with the phrase “puedes hacerlo” which translates to YOU CAN DO IT! This part of the hike required two or three steps forward, then a break. But once we made it to the top, it was all smiles and high fives. Everyone was so grateful to be standing among all that beauty, knowing they had conquered something very difficult indeed. The view was SPECTACULAR and the conversations with fellow pilgrims even better. My heart and lungs were greatly diminished by that point but my eyes could see perfectly fine. And everything I saw good.  Very good indeed. 
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