Mountain Spirit

Hong Kong-based travel specialist Tico Liu has a love affair with hiking trails. This issue he talks about hiking to Peru’s acclaimed Rainbow Mountains, hiking essentials, and why the slow road is often the best route.

 

What are the some of the places you’ve enjoyed trekking?

Kilimanjaro was one of the most exciting because at night you can hear predators near the camp. At Mt Kinabalu I enjoyed a beautiful sunset at the mountain lodge, above a sea of clouds; and I remember Poon Hill in Nepal as the first place I glimpsed the Himalayas. Bumthang Bhutan was also special as it was where I did my first overnight trekking; although the Rainbow Mountain (Ausangate Trek) of Peru wowed me the most and has been my most memorable trek so far.

You had planned to do the Inca trail, what changed your mind?

A picture of the Rainbow Mountain was quite persuasive. The landscape is surreal and after talking to a guide who had done the Inca Trail before, I’m glad I changed my mind.

You’ll pass beneath snow-capped mountains, around a glacier lake, and across lush meadows, spying vicuna, alpaca, cranes, and if you are lucky, condors, foxes, or even mountain lions.
 
 

How many days was the hike?

We managed to hike at a leisurely pace and complete the route in four days and three nights.

What can you tell us about your experience hiking the Rainbow Mountains?

The route takes hikers up and down through several passes surrounding Ausangate, a mountain in the Vilcanota range, part of the Peruvian Andes. You’ll pass beneath snow-capped mountains, around a glacier lake, and across lush meadows, spying vicuna, alpaca, cranes, and if you are lucky, condors, foxes, or even mountain lions. You’ll experience four seasons in one day during the Ausangate Trek.

What were your lasting impressions?

Probably the feeling of having the mountain all to ourselves. We only saw two other travellers along the route. I’d not encountered such isolation on the trail since trekking Bumthang in Bhutan. I usually travel solo for most of my trekking trips, but for the Ausangate Trek I went with a group of friends, two of whom used the trip as an opportunity to get engaged. It was snowing really badly that day, and as we were approaching camp, my friend got down on one knee and proposed. Despite the foul weather she said yes. It was really special.

What tips do you have for travellers who’d like to trek in your footsteps?

Some people opt to do a day trip from Cuzco and just see the Rainbow Mountains but I wouldn’t recommend it as you need to go up from 3,200m to 4,600m in half a day and you will miss the surreal scenery along the trail. Camping will give you more flexibility on your daily progress as you won’t have to “race with the time” to reach your overnight lodge.

What essentials do you take on hiking trips?

I always have a camera with me, as well as a water bottle, moisturiser because it can get dry at high altitude, and sometimes a walking stick if the terrain is rough.

Where do you want to go to next?

I’d like to hike up to Everest Base Camp in Nepal.

 

Connect with Tico at tico@countryholidays.com.hk