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Monday, April 11, 2016

Rainbow Mountain Peru - FlashpackerConnect

Adventure to Undiscovered Lands- Flashpackerconnect.com
Rainbow Mountain, Peru

Learn more on how to book your adventure here FlashpackerConnect

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Mountain Retreat

Green Lake Hut

Brandon and I have done our fair share of hiking- multi-day backpacking trips where we carry all supplies necessary to get us through the trek. We discovered that skimping on food when in the backcountry is the worst thing we could do. We've also learned that while beer is heavy, it is the perfect reward to a long day. I've always loved sleeping in a tent, and having the freedom to go where ever we want, that feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day, after we struggled through the cold or wet, or high elevation... and then we learned how the Kiwis do backcountry.

 N Zed is known for its rugged mountains, its adrenalin filled sports, and its hiking trails, or tramps as they are called here. The country attracts people from all over the world looking to indulge themselves in a few great walks, some stunning scenery, and a track or two of intense mountain biking. Because of this and because the Kiwis are so proud of their land they have developed and maintained the best trail system I have ever seen.

School House Hut 

Liverpool Hut

Trails are set up in a way so that one can hike from cabin to cabin throughout the backcountry for days on end and always have shelter to stay in for the night. Many equipped with a small wood burning stove that doubles as a way to cook. They all contain bunks with plastic (yet comfortable) mattresses, an outside bivy, and some sort of water source, weather it is rain water caught off the roof, or a river near. (The rivers here in New Zealand are the clearest I've ever seen. Water doesn't have to be sanitized, and it is so plentiful, one liter is all we ever carry at a time. When it's gone we fill it from a nearby falls and continue on our way.)

So far we've been lucky enough to have most of these mountain retreats to ourselves. Here's a peak into our "Hut Life"

Mt Brown Hut

Thursday, December 24, 2015

An Epic Catch

You're gonna catch a fish here..

Brandon's words to me after we spotted a huge trout sucking bugs in the pool below. We had stopped for lunch by a river gorge with the most beautiful turquoise water and standing pools that looked atleast 30 feet deep. I watched as the fish darted side to side for food and then reposition itself with every bite. We were maybe 15 feet up on a cliff, there was no way I could land this fish, even if I did hook it. "We'll figure that out later" Brandon said to me. A little apprehensive I lay my cast maybe 10 feet ahead of the fish's nose and let it drift, careful not to spook it. Nothing. Again I try, but unsuccessful. I pull my line up and change the bug while I myself am getting eaten alive by sandflies, a small black bug that leave a welt the size of a pin head but itches over the course of two weeks and then turns to a scar (I never did learn to not scratch). Once again I throw my line in front of the fish and let it drift, but this time the fish darts to the side, and I see his mouth open as he takes my nymph. I set the hook, and smash my foot behind a branch hoping I don't lose my balance. The fight is on for the biggest fish of my life. All I can think to myself is please don't lose this fish.

Ten minutes go by and I'm still high on the gorge cliff, playing the fish as he shoots deep into the pool. I feel brandon behind me brush an army of sandflies off me, I'm definitely loosing that battle right now, but I don't care, I'll deal with the welts later. I finally tire the fish, and Brandon has been gone for a while now, searching for a way down to the water. With a little team work and a lot of luck, we make our way down to the waters edge, I could've sworn that was a gift from god. How on earth did we find our way down here?! With adrenaline pumping through my body I'm on hyper mode and I can't stop shaking, we nearly fall into the river, camera, rod and all, and I still haven't pulled out my fish. I take a breath calm my nerves, and reach for the fish, got him! SHIT the rod! Down in the water it goes. The colorful rainbow stares at me bug eyed, still stunned by the battle. I recompose, salvage the rod, and pose for a few pictures before releasing the beautiful beast back to his waters.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

How Not to Enter Bolivia

In our experience of traveling thus far, we have had very few problems with boarder crossings. Whether we fly in or enter via bus, Americans typically get in with out fuss. Bolivia was another story. Being unprepared for our upcoming "adventure" we hop on to our bus from Peru to Bolivia, making sure we were of course with a reputable company that would't rob us or take us somewhere we didn't want to go (yes that happens). After a one hour ride on a somewhat smooth but windy road we approach the area to stamp out of Peru. Piece of cake. I show my passport, give the officer a smile and I'm out in a flash. Now all I need to do is walk the half mile to the Bolivian boarder and get stamped in. I hurl my bag over my shoulders and take off on the road lined with stalls selling trinkets and souvenirs, and a lot of food. Brandon and I stop and grab a bite to eat just as we step into Bolivia as we were so excited to try some new Bolivian cuisine. This was the first and unfortunately not the last time we ate Bolivian street food; enter food poisoning..

Joining the line to get stamped in we are approached by an officer that asked if we were Americans. "Yes" we reply sheepishly unsure of why that matters. He pulls us out of line and tells us to wait in the corner. We do as told and wait for the next 20 minutes. After no one new approaches us, we go to find help. Thankfully we see some other Americans who were just stamped in, indicating to us the numerous documents they showed the immigrations officer, my eyes grow wide as I realize we have none of these.

We get back in line and are pulled out again, this time put in a new line where other Americans were just finishing the process. It's now my turn and I cowardly step up to the officer and give the best "Hola, Como esta!" I can. He takes my passport, unamused and asks for my documents (onward flight ticket, hotel reservation, copy of passport, copy of yellow fever vaccination...). I pull out my phone with an old hotel reservation on it hoping he won't notice, but he won't even give it a glance. "Must be printed" strike one, I think to myself. "Ticket for onward flight" he states, again looking for additional documentation. I try to explain (in Spanish) that I'm not leaving the country via plane, which is why I don't have an onward ticket. He scours at me "no ticket no entry." strike two. By this time I'm more than frazzled, digging in my bag looking for something I know isn't there, shaking a bit uncontrollably. I try to compose and attempt to ask what I'm supposed to do, but emotions take over and I break down. We can't be stranded here; there's no lodging, no transportation, we were literally in the middle on nowhere! Shit. Again, attempting to speak in between crys, I plead with the officer, now in English, hoping he'll take pity on me. I start getting money out. Maybe he'll see that I have money and he'll let me in. However trying to bribe your way in is useless when you only have enough cash to cover the cost of the Visa. strike three.

Without going into more detail we did finally make it into Bolivia, via a lot of tears, and somehow sympathy from an unamused immigrations officer... and we were welcomed into the country with the worst case of travelers diarrhea we have ever had.  

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Rainbow Mountain, Peru- A Walk into the Unknown

Rainbow Mountain Peru
Take this tour with FlashpackerConnect Rainbow Mountain "Vinicunca" 

We traveled throughout Peru for a full month. Longer than we expected with our limited time in South America, but not nearly enough to cover everything. We explored the city of Lima, the mountains in Huaraz, the area of Cusco, and the Sacred Valley of Machu Picchu. We spent nearly half that time trekking in the Andes mountains and exploring the vast landscape. Our most recent trek was the Ausangate Trek. Traditionally done in 5 days circumnavigating the massive Ausangate Peak, a sacred mountain for locals as it is the largest in the area.

Ausangate trek Peru

After reading bits and pieces of this trek on line, I stumbled upon a picture of what I can only describe as a rainbow in the mountain. This soon became an obsession for me to find out where the mountain was and how we could get there. Knowing that it was close-ish to the trek we were planning, but not able to find any information online we were at a loss. We were so close, we just had to go see this mountain. We went in to guide shops, scanned social media, and still came up empty handed. Now with one day before we were to take off, we stumbled upon a distorted map of an old trail. Having somewhat of an idea where the mountain was we made some notes on the map and took off.


Rainbow Mountain Peru
Rainbow Mountain
Every adventure seeker dreams of an undiscovered land. A place that is off the beaten track, where you get away from it all, but is there such a place anymore?

Vinicunca Mountain (Rainbow Mountain) in Peru is one of these places where travelers have yet to discover. A secret that has been kept so well there is no information about it.

The journey will take you minimum 6 days to complete. A high altitude adventure that will keep you begging for oxygen as you strut above a constant 14,000 feet. You cross 5 passes ranging between 15,000 and 17,000 feet. You pass thousands of roaming alpaca and llama. You walk through beautifully diverse landscape that changes daily from snow capped peaks, to neon red desert mountains, to marshy pampas. The real reward however is when you arrive at the painted hills hidden deep in the Andes. Resembling a rainbow, this mountain will require extreme route finding, harsh camping conditions, and a strong determination, but it will not leave you disappointed.

Want more? You are rewarded on the first day and last with a relaxing soak in natural hot springs and the best part is you will be on a trail that gets very few visitors each year. This is a destination not to be missed for any adventure seeker.

The Journey:

The start of the trek we were instantly greeted by herds of alpaca and llama, starting around noon we only hiked a few hours before the clouds came with uninvited rain and we set up camp for the night. Content that we were stationed right next to a hot springs we waited out the rain and enjoyed some coca tea to stay warm before enjoying a nice long soak to prepare our muscles for the extreme days ahead.

Ausangate trek

Day 2 we prepared our less than desirable Peruvian oatmeal. Everyone always says, "when you're on the trail it really doesn't matter what you're eating as long as you have food" well in this instance, that's not the case, and unfortunatley we brought two large bags of it... our only morning substance for the next 5 days. We fueled our bodies out of shear necessity and took off to conquer our first pass of the journey. We continued on for the next few hours with Ausangate mountain in full view, passing deep blue lakes, and transferring into a desert-like landscape.

Ausangate Trek

Ausangate trek

Day 3 was "The day" the day we were to find the rainbow. Preparing for a difficult day ahead, (and high hopes of finding what we were looking for) we were up early, fixed our oats and took off a few hours earlier than usual. First thing ahead of us was a steep climb up a daunting 16,000 foot pass, over 1500 feet of elevation gain in less than a half a mile. Steadily, we make our way up taking frequent breaks to marvel at the snow capped peaks behind us while chunks of ice the size of a car break off and plummet into the glacial tarn below. One step after another we again pass herds of alpaca, and we traipse over lavender colored sand; already it feels as though we are in a different world, but it's only a precursor of what is to come.

At the top of the pass we grab for our map to have another look. Every few minutes it seems we stop to check our map to make sure we are on the right track, and gasp for more oxygen.

Rainbow Mountain Peru

We make our way through the lush green valley and begin to climb our second 16,000 foot pass for the day, hoping the whole way that this was the pass we needed. Three hours later we reach the top, and a rush of emotions stream through my veins. We could see it. The mountain we were looking for. It exists, and it was only a few hours with in reach. Not that it was going to be an easy task to get there though, we still had many miles and a deep valley in standing in our way.

We made our way down the side of the mountain covered in dark red sand and scree, half way sliding to a small lake. We relaxed, reloaded with water, and chomped down some peanut butter tortillas. It was still before noon, and very few clouds in the sky. On an adrenaline high, from our discovery, we took off again for the ultimate view of the rainbow.

When we finally arrived at Vinicunca I was again overwhelmed with emotions. It was better than I could have ever imagined and it was just us and the Andes. Surrounded by a splattering of neon reds, electric yellows, and soft blues. It was as though it shouldn't exist in reality - as if Dr. Seuss created it himself. We sat there in silence awed by the beauty that exists in this world, and stunned that so few travelers have ever been here.

Rainbow Mountain Peru
Rainbow Mountain "Vinicunca"

Rainbow Mountain Peru
Rainbow Mountain "Vinicunca"

The rest of the trek was nothing short of a backpackers dream. We crossed four more passes, slept under a sky crowded by stars and colors from the milky way, swam in some beautiful (yet cold) lagoons, and didn't see a another trekker until the last day where we again rested our muscles in a natural hot springs.

Brandon and I have seen some amazing things and been on a lot of adventures, but this is one that we will never forget. A journey to the secret, painted hills of the Andes mountains where we walked into the unknown. What will your next adventure be?

NOTE: If you would like to take a day trip to the Rainbow Mountain or a multi day trek on the Ausangate visit www.flashpackerconnect.com for more information or email flashpackerconnect@gmail.com to book a tour. You are now able to get to this amazing place on a day trip from Cusco, Peru. Have fun!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Do What Makes You Happy

After a long sabbatical away from writing Brandon and I have finally sat down to relax again and reflect on our travels. Asia was an incredible adventure with wonderful food, people, scenery, and culture but it was time to move on. We learned alot about ourselves and what is most important. We have achieved already what we set out to do in the first place, and that was to discover a new way of thinking, explore how others live, and stretch our bodies both physically and mentally.

When we first set out on our adventure, I knew that traveling wouldn't always be like a vacation, however I never realized how unglamorous parts of it would be. We have trekked through monsoons, spent hours searching for a bed in 100 degree heat, with everything we own on our backs, endured 15 hour bus rides, and have gone to bed hungry. However, the negatives of traveling don't even begin to compare to the amazing memories we have made.

I often get told "you're lucky to be able to travel like this" and I can't help but think to myself that luck has nothing to do with it. Brandon and I decided after months and months of happy hours out in Seattle (the best way to come up with a plan), that we would make this dream a reality. and while I don't need to go into the details again, we made it happen. We planned. We saved. We worked.

I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and try a new path, see what happens. Life is full of surprises. For Brandon and I, we like the adventure of change, of the unknown. Predictability is nice, comfortable, and easy, but if you really think about what your dreams are, what you've always wanted to do, is it what you're doing now? If it is, I commend you, but if it's not, take that leap of faith and see what happens, the unknown is not as bad as you may think.