Words: Nahum Gale
Photos: Bailey Jeffery
Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what is on the other side?
Alas, dear reader, for I have hit a reasonless void. In my attempts to articulate quaint phrases and fragile terms to describe the sheer beauty of a natural phenomenon, I have continued to fall flat. Of the mountains I have hiked, the rivers I have waded, the jungles I have trekked, the desert oasis I have dreamt, the canyon I have observed and the oceans I have sailed, none of which have bore closely enough the atmospheric qualities of the rainbow mirage I witnessed fall to the Peruvian earth.
Its end was nigh. The rainbow had a resting place. Right here. Right here on earth.
Maybe a distant memory, or fantasy, we once spoke of as children, that a rainbow’s end was always, but never, in sight – quite simply uncharted. For the rainbows we observed in the skies, post a storm, would replicate the inner beauties of Mother Nature and her fantasia. Regrettably, as the rainbow would curve and die in a horizon so distant, its end would coil and wither in a fantasy world, separate to the laws of biology, flirting with the supernatural. For we could never find the rainbow’s end, due purely to its inexistence… or at least that is what I was led to consider. I believed Gaea’s lie, that the resting place of her rainbow resided offworld, unreachable by humans, like an untouched valley regaining a somewhat purity. See, I believed it – I believed it all – until a very fortunate trip, a many moons ago, to the distant land of Peru where I discovered the rainbow’s truth. Its end was nigh. The rainbow had a resting place. Right here. Right here on earth. A location where fantasy became nature, where nature was a fantasy, and where heaven may have existed for all of eternity before our very eyes…
The location in question I speak of so dearly is Vinicunca, the Mountain of Seven Colours or, more commonly perceived as, Rainbow Mountain.
Rainbow Mountain was truly the end of the rainbow; Mother Nature’s perfected fantasy.
Three hours outside the cobbled streets of Cusco, residing in the Red Valley that bleeds its titular rose over an atmospheric mountainside, Vinicunca emerges. A recent discovery in the outer rims of the Cusco region, Rainbow Mountain is a thing of fantasies. It is a miraculous land, so still, you may believe on your initial visit that the Bifrost deposited you upon the distant confines of Mars. In fact, I still find myself convinced that the cosmic bridgeway had transported myself to a land beyond time and space. A red planet, fallen silent for a millennium, only now finding its voice. For if a Martian approached me as a guide, I would neglect the doubletake. And to further the case of the Valley’s unearthly disposition, its denial of healthy breaths truly indicated its existence out of orbit.
Rainbow Mountain was truly the end of the rainbow; Mother Nature’s perfected fantasy. Situated high above sea level, ranging at about 5200 metres, it was easy to see the planet as merely a canvas for nature’s elegant brush. Strokes of turquoise would kiss streaks of lavender as maroon barricaded the overpowering of red and gold. I would say it was breathtaking, but refuse to dabble in an ironic tongue. To say the least, of all my grand adventures and travels to unfathomable corners of this fragile globe, nothing quite alarmed me as this interlude of colour.
The gods were to thank as I gathered with locals atop the breathless curvature of hills. Every step we took and words we spoke felt in servitude to the mountain’s heart, beating regardless of its creation. For the reason the rainbow’s end has remained uncharted for years at a time was due to ice caps that once caked its summits. The ever-changing environments of our broken world led to the bleeding of ice, dripping down slopes and the eventual revelation of an undressed beauty. For what we stood upon at that moment was a sedimentary skin resembling the stardust of a whole other cosmos. A miracle mineralogy that, dare say I, I could never truly explain.
But a miracle nonetheless. An environmental treasure trove. A hidden opal implanted within the earth. For here, nature became fantasy, fantasy was nature, and the cliched term of “heaven on earth” met its materialisation. Regards, dear readers, to marvel at nature’s imaginative ends, look no further than Rainbow Mountain; the other side we dreamt could never truly exist.