Saturday, October 06, 2012

Peru: Salineras de Maras; Moray
Today was a 5 hour trip through the town of Chinchero to the Salineras de Maras (Maras Salt Mines) just outside of Moray and then to Moray where they have some terraces built in half circles that they used for agricultural experiments. More about that later. Of course as with every tour we have gone on, the guide stops at a series of vendors selling whatever they can sell to tourists. So we stopped just outside of Chinchero on the pretext that some of us might have to use the bathroom and while we are there, the indigenous women will show is how they clean and dye the wool from alpacas (that was so three days ago) but we sat and watched anyway. After that, we browsed through the vendors who were basically all selling the same things so it was the luck of the draw which one got the business. We ended up buying two alpaca sweaters for Robin for 100 soles (less than $50) for both. Of course we could have bought the one they were selling on Peru Rail last night for USD$130.

Salineras de Maras (Maras Salt Mines)
We arrived at the salt mines to incredible heat – scorching, to be precise. I used my umbrella because even with a hat, the sun is too hot. We walked down about 100 steps (there are steps everywhere here so you don’t need much more exercise when you are done for the day) to the actual mine which is outdoors.
The salt mines are very interesting. Geologists are not sure exactly where the salt water comes from but the way it’s mined dates back to the Inca period and the same methods are still used today. The town council gives every male who turns 18 a plot of space to mine for salt. Women do not get any and the rationale is that they want to maintain the traditions of the ancient culture and women were not given plots in those times. Hmmm…. Not sure I agree with that but hey, I don’t live here so I am going along with what the guide said. The salt mine takes up about 5 square kilometers and each little section is about 3 x 4 metres. There is an irrigation system that feeds each family’s plot. The plot is filled up with the salt water flowing from who knows where. Then the water is left to evaporate over several weeks (4-8 depending on the weather). The first set of salt is removed and used for cattle and the second set is the better grade that is used for human consumption.

When asked why the salt is not being mined by more contemporary methods, the guide explained that this way is a means of employment for the people of that village as well as a huge tourist attraction so they are happy to keep it that way. We could not spend more than a few minutes there because with the reflection from the heat of the sun and the reflection from the white salt ponds, it was too hot to stay any longer.
Then off we went to Moray which was about 30 minutes away. By the time we reached there, the wind was gusting to about 60-70kms per hour and the temperature had dropped by about 15 degrees so needless to say, it was extremely chilly. I took a couple of pictures and the guide asked who wanted to go down to the bottom to see the semi-circles. I learned from going to Machu Picchu that looking from the top was much better than looking from the bottom so I took a couple of pictures and declined going down another 100 metres to the bottom in gusting wind and on a very unstable looking gravel path. I had so much grit in my mouth by that time that I could not envision having to come back up in a dust storm. So we went back to the van and it promptly started to rain. I can tell you, I was glad I was not down at the bottom of the rings. Anyway the story about the semi-circular terraces is that the Incas used the area for agricultural experiments and they grew many crops there because of the micro climate which is anywhere from 10-15 degrees hotter from the top. I should have gone down if only to warm up but having to climb up that dusty path again was not appealing so better to wear my jacket than eat dust for the remainder of the trip.    

We came back to Cusco and decided to have a late lunch. Guess where? If you guessed the place where Robin had that giant lamb's leg for lunch, then you would be correct. Guess what we ordered? If you guessed lamb again, you'd be correct a second time. But this time we were smart. We ordered one meal and shared it. Now I know some of you might be reading this and saying: "But she doesn't eat lamb." But this lamb had little or no woolly smell making it okay to eat. I do have to say however, that I am not likely to be doing that anytime soon because I am getting the residual after effects from burping lamb several hours later. We came back and had a quiet evening just catching up on emails and Skyping family - or at least those at home. I'm signing off for tonight. Tomorrow it's off to the Sacred Valley for the day including a buffet lunch. I hope I can stay awake in the afternoon. We leave at about 8 and return about 6:30 or 7pm. On such a day, in fact any day, we have to dress in layers - t-shirt, sweater, shawl, jacket and in our backpack, rain coat and umbrella and in any given hour, we'll be wearing, discarding and wearing most of them. That's all ready for tomorrow so now it's just to get a good night's sleep which has not really happened since we arrived.
By the way, if you're reading, you can let me know by posting a comment or two. Till tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. It's 12.20 am here in Orlando and just finish reading your blog, while the weather is hot as you describe you may not complain too much since when you return home get ready to face very cold maybe snow weather, then you will really miss the warm weather. love when you bring in your childhood day experiences like in your previous blog when writing about your present experience it is like reading a novel.


Please leave a comment. I love to read them.