Reflections and images from my travels

Maras/Moray and Chinchero

Today’s posting will be relatively short. Unfortunately, I seem to have come down with nausea, fatigue and lack of appetite. I do not know if it was related to something I ate yesterday. I was able to participate in today’s tour, but, felt somewhat compromised at the end of the day so I am going to quickly complete this posting and get to sleep early to see if I can get over this prior to our departure for the much harder trek.

We left our hotel at 8:30 AM with Leo and a new driver and proceeded to Moray.  Moray is a site located on a high plateau consisting of unusual but interesting Inca ruins: several enormous terraced circular depressions, the largest of which is about 30 m (98 ft) deep. The purpose of these depressions is uncertain, but the temperature differences between the top and bottom caused by this type of construction and its sophisticated irrigation system indicate that Moray was perhaps used by the Incas for conducting agricultural experiments. We were able to circumvent the entire structure in order to appreciate its intricacies from all sides.

We hopped back into the van and then proceeded through the town of Maras and eventually reached the salt plateaus jointly owned by the Maras townspeople and another town at the bottom closer to the Sacred Valley. These salt plateaus are owned by individuals from these towns. They are given approximately 10 plots to manage. They can inherit these plots and pass them on to their children only: if they wish to get rid of them in some other way they must give them back to the cooperative who then decides who will farm them. A true cooperative. It also had an extremely interesting and intricate set of mud aqueducts in order to provide the salty spring water to the individual plots. Some of these intricate aqueduct structures may have been first engineered and utilized by the Incas. What an amazing people! We had a very pleasant hike down the one side of the plateau and were able to appreciate how difficult it must be in order to do this work. It takes months of filling up the individual plots and then allowing evaporation to do it’s work. They generally wait until there is between 5 to 10 inches of salt and then they have a special tool to harvest it. 50 pound bags are then filled and have to be carried out manually from some of the plots to storage sheds. A truck then transports these bags to a high point but not to the top. Donkeys are then used as beasts of burden to take the bags the rest of the way back to their town. The salt is world-famous and there is also a pink variety. Anna was able to purchase some.

We found a quicker way back to the main road and then proceeded back towards Cusco. Along the way we spent some time exploring some architectural ruins in the town of Chichero. The people are very friendly and very industrious. They are still completely connected to the land for their agricultural goods and also produce beautiful textiles and other cultural items.

After a nice boxed lunch, we were given a demonstration of the natural insects and plants they utilize in order to get natural dye colours which they then stain sheep’s wool as well as alpaca’s wool with.   The ability to spin thread onto spools is something to behold as well as the actual weaving. This is certainly a very complex and technical art and the native women made it look easy. The demonstration was held at the woman’s cooperative so, of course, we had to buy a few items.

After Chincero we drove back to Cusco and visited the local market. Amazing selection with items too numerous to mention here. Everything you could possibly want was available and the vast majority of it is grown locally. I wish we had such a market. We then walked back to our hotel with Leo. We actually got back early which was a good thing considering how I was feeling.  Anna was going to go to dinner alone tonight and I hope she doesn’t hook up with some sexy Peruvian man!  As it turns out, I needn’t have worried. Before dinner, she decoded to go to mass but only realized at the end it was a funeral mass. She certainly knows how to party! I will be the boring one staying at the hotel trying to recover with some pharmacology, electrolyte solution and hopefully plenty of rest.

Tomorrow is our final tour day in Cusco. We start early at 8 AM and will be touring some of the sites in this amazing mountainous city. It will be a busy day as we have to meet with our tour operator for our pre-trek orientation meeting after the city tour. We then have to repack our gear into smaller bags to take on the trek. Here’s hoping I am feeling up to the challenge.


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