Our Peruvian journey continued in a different way than initially planned. When we arrived from Aguas Callientes at the train station in Ollantaytambo we had to find transportation to Cusco. The entrance of the train station was crowded with drivers trying to attract clients by offering them transport to different places. I then remembered a place I saw on a postcard a few days ago and looked for it in the guidebook. It was Salinas de Maras – the salt ponds located close to the town of Maras in the Sacred Valley. There was also another place we didn’t manage to visit I was thinking of – Moray. This is another archaeological site from Inca times, situated on a plateau at about 3,500 m close to the town of Maras.
So we asked one of the drivers if he could take us to both the salt ponds and Moray and then drive us to our hotel in Cusco. He bargained with Ivo for some time and then they agreed on a price.
Once outside of Ollantaytambo we soon started climbing a hill with the car and reached a spot with a great view over the Valley. Our driver turned out to be working as a tourist guide as well so he was able to share a lot of interesting information with us. Of course, if it was not for Martinka, we wouldn’t have understood a word the driver was saying, since he knew just a few English words.
The landscape was heavenly beautiful with the clear blue sky and its white velvet clouds. I was trying the make videos with my mobile phone, but as the road was too bumpy the videos are also shaky, as you will notice once I upload them :).
Soon we arrived at Moray. After everything we saw the previous days I honestly didn’t expect much. Well, it was fascinating!
The Inca ruins there are much different than those we saw in the other archaeological sites. They consist of several enormous terraced circular depressions. It is not clear what the purpose of these depressions was, but the way they are designed creates a temperature difference of 15 °C between the top and the bottom which leads to speculations about the site being an Inca agricultural experiment station.
On October 8 of each year is performed Moray Raymi festival where hundreds of local residents, neighboring communities and tourists gather at the Moray archaeological site, precisely in its platforms to celebrate and thank the earth for a good harvest. Participants perform folk dances related to land, harvesting and agricultural work.
We passed through the town of Maras, whose inhabitants take care of the salt ponds we were going to. Maras is a small picturesque town with beautiful old houses and a nice small square in the center. Our driver picked the more interesting streets to show us around without losing too much time there. The town felt like a small village – there were almost no people on the streets and it felt as if the town was abandoned. This was probably due to the fact that it was the warmest part of the day, so it was not a big surprise there were so few people on the streets.
In a few minutes we were looking at the salt ponds from the hill top above them. This is where our driver stopped and encouraged us to take some photos. Once we entered Salinas de Maras we could walk around, taste the salty water running through tiny water channels. We also had to be careful not to slip and plop into a pond. On our way back to the car parking we bought some salt from the locals selling small souvenir packs.
We then headed to Cusco where we had booked accommodation in the bohemian neighborhood of San Blas. It is located on the hill behind Plaza de Armas and you should definitely go there only after you have acclimated to the attitude. It will otherwise be an agony. The neighborhood is home of artists and craftsmen, little cute shops to buy handmade jewelry or vintage clothes and accessories from. Stairways were leading to the guest house and it was a challenge to get there with our luggage. The muscle fever we brought with us from Machu Piccu was not helping either. We looked ridiculous especially when climbing down the stairs – 3 broken robots making weird noises with every move.
We enjoyed a pleasant evening walk in the neighborhood with its’ tiny streets where you have to be careful not to be hit by the side mirror of a car passing by.
The view we had from the window of our bedroom was mesmerizing. It was giving us the strength to climb up the hill and enjoy the bird’s eye view over Cusco.
On the next morning we enjoyed a morning coffee at the San Blas square, said goodbye to Cusco and the Sacred Valley, and went to the airport to catch our flight to Lima.