My second week in Cusco was an absolute blur. My days were consisting of lesson planning, Spanish lessons and then volunteering for the afternoon. I was leaving the house at 10am and not getting back until 7pm, which made it very hard to play tourist! Luckily by Friday night I was free for the weekend and able to experience Cusco. Apart from experiencing the nightlife and exploring the streets of the city by day, there were so many things around Cusco that I was itching to do – one of these was to go to Moray and the salt mine at Maras.
The best way to see these attractions was an ATV tour around the sites, so my housemates C and E booked a tour for Sunday afternoon. We were picked up and driven for an hour and a half into the countryside. It was a beautiful, but windy trip – the roads are loco here in Peru and the drivers aren’t much better! However we arrived safely at the ATV place and got kitted up into our safety gear. Having had a quad bike at home for years, I didn’t need an intro on how to control one of the bikes but we still had to go through all the safety protocol anyway. After a few test runs we were let loose onto the roads, maintaining single file of course!
Riding for about an hour to the first destination, Moray, I was gobsmacked at the scenery. Lush green fields surrounded us and huge mountains loomed in the distance. There’s no doubt about it, Peru is a stunning country full of so many different landscapes. I tried to navigate my bike whilst GoPro-ing but in the end just gave up and enjoyed the view as we drove on. Finally reaching Moray, we bought our turistico boleta (half price because E already had two!) and entered the site.
Moray is an ancient Inca site that consists of several enormous terraced circular depressions with sophisticated irrigation systems. The purpose of the terraces are still unknown, but are believed to have been used by the Incas to study the effects of different climatic conditions on crops. It has been speculated that Moray was in fact an agricultural experiment station, however nothing has been determined. Besides that, it was pretty cool to look at! We stayed Moray for a while checking out the work gone into this ancient Inca site before jumping back on the bikes to our next destination.
After another 45 minutes or so of bike riding and we reached the small town of Maras, where we had a quick stop before heading towards the salt mines. These salt mines have been used since the Inca times and are evaporated from a local subterranean stream. The ponds are almost identical in shape and are no bigger than four metres squared in area and 30cm deep. The formation of the ponds creates an astonishing scene for the eyes and they change colour depending on the skill of the salt mineworker. It was reminiscent of the limestone terraces in Pammukkale, Turkey and I was amazed at the work gone into maintaining this amazing landscape. Having not eaten since the morning, the three of us were ravenous so we indulged in some of the (expensive) chocolate for sale. It did taste delicious but I’m not sure whether that was just because we hadn’t eaten for hours!
The ride back took about 45 minutes and it was nearly dark by the time we got off the bikes. It was surprisingly tiring biking for so long and my hands were sore from clutching onto the accelerator so the trip home was quick one as I passed out pretty much once we got in the van!
Ready for another week of volunteering, learning Spanish and then on Friday we are off to Machu Picchu! Excitement is an massive understatement!