Saturday, July 25, 2015

Maras, Peru!

The Sacred Valley, Maras village in Peru.
Maras is a town in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, 40 kilometers north of Cuzco, in the Cuzco Region of Peru. The town is well known for its nearby salt evaporation ponds, in use since Inca times. The salt-evaporation ponds are up-slope, less than a kilometer west of the town.
The Maras area is accessible by a paved road, which leads from the main road leading through the Sacred Valley between Cuzco and the surrounding towns. Tourist sites in the area include the colonial church, the local salt evaporation ponds, and the surrounding scenery.
Mountains in Maras, Peru.
Road to Maras, Peru.
Famous salt mines in Peru near Maras, Peru.
Tiobamba Temple, Maras, Sacred Valley of the Incas, Cusco, Peru.
Road to Maras Salt Mines, Peru.
Maras, Peru.
Maras isn't much of a destination in and of itself- the town is dusty and not very tourist friendly. It is notable because one must pass through the town to get to Salineras or Moray, two significant Inca sites.

Salinas Mara en Perú.
Salinas Mara en Perú.
Inca ruins at Moray, Peru.
Inca ruins at Moray, Peru.
Salt ponds ~ Las Salinas de Maras.
Since pre-Inca times, salt has been obtained in Maras by evaporating salty water from a local subterranean stream. The highly salty water emerges at a spring, a natural outlet of the underground stream. The flow is directed into an intricate system of tiny channels constructed so that the water runs gradually down onto the several hundred ancient terraced ponds. Almost all the ponds are less than four meters square in area, and none exceeds thirty centimeters in depth. All are necessarily shaped into polygons with the flow of water carefully controlled and monitored by the workers. The altitude of the ponds slowly decreases, so that the water may flow through the myriad branches of the water-supply channels and be introduced slowly through a notch in one sidewall of each pond. The proper maintenance of the adjacent feeder channel, the side walls and the water-entry notch, the pond's bottom surface, the quantity of water, and the removal of accumulated salt deposits requires close cooperation among the community of users. It is agreed among local residents and pond workers that the cooperative system was established during the time of the Incas, if not earlier. As water evaporates from the sun-warmed ponds, the water becomes supersaturated and salt precipitates as various size crystals onto the inner surfaces of a pond's earthen walls and on the pond's earthen floor. The pond's keeper then closes the water-feeder notch and allows the pond to go dry. Within a few days the keeper carefully scrapes the dry salt from the sides and bottom, puts it into a suitable vessel, reopens the water-supply notch, and carries away the salt. Color of the salt varies from white to a light reddish or brownish tan, depending on the skill of an individual worker. Some salt is sold at a gift store nearby.
The salt mines traditionally have been available to any person wishing to harvest salt. The owners of the salt ponds must be members of the community, and families that are new to the community wishing to propitiate a salt pond get the one farthest from the community. The size of the salt pond assigned to a family depends on the family's size. Usually there are many unused salt pools available to be farmed. Any prospective salt farmer need only locate an empty currently unmaintained pond, consult with the local informal cooperative, learn how to keep a pond properly within the accepted communal system, and start working.
Salinas Mara en Perú.
Peruvian woman in the Maras salt mine.
Famous salt mines in Peru near Maras, Peru.
Salinas de Maras, Peru.
Salinas de Maras, Peru.
Salt bags in Salinas de Maras, Peru.
Hand working down on the Salinas of Maras, Peru.
How to get there:
Buses traveling between Urubamba and Chinchero, including many en route to Cusco, usually stop at the turnoff to Maras, a few kilometers outside of Urubamba. Alternately, one can take a cab to the turnoff from Urubamba for a few soles. At the turnoff, there are usually a few cabs waiting for passengers. You can pay them to bring you into the town, or all the way to Moray ruins.
It is possible to walk or bike to the ruins at Moray, but the most common way is to take a taxi. Rates can be fairly steep, but trying to walk to Moray can be hard because they are easy to miss, as they are all sunken into the ground. It is much easier to walk back, don't be intimidated by the 13 km road trip- the road is very windy, and you are able to walk back in more or less a straight line in an hour or so. The town is clearly visible on the horizon as there is a large white church.
Salineras is best visited by foot, from the center of Maras, follow the road towards the turnoff, a little ways past the church, and keep going straight when the road turns to the right. There will be a dirt path that eventually descends into a canyon, leading to the salt pans.
How to get out from there:
Take a taxi to the highway turnoff and wait for a bus to take you to Urubamba or Chinchero, or pay for them to take you the whole way (though this will be expensive).

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  1. Excellent article and pictures Kally. I would love to travel to Peru one day!

  2. Salkantay trek is the alternative to the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu was recently named among the 25 best Treks in the World, by National Geographic Adventure Travel Magazine.

  3. We did a tour of the city of Cusco and the main attractions of the Inca Empire such as the Sacred valley of the Incas, visit the fortress of Ollantaytambo, the Andean market and the ruins of Pisac, Chincheros. Then walk through the famous Inca Trail to macchu picchu for two days we visit the ruins of wiñaywayna until we reach Machu Picchu.
    It is a trip for travelers who doesn´t have much time and want to spend the night in the town of Aguas Calientes and the next day see the sunrise in the Inca City of Machu Picchu. The main attraction of this touristic package is a beautiful sunrise in Machu Picchu, where you can relax in its thermal waters.

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