Moray, Moras and Marasal Salt Ponds
Sunday, April 17th woke up to an email from a friend about the big earthquake on Ecuador’s coast. No news about it in Yucay, big concern for us! We sent messages to have inquiries made if we should proceed to Guayaquil, Ecuador on Thursday. Our hearts and prayers went out to those affected and still suffering.
Today we had a lovely breakfast at Yucay Hotel, then left at 9 am tour. Much more reasonable hour! We started our day with Coca Tea which is made by steeping the leaves of the Coca plant about 15 minutes. Tastes great, has small stimulant property and is supposed to help with altitude sickness.
Drove thru beautiful high meadow farming country with many families farming and herding sheep as they have done for thousands of years.
1st stop, Moray circle terraces, large circular terraces built in what is believed to be three meteorite landings. I think they could be old volcano calderas. Others believe they were dug out by the Inca’s as a crop laboratory as the temperature changes by over 20 degrees from top to bottom terraces.
Absolutely stunning that the Moray ruins are in such good shape. Prior to being a protected ruin they were still used by farmers and one ring was even used as a bull fighting ring. The circles show evidence that they had spring water directed into each terrace. Sadly, the water no longer flows as it does in Machu Picchu
Protection holding up the terraces
Moray largest circle
A smaller circle off in the distance
Note the flying steps
Beautiful area and we were able to hike all around this area. It is about 11,000 ft at top of the terraces, so we hiked slowly. Great example of flying steps. Inca builders did not waste terrace space with stairways or ramps in most cases. These stones are incorporated into the terrace design to allow ascending or descending the various levels.
Flying step details
Our wonderful guide, Mabine, had a degree in Tourism and was getting a Master’s in Inca Studies. She also shared her knowledge of medicinal plants and herbs as we wandered various sites.
Common name, baby slippers
We had zipped thru the small town of Moras on the way in to beat the crowds and the heat.
Intricate stone work on doorways to houses.
On the way out we stopped to visit the town square. The highlight is a statue which depicts the main attractions in the areas and the church.
Maras Town Square
Statue showing the teraces
Showing the church
Showing the salt ponds
Then to Salinas de Maras, salt ponds, Inca built and still in use today. Over 4,000 ponds still being actively maintained today by individual farming families. Below is the view as we drove up from the Sacred Valley, two views taken from the same spot. The first shows the Rio Urubamba as we looked back at the Sacred Valley. The second shows the thousands of salt ponds all fed by a single stream.
Looking back at the Sacred Valley
Looking toward the Salt Ponds
A family may own one pond or hundreds of ponds. As you can see the most highly prized ponds would be near the entrance to avoid the long hike to take care of the pond and carry up the salt.
The single stream that feeds the pons
A closeup, note the salt along the edges
A top water channel
A rock dam and funnel used to let the water in the pond
A family repairing the pond access
Pictures don’t show the vast area this covers
Since the rainy season was just ending, many pond repairs were being done and only a few ponds actually had salt evaporating. They are the white ponds. During June, July and August the work and harvesting will be in full force. Each cycle takes about six weeks. After all the hard work, the salt is harvested and graded. Pay for the salt is based on purity and grade. A tourist area of shops is near the entrance to the salt ponds.
We parted company from our guide after this tour and went back to our hotel to repack for the trip to Machu Picchu and then toured the town of Yucay on our own. Beautiful hotels and restaurants behind very nondescript entrances.
You may wonder, why repack? Well, at least three trains go to Machu Picchu. A local train, the Vistadome train and the Hiram Bingham train. We were taking the Vistadome, which allows only one small bag. So we needed to pack our day packs for overnight needs and rain gear for our stay in Aqua Caliente and Machu Picchu. Our suitcases were being picked up prior to us getting on the train and would be delivered to our Cuzco hotel for Tuesday night.
Unfortunately, we thought we would get contact information for Mabine back in Cuzco, but as it turns out we did not see her again.
We had a wonderful buffet lunch in town, walked around town and took some time to read our notes on Machu Picchu before our early start on Monday, April 18th.
Tomorrow, my big goal-Machu Picchu!