Adventures in Peru – Part Four

Introduction

SGW is grateful to have received the next installment of Allen’s Adventures in Peru. In this part he visits:

Cusco, the Maras Salt Mine and Machu Picchu

Cusco

After Rainbow Mountain, we took some time to appreciate Cusco. In the south of Peru, at 11000 feet above sea level, Cusco was the former capital of the empire of Sun. It is the gateway to the sacred valley and the long-lost city of Machu Picchu.

The rise of the Inca empire is shrouded in myth. According to local legend, as mentioned earlier, the children of Inti, the sun god, arose from Lake Titicaca, and one of these sons, the first Inca ruler founded the sacred city of Cusco.

Temple of the Sun
Santo Domingo monastery, which used to be the sacred Inca Temple of the Sun

We wandered over to The Temple of the Sun ( Coricancha in Quechua ) it was the most revered temple in Cuzco and throughout the Inca Empire, dedicated to the sun god Indi.

It is hard now to imagine that its walls and floors were once covered in pure gold, and the adjacent courtyard was filled with golden statues. The Spaniards reported “unbelievable beauty”, and of course, took it all.

Spanish colonists demolished the temple and used its foundations to build the Santo Domingo Monastery and Church on its site. The cathedral was severely damaged by a major earthquake, but the Inca stone walls of huge, tightly interlocking stone blocks still stand. According to historians, these stone walls took a few generations to build, as the average life span was 35 years old at the time. There were quite a few interesting paintings as well.

Just imagine, when the Spanish arrived, all these areas, the walls, the temples and streets, the numerous statues were covered in gold, if not actually made from gold
The Maras Salt Mine

Afterward, we drove to the Maras salt mine.

Driving to Maras Salt Mine, still over 10000 feet, yet the backdrop Andes mountains are way higher
We stopped for lunch at this beautiful mountain Villa
The setting of the restaurant merged beautifully merge into the surrounding nature
The musician playing Peruvian melodies
The alpaca in the garden

The mine has existed for over 500 years, where thousands of shallow pools are filled with salt water. Eventually, the water evaporates and what is left is crystalised salt.  The water channeled through them comes from a subterranean natural spring, which is mixed with salt deposits from prehistoric salt lakes over millions of years old. Because of COVID, tourists are banned from entering the crystallised pond area due to contaminants found in the salt.

The Maras Salt Mine used to allow tourists inside. But one group of selfish tourists decided to make camp and polluted the mine well. They were caught and the Peruvian authorities threw the book at them, They were sentenced to 13 years in a Peruvian jail.
It’s over 500 years old and is still producing salt

At night, we checked into Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel which is built along the Vilcanota riverbank, on the lands of an old 17th-century colonial hacienda. The hotel has rooms decorated in colonial style. An absolutely gorgeous hotel.

That night we checked into the unique Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel
An absolutely gorgeous hotel, both day and night

The hotel had one of the biggest rooms I have ever stayed in.

We walked out to the garden that peacocks, parrots, alpaca, and many wild birds call home

Then it was time to get ready for tomorrow and Machu Picchu.

Getting to Machu Picchu

Today is the day for Machu Picchu. The weather forecast predicted morning rain, so we took our time at the hotel and fully enjoyed watching the abundant birds in the trees. Leaving late in the morning, we drove for about an hour to the train station.

Continuing our journey to Machu Picchu, sometimes it was a wild open plateau, other times, it narrow street passing through small villages.

In order to control the volume of tourists, everyone has to use public trains and buses to access Machu Picchu. And all tourist tickets have to be verified with a passport. The reception is interesting. We were told to wait at a bar/waiting room, when the time came for us to board, a band of staff in their native costume would come, conch blowing, banner waving, and parade us into the station which was about 100 meters away.

We were escorted by a band of natives, conch blowing, banners waving, to travel down to the train

 

The train was clean and comfortable. It took us nearly two hours to get to the other end. Traveling along the Urubamba River with high mountains on both sides. The scenery during this part of the journey changed dramatically. The foothills of the Andes transform into a lush cloud forest. There was onboard entertainment. The conductors dress up and perform a short show and dance.

On the two-hour ride, the conductors dressed up and perform a little show for us

Arriving Machu Picchu Station in Aguas Calientes. Getting to the bus station. We have to wade through a maze of street vendors. Again ticket and passport waving, and once on the bus, the ride is exciting. It zig-zagged up the steep mountain. At one point we passed by some unusual accomodation.

We saw some new style accommodation, alpine capsules. You have to actually rock climb to get up there. The view must be superb, there’s a long waiting list to book one. My only question is, how do they deal with the toilet issue?

At every turn, we could see where we started, it went on for about 15 minutes, then it leveled out, and we were ready to see the famous Machu Picchu.

The starting point, Aguas Calientes. When we boarded a bus for our last leg to Machu Picchu
The bus climbed and climbed, zig-zagging up the mountain for nearly 20 minutes
From the bus terminal, we hiked for about 15 minutes, then this greatest civilisation in human history just popped out at us

We humbly approached the cradle of one of the greatest civilisations in history, ready to explore the awe-inspiring legacy of the Incas. The hike started with uphill walking with high stone steps. Each step took a lot of effort. Luckily I had stayed at over 10000 feet for nearly a week now, so altitude sickness was not an issue. Then, turning one final corner, was Machu Picchu right in front of our eyes. Their tourist control arrangements are quite clever. They have several platforms layering one on top of the others, so it created a lot of viewpoints for everyone.

We couldn’t help but notice how quiet the place is
Some photos of Machu Picchu

The tour is in one direction only. No disposable water bottles, no selfie sticks, no walking sticks (except for the elderly), no big backpacks, no toilet facilities, and everyone has to be accompanied by an authorized guide. And every permit is only good for two hours.

There is so much to learn about the place. The Incas did not have a written language, so no one know exactly why, who, and what about this place. About 15 minutes into the tour, it started raining. The place is naturally quiet, so, we walked silently in this ancient land, with the light rain gently falling on our ponchos, thinking about how those ancient people lived. It’s all so romantic.

 

According to our guide, 70% of what we saw is original. Two hours went by quickly. We took the bus and train back to Sacred valley for a late dinner.

Many found the hike at 8000 feet tough. But for me, being at over 10000 feet for a week now, I didn’t find any difficulty.

On the way back, we noticed the police were setting up roadblocks. As it turned out, the authorities closed down Machu Picchu and the surrounding area for two days immediately after our visit due to a local strike. A lucky star was still with us that day.

As we are leaving, the police were setting up roadblocks and closed the area for two days. Many were stuck, and some had to hike for two days along the train track to get out
Conclusion

As always, SGW is very grateful to Allen for his excellent comments and photos. The situation in the country certainly seemed to be catching up with him and his party and it was an indication of his perseverance that he continued.

We look forward to his continuing adventures.

Thank you for visiting Stewart Goes Walkies. I hope you enjoyed this post. Please feel free to leave a comment and, if you would like us to publish an adventure of yours, you can contact us here:

 

 

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Published by stewartgoeswalkies

Happily married man to a wonderful lady. Living in Hong Kong. In my younger days I enjoyed hiking, camping and rock climbing. I've trekked in the Himalayas and climbed Mt. Kinabalu in East Malaysia.

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