Moray + Salinas, Peru – Inca terraces, salterns, and carnival

Research institute, open-air laboratory or simply field? Some of the famous Inca terraces are located at Moray, but in a very certain shape. Perfect concentric circles (some not less perfect ellipses are also there) are arranged in a huge natural “bowl” like an amphitheatre. The individual terraces are propped up with walls and become smaller down in the bowl. To get from one level onto the other some larger protruding stones were mounted, which serve as a stairway. The terraces have irrigation respectively drainage as well.

My agricultural engineer contradicts the theory that this site was a research institute where the Inca tried to find out which fruit grows best in which elevation. The differences in elevation were too low to support this theory. But we have to admit that there is a special mild micro climate in the depressions. We agree more with the idea that wild plants were domesticated, hybrids cultivated, or plants from warmer climatic zones became acclimatized here. Or plants were grown here that otherwise wouldn’t thrive in this elevation. The circular terraces of Moray are accessible with the complete boleto turistico, the partial boleto for the Sacred Valley, or for 10 PEN single admission fee.

The so-called Salinas are reached from Moray via the village of Maras – all on good dirt roads. Thousands of salterns were constructed by the Inca on a slope to gain salt. A salty hot spring rises from a mountain, is diverted into shallow pools, and evaporates. The salt was originally used for animal licks, but today we can buy it packed in 350-g-bags for 2 Nuevo Soles – more expensive than in the supermarket, though natural. Admission to the Salinas is 5 PEN (S 13°18’14.9’’W 72°09’14.4’’). The carefully built pools with the narrow footbridges and the channels for the salt water belong to the most beautiful sights in the Sacred Valley.

On our way back to Cusco we have a short side trip to the village of Umaspampa close to Laguna Piuray. Usually here are weaving presentations and artisanal markets. But today the village’s population is busy with other matters: February is the month of carnival. A band plays percussion and wind instruments, accompanied by flautists. Two men in women’s clothing dance. They take off one skirt after the other, then the hat, and eventually they have to put back on everything. Their performance suffers slightly from increased alcohol consume – actually the main point of having such a party. In towns and cities people like to throw “bombs” onto inattentive passer-bys, balloons filled with water or flour. Gringos are preferred victims.

After finished round trip we return to the closed Quinta Lala camp ground where manager Milagros awaits us. After the recent rescue operation we have unhindered access to the site.

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