As we arrived late last night, and the town was dark, it was only on our morning walk that we discovered just how much we loved this little town! Surrounded with Inca and pre-Inca ruins and a majestic hillside fortress, we knew we had sold ourselves short on time.
The tiny cobblestone lanes take no vehicles, but the traditional Peruvian dress is prominent. Ladies walk by as if time has stood still. Men gathering firewood sticks from nearby, pass us with their heavy loads. Added to the charm are the thick rock walls, along with the water that rushes by in the gutters. These are from the Inca period. This is how the locals attained water for their homes, crops and animals, and it is an amazing system that still works well. Houses still use the water for all but drinking and cooking.
We decide our budget cannot afford the 70 Soles entry to the fortress, so we head up the hill behind the homes over the rough rocky steps toward the **** ruins. But as we do so, a man and his dog stop us. His name is Mario and for 10 Soles, he offers to be our guide. My son instantly introduces himself as Luigi, and they both laugh!
Mario hikes at a good speed, but gives us plenty of rests. As we stop, he explains to my son about the history, and how the Spaniards and Incas fought here for 160 years. He shows us the grasses they made the roof of their home with.
He then explains they communication system, or the “Facebook and Twitter” of their era. My son loves this. I am so impressed at how he engages him, and the level of learning he seems to be getting. It gels nicely after Machu Picchu yesterday.
We are told all about the fortress. Where they grew their crops for sacrifices, and how all the areas were used.
We see the buildings used for crop storage, and it is all explained in detail. Then we head to where they stored the herbs, and he goes into detail about how they basically had science laboratories at the front to mix the herbs for medicine.
At the end he sits and tells us of other places in the area we should visit.
2 hours later, we are armed with our afternoon agenda. We pay him and tip him and thank him – he is marvellous!
Lunch is at the square, and as we sit and watch the locals go by, I feel I could sit there for a week. I like this little town.
The home-made burritos were more like a pancake, but absolutely gorgeous. The traditional beans, and amazing fillings we could add ourselves were enough for 2 meals. Sadly we leave half – but not before my son has fed the local cat to the brim.
We march back at quite a speed to get our backpack. We get some great information from the hostel on which local buses and the way to go this afternoon. Such lovely people!!
As we walk down our lane, a man invites my son into an old home, that seems to be a make-shift market square inside the courtyard. Inside the traditional home is probably 50 guinea pigs running around the floor. It is actually quite gross to me, but my boy grabs some of the fresh green grass, and has them dancing for their food, which is quite funny. I don’t have the heart to tell him they are probably next week’s dinner!
We find the local collective mini-van just as it is taking off from the market place. They stop and let us in. The door is barely closed and we are off on wobbly fold out seats. In about ½ hour we are at Urabamba. Here we are meant to take a bus, but of course the tax driver tells us there is no bus. I refuse to believe him. And of course, 3 buses down is our bus – yep – taking off. Lying on the ground next to it, is 4 sheep, very much alive and with the hooves bound together. The poor things are lying there helpless, waiting to go on top of a bus.
Now this is a real local bus. It stinks. The BO is almost unbearable and it makes me wonder who sat on the fabric seats. I refuse to be grossed out, but then I look across and filthy nails and hands of the locals are much like a tramp on the street. We take this bus to a local town Maras, and from here we are meant to get a taxi to Moray, the crop rings. But there is no taxi. We are told we have to walk back 4 km to the turn off where the taxi’s wait. No way. I talk to several locals and the best offer I get is a motorbike. So we wait. Fortunately a taxi comes by with an Argentinian girl. She negotiates in Spanish for the driver to take us with her, then take us onto the next place, and then back to the turn-off. I am happy!
We get to Moray and pay our 10 Soles entry. The wind is picking up and by now it is 3:00 pm. He gives us 1 hour to look around. But by 40 minutes we are cold, and it looks like a storm is coming in.
We head then to Salineras. The entry fee here is 7 Soles. When we get there I love it! It is like out of a science fiction movie. This is a pre-Inca salt mining process with hundreds of ponds all curing salt at various stages. We are permitted to walk the edges. My son of course tries to walk ON the salt. We are fortunate he chooses a well set pond, or he would be sinking up to 60 cm down.
Unfortunately my camera battery dies and my son decided to take some silly shots with Photo Booth on his iPad. I am pretty disappointed as I miss out on a couple of really special photos, but he didn’t realise, and was having fun.
We get to bag some salt with the locals, so this was a lot of fun too.
We still had one more town to go, but when we finally arrived back on the main road to take the next collective, we found they were all passing the turn-off full. By the time a van arrives, it is too late for the next town, and we head back to Cuzco.
Had I know how much there was to see, and what we missed out on, I would have possibly scheduled longer, but I am conscious that an 8 year old can only see so many ruins and not start to get bored. But for adults, there is so much to see and do around Cuzco.
We return to Cuzco and it is dark. We grab some food and head back to where we are staying. They are heading out to dinner – we are heading to bed. Three X 5 or 6 a.m. mornings in a row, and I am really stuff. We have a bus tomorrow afternoon that is an overnighter, and frankly, I need my sleep!