On the way to Urubamba Bill was very taken with the mountain peaks in the distance. We decided to hire a taxi for the next day so he could get some photos, and we could visit some of the sites in the outlying areas.
The viewpoints had an opportunistic group of women wanting everyone to purchase their wares, enticing us with their on-site weaving. Our driver watched me, and when I passed on what was before me mentioned that our first stop, Chinchero, was the place to buy.
There were even tethered llamas off to the side.
Chinchero is a stop with vendors in shops as well as those that lay their offerings on the ground. Our driver led us to what clearly was his liaison in sales, a woman who spoke English and too quickly explained the textile process of alpaca, including the natural dyes. Her main goal, of course, was to get us to buy! We did end up purchasing a cloth and some woven bracelets which we planned on using to identify our suitcases in the airports. The price was brought down when we didn’t immediately decide though we did pay more than our Cusco purchase.
Chinchero is a small village just outside of the Sacred Valley with magnificent views of the Cordillera Vilcabamba and the snow-capped Salkantay mountain. It is believed to have been the mythical birthplace of the rainbow. On Sunday there is huge market here, but we were fine with the smaller version. Chinchero may have been important to the Incas and was, perhaps, a resort. There are many terraces still seen, and a 17th century church built in Incan ruins. Archaeological excavations are going on.
On the way back to the car and driver we stopped by a gentleman etching a gourd with amazing detail and fine artistry. Bill bought one of his small creations.
Next was my favorite place, Moray. Being so different from what I saw decades during my last visit to Peru and what we viewed this time, it just struck me as cool. Moray was used by the Incas as an agricultural experiment station. Each level is one degree different from the preceding. Of particular interest is that the warmest level at the bottom matches the temperature of the coast while the coolest is the local temperature. The curved bottom never floods, and it isn’t known if it is a natural or a man-made consequence.
Next stop, the salt mines! Having arrived from above the site and the road blocking our view, we were quite taken with surprise when our driver stopped to have us get out and peer over the edge.
These salt evaporation ponds have been used since Incan times. The saline water comes from a subterranean stream at a natural spring. It is then channeled to the several hundred ancient pools each with its own single entry. The sun quickly dries the water leaving behind salt crystals. The channel is then closed, the pool dries within a few days, and the salt is scraped from the sides and bottom by the owner, a town resident, and removed. The entrance is re-opened and the process is repeated. Maintenance is a community effort.