Part Two: Ollantaytambo, Salineras de Maras, Moray, and Pisac
We returned to our favorite place in the Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo. The train arrived from Machu Picchu and we had one more day here. Not nearly enough time as we would’ve liked to spend in this wonderful place, but we were happy to be back.
Can you see Wiracochan (or Tunupa) a 140 m. (460 ft.) high face sculpted in the mountain? It’s just to the right of what looks like a landslide, about two-thirds down. He was believed to be a man of superhuman powers, a master of time, an astronomer, and a preacher of knowledge. (Boy, do we need him here today!)
In the evening we walked back to our Airbnb, when all of a sudden, Patrick stopped in his tracks and said, “Look!” I couldn’t believe my eyes. The sky was covered with stars, but not just any stars. Stars I had never seen before. I’m pretty good at spotting constellations and other well known heavenly bodies in the Northern Hemisphere, but here in the Southern half, I was at a loss. Patrick and I stood there admiring the night sky in awe as locals passed us by without barely a glance upward. I had always wanted to see the Southern Cross, Sirius, and Alpha Centauri, and now here I was looking at them. If you don’t believe how amazing the sky is in the Southern Hemisphere, Professor Neville H. Fletcher, an emeritus professor at Australian National University, once said: “…God, in creating the universe, perversely located all the most interesting regions of our galaxy in the Southern Hemisphere…” You can read this interesting blog post here.
The following day, we headed to Cusco, but not before we took a private side tour of the salt mines in Salineras de Maras and the archaeological sites in Moray and Pisac. Each place required some climbing, but after our adventure to the top of Montaña Machu Picchu, everything was a breeze. As always the view from place to place was spectacular and breathtaking. We had our driver stop several times just to admire the mountain scenery and snap a few photos.
At the salt mine in Maras, you can walk between the salt pools, but I warn you – you need to have good balance because the dividers are narrow and uneven. I’ve got good balance, yet there were a few times when I was afraid I was going in for a salty dip. Not good when you’re wearing all black. Patrick is the opposite of me, his balance is not his forte, so he treaded lightly.
In Moray we ventured down to the bottom of this site. It doesn’t look that deep, but the difference is 30 m (98 ft.) and speaking of differences, the temperature varies from the top to the bottom by 15° C (27° F). A big difference. Archaeologists aren’t sure what these circular tiers were for, but they believe it was used to develop varieties of corn and other crops to adapt to different temperatures and elements like the wind.
Maya Muses: We finally made it to Cusco and had a wonderful view as we arrived. The city is shaped like a puma, one of the three Inca spiritual symbols along with the condor and the serpent. We had heard and read so much about this vibrant city, we were looking forward to spending the next several days here.
Photo Credits: All personal photos except for the starry sky.