Our last reward from our Ollantaytambo visit was a tour to the nearby sites of Moray (Muray in Quechua) and Maras. Most tour companies offer to give you a 3-4 hour tour. But that's ridiculously short! We got a driver that gave us a 5 hour tour (or maybe even longer?) and that was more than perfect, giving us ample time to just soak it all in.
But first, as was the case with our trip to Ollanta from Cusco, getting there was half the fun! The road from Ollanta to Moray was stunning! Mountains, valleys, glaciers... Gorgeous! Some images were almost out of a Chinese painting!
So, our first stop, Moray. Crazy weird place. Remember the terraces we had seen at Ollanta? Well, take that to an aesthetic extreme. Some very powerful Inca ruler must have had this crazy idea, because this must have taken lots of planning and work! This site, at 3500m above sea level, has a number of circular concentric terraces on various levels. Theoretically, the temperature difference, thanks to sun, wind and whatnot between the top and bottom terraces could reach up to 15º C. So some people speculate that this was some sort of agricultural experiment, for testing what crops would grow best where.
Whatever its real function was, and the real motivation behind its building, this place is really sci-fi like. Plus, the setting with those gorgeous mountains all around? Superb.
After Moray we headed to the second crazy spot of the day: the salt-evaporation ponds of Maras. These existed already in Inca times, by the way. They have proved so profitable, both for the salt and as a tourist attraction, that they have multiplied rapidly, leading to this very strange landscape...
The different hues of the ponds, which depend on what stage of crystallization the salt is in, makes for a fantastic spectacle. And, yet again, the setting just added to the beauty of the place.
Of course, since this salt is created by evaporation, it also crystallizes at the borders of the ponds, over the sides of them, around the canals that carry the water... By the way, that's some very salty water! Naturally, I had to stick my finger in one of the small streams, right? You were not allowed to stick anything in the ponds, but the little water-carrying canals were fine. Anyhow, so salty. So, so, so salty! Oh, and climbing up to leave the place, we got splashed by a small – and also salt-dense – waterfall. Minutes later our clothes were covered in white splotches! LOL
By the end we were exhausted. With the sun rising so early, it doesn't really matter how early you leave your guesthouse for exploring, soon you'll find yourself under the most unrelenting sun... But that didn't stop us from buying some salt, some chocolate with salt, and some chocolate with coca leaves (this last one – not so tasty).
The drive back to Ollanta was, unsurprisingly, stunning as well.
And with this I'm done with Ollanta. Our next stop was the most famous of all Inca ruins: Machu Picchu!