Machu Picchu, Salinas de Marais y Moray

Trip Start Oct 25, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Peru  , Cusco,
Monday, October 29, 2012

28/9/12. A full day off in Cusco to explore and adjust to the altitude.. I am feeling much better. This altitude training better be doing me good. I booked a trip to Salinas de Marais and Moray today. Aka salt mines and terraced ruins with microclimates used to grow potato and yuka etc. While waiting for the bus a local started talking to me. Wow, he hated gringos (ignorant tourists) so much... Because we drink and are stupid and are ruining the place. He is kind of right, the main square is filled with cafes, pizza and pasta joints and bars. If you want traditional food it's better to visit the worse looking places. I have eaten empanadas, saltenas, chicharron, pollo saltado etc... except I did have a burger, which I hope wasn't made of llama. My intestines don't even hate me, yet. After managing to escape the crazy guy, I got on the bus for the tour. There were 20+ people on the tour, but I was the only English speaking person. So the guide had to be bilingual for me. Oops. Our first stop was a traditional village where Peruvian women gave demonstrations about their food, dyes, tea, cleaning products and cosmetics. I have no idea what there were saying, but the demonstration was still good.
We then drove to Moray, the terraced area where locals grew their food. Some great views of the snow capped mountains and crop-circle looking areas. But so many stairs!
Finally we went to the salt mines. Over 3000 pools of salt that start with salty water from inside the mountain. They them sit in the pools and evaporate until salt is formed. Yes, I did lick it. They're not lying. It's salty!
The tour was about 6 hours long and cost about $14. So cheap.
I got back to Cusco at 3 and had a walk around the markets. There are a lot of juice bars and drinks available, but they're all revolting. So packed with sugar and artificial flavours. I have stopped trying and just have water now. I then had a walk around San Blas square...where I saw a lady who was on the plane from Sydney .. Then I saw again in Lima.. Now in Cusco. She has 2 kids she cannot control and she doesn't know the meaning of 'inside voice'! Stop following me!
That night I had a quiet evening in the hostel.. Why? See next line...

29/10/12. I woke up at 3:30 today for Machu Picchu. A 90 minute drive to the train station, then a 70 minute train ride. The tour guides name was Alex (Alejandro)- and we met Kate (the only other person on the tour) at the train station. Kate is a 25 year old cake-maker from Perth, who is travelling south and central America by herself for 3 months. She has already done a lot of South America and is off to Bogota on Wednesday- but will only be there for a couple of days. She doesn't speak much Spanish at all- but has acquired an accent in the month she has been here... Kind of sounds like an Italian speaking English, bizarre. I don't think accents happen that fast, but each to their own..
Alex is a 30 year old who has been doing this for many years. His English was pretty good and his knowledge was awesome- as you would expect. I also got him to help me with Spanish on the way. Gracias Alejandro.
The trek took about 6 hours (at a slow pace, with lots of stops and a million-ish stairs) and covered 16km of the Inca trek. All the while carrying a heavy backpack weighing about 9kg- including 4L of fluid. However, the views were incredible, as was the local flora and fauna. I learnt a lot about the Inca people... It was evident how ignorant I was before the trek. The ruins are only about 550 years old! I thought there were from thousands of years b.c. I also now understand the structures, people, status and events that took place- including the size of the area they discovered. Their conquerors? The Spanish. After many hours, we eventually reached Machu Picchu, which is actually the name of the mountain- no one knows the name of the site of ruins. We had a small walk around, but the main tour was the following morning.
That evening, I went to banos tempranos (hot springs). I was very underwhelmed by the oversized spas with old people drinking beer. Alejandro assured me the smell was sulphur from the pools, but I know urine when I smell it. That night was dinner at the hostel, some time to watch 'Peru's got Talent' and bed. The hostel is nice, but the town is made for Americans. Every single store has pizza and happy hour. Machu Picchu with a hangover? You'd have to be a fool.

30/10/12. Woke up at 4:40 (starting to get used to stupidly early mornings) and had breakfast at the hostel. Some scrambled eggs and a coca tea, from the plant used to make cocaine lol. But it is an essential part of the traditional Peruvian lifestyle, as the workers use it to decrease satiety throughout the day and to help altitude sickness and an upset stomach. Obviously, a few bad apples use it to make cocaine, but apparently they need an insane amount of the product. Peru tried to prohibit it year ago, but everyone went on strike, so that failed. Alex's argument was - 'we don't ban grapes coz it can make wine'. Fair enough... However, I don't know about the tea helping an upset stomach, as I was very relieved to get off the bus at the top of the ruins.
Alex then took us on a 2.5 hour tour of the Machu Picchu ruins. There weren't many people at this point- and the weather was spectacular. We were quite lucky. Again, I took a million photos... Including one with a llama, which doubles as a lawn mower for the grounds. Again, Kate and I learnt a lot about the history behind Machu Picchu and the Incan people... And I hope my photos do the place a bit of justice. It's huge. Alex then left to do more work (cerveza at the local?) and Kate and I were left to explore some more, but without a guide it was just pretty pictures. It started to heat up an become full with tourists so we walked down the mountain - an hour of stairs and heat... And then sat by the river/ creek for a while.

We will have some lunch at the hostel.. And will catch the 'locals' train and then a car back to Cuzco. Eta 9pm. Then back to Lima tomorrow ....where I will do a load of laundry. Dios mio, my clothes stink! Hopefully Lima round 2 will be a bit more enjoyable before Colombia on Friday at 4pm! (Saturday at 7am in Australia). I'm very excited and hear nothing but great things from people in Peru.

I have added a few pictures. I'll Facebook them soon.. With more order and detail than the last bunch!

@mickandmegan: I forget when you said you were doing Machu Picchu... But it's closed in February due to rain and potential landslides. Also, please don't leave your insect repellant at home like I did. The bugs were out in force. Remember a poncho and sunscreen too! Otherwise the guide will make you a makeshift poncho out of a garbage bag haha. The weather changes in an instant. I also told Alex about you guys. He was a great guide and his Spanglish was very understandable. So if u want to request him, I can get his email address and you can just let him know the dates and the tour you want to do. Give yourselves at least 4 days in Cuzco. It's a great place. It is becoming a bit touristy and gringos like us are ruining it, but still a lot to see and do. As for Lima, meh.
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bec on

Nick, did you take all these photos? cause they look like they're from brochures, they're that good!! glad you're having a pretty sweet time - looks very sweaty though! i always go to viber text you, but i never know what the time difference is, and don't want to wake you up at night!

mickandmegan on

This looks amazing! No idea when we'll be there but yes, Feb not ideal! I think only the Inca trail is closed. Might hit your guide up closer to the time.

How is Kate going travelling solo? Brave lass!

You'll be in bogota now, weeeeeeeee! Hope it lives up to what everyone is saying!

Stay safe x

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