Following the scent of salt...
Trip Start Jan 04, 2008
34Trip End Apr 08, 2008
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There's been a "rumba" and the railroad tracks are blocked by rocks....we're forced to leave a day later than we intended, but at 5 AM, way earlier in the day than I ever intend to go anywhere. But that's OK because we plan to make a few stops on the way back to Cuzco and this gives us plenty of time.
Again I find myself traveling alongside of the raging Urubamba...the tracks are right along the rivers edge and between watching the river and becoming one with my Ipod, I'm feeling just thrilled to be part of this whole experience. And we arrive at Olaytaytambo at about 730 AM, lingering near the station long enough to partake in some fried egg sandwiches and rich Peruvian coffee. It's a whole scene down there...people running back and forth, loading onto buses and collectivos...dogs, kids, people selling stuff...lots of visuals as we order up another round of eggs...I'm wondering if my stomach is going to pay for having indulged in street food....but it's so tasty...it'd be worth it...
After wandering around the cobbly streets of Olaytaytambo for a bit, we head off to Urubamba, but along the way this woman tells us about the salt mines we'll be passing by, and we decide to stop and check them out. Seems that everywhere we go, salt is in the picture...here we have yet another opportunity to check out the role of salt in our lives... so we get off in the middle of nowhere and this cab offers us a ride to the mines... turns out he's a salt farmer and also gives us a tour...in Spanish of course, but I'm and getting pretty good at understanding and looking at the area, it tells its own story. You've got to check out the photos for this place...a description just won't do it justice. But we look into this rust colored arid valley and there are huge areas of these terraced salt pools...a surface salt farming operation. The subsurface water runs thru salty rock and pours out into these well dammed pools...the sun does the concentration and the salt is harvested. It makes for an amazing visual. This cab driver tends to 5 or 6 of these pools...each are farmed by different local families... and the salt eventually makes its way to salt shakers in Japan...from way out here in this Peruvian valley...what a concept..
It's market day in Chincero so off we go from the deserted and peaceful salt mines to the hustle and bustle of buying and selling and trading and imbibing....everything from fruits and vegetables, to soaps and crèmes, to clothing and hats, to food stands and the corn liquor circle. Of course, we've got to partake once more in some local lunch...since I've already internalized all that the fried egg stand had to offer, I might as well continue with some of this tasty mash I see the woman next to me eating...can't do any more harm to the insides. But it all rests pretty well in there and I get back to Cuzco later that evening with my stomach intact...only a few groans and gurgles lulling me into a well appreciated night's sleep.