Industrious Incas

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August 26th 2019
Published: August 27th 2019
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Today there was an optional extra tour and I initially thought we might skip it and have a rest after our big day at Machu Picchu, but then we saw a model of Moray at the Inca Museum and I didn't want to miss the real thing. We definitely made the right choice and anyway we are not at all tired. Our tour days typically start early (between 6am and 8am) but usually finish by 1 or 2pm so we can rest (or blog) in the afternoons.

Moray is extraordinary. looks like a massive amphitheatre of terraces but was actually a kind of agricultural laboratory which the Incas used as a food development and production centre. The terraces enabled 15 microclimates and they brought species from different elevations and bred them at Moray. As a result, the Inca Empire of 12 million people never went hungry and today Peru has 3,000 (no, that is not a typo!) varieties of potato, 300 varieties of corn and 20 kinds of quinoa. After the Spanish invaded, they forced the population to pay such high taxes, the people gave up their industrious collective agriculture and became subsistence farmers. Some still are.

We also visited Marasal, a vast area of 5,000 salt ponds. Salt has been produced from the water here since 800 CE. The water in the area is about 16% salt, compared to 9% in the ocean. We tasted it and it's much saltier than the water we use at Seder! The ponds are surprisingly picturesque, ranging in colours depending on the purity of the salt. They are privately owned - five ponds make a family an excellent living. They can be sold but most are passed down in families.

Today's driving took us past farms and villages where many people still wear traditional dress, live in adobe homes and even plough with oxen (though.there are tractors for the flat land, they are not much use on terraces. The women wear full skirts, colourful tops and tall hats that are apparently from 16th century England but look Dutch to me. They all have very black long hair worn in braids, even in their 70s and 80s, apparently a genetic trait although they swear by washing it in potato starch. Maybe I should try it: it might save me a fortune in hair colour!

In the evening Danny and I went to the Cusco planetarium, with a woman from our group named Karen. The show covered both the contemporary night sky and Inca astronomy. The Peru sky is somewhat similar to ours being Southern Hemisphere but much closer to the equator. The Inca astronomy was more interesting although knowledge about it is very sketchy. As well as star constellations they perceived shapes from the dash patches in the Milky Way. We also heard some of their legends and about the way The Catholic Church absorbed their traditions into Catholic practice, building churches on already holy places and absorbing the parading of the mummies of dead ancestors into Corpus Christi. Early Peruvian paintings of Mary are mountain shaped because the Incas revered the mountains.

We had a fun time at dinner. We stumbled across a restaurant with a menu half Hebrew and half Spanish. The food was Middle Eastern and actually very good but the fun part was our conversation with the waiter. He was Peruvian Jewish, had lived in Israel for many years, spoke Spanish and Hebrew but little English. We had a hilarious chat in which I kept inadvertently sliding back and forth between Spanish and Hebrew! Que כף!


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