On our last night in Cusco we caught up with Matt and Tasha, an English couple we met in La Paz about a month ago, and introduced them to Paddy's Shepherds Pie. They are a nice couple, similar age to us, and we shared recent travel stories and lamented over the fact that most of the date of births registered on our recent tour groups are in the 90's. It was nice to catch up with them, and we will probably do so again in a few weeks when our paths cross again.
The next day, we had 12 hours to kill before our overnight bus to Arequipa, so we thought we would kill some of the time by visiting the Moray Inca ruins and the Salinas de Maras (Maras Salt Mines) around an hour out of Cuzco. Unfortunately we got stuck on a bus with a bunch of annoying twats, but at least the journey was not too long.
Moray is a giant amphitheatre nestled in a small valley, and there is still some uncertainty about what its purpose was for the Inca's. The two main theories are that 1) It was used as an area where everyone
could meet and discuss social and political topics, as the acoustics from the bottom are amazing and reverberate up the terraces. It is estimated that 40,000 - 50,000 people could be seated. The second option, and the one that Freddy (our guide from the Inca trail) seems to think is the correct one, is that it was used for agriculture. The bottom terrace was filled with shallow water, and as you go up the terraces the climate and humidity varies by a number of degrees per terrace, thereby allowing the Inca's to experiment with growing plants not indigenous to the area. There was around a 10 degree variance from the top to the bottom.
From Moray, we went to the Salt Mines of Maras, which have been in use since pre-Inca times. The salt is produced by evaporating salty water in shallow pools that reside on the edge of a valley. The salty water is fed by a subterranean stream that is really salty, a lot more then the ocean. The water is distributed to the 100's of shallow pools, and after 2 months the salt is ready to be harvested. It looked like really hard work, and the
workers were covered in salt which must hurt if it gets into any cuts, cracks or the eyes.
Getting back to Cusco mid afternoon, we still had 5 hours to kill, so we got a good position at a local bar, sunk some beers and waited for the Confederation Cup final between Brazil and Spain to start. As it closer to kick off, the locals streamed in and soon the place was packed. It provided a great atmosphere as everyone in the bar was hoping that Spain would get spanked, which duly happened.
We arrived in Arequipa just before 6am, and were greeted with the sunrise illuminating the 3 massive volcanoes that tower over the city. Arequipa is around 2300m above sea level, and we are happy to have left altitude, as were getting a bit sick of it having spent the best part of 2 months well above 3000m. From the huffing and puffing walking up the steep stairways, to the constant crusty snotty nose interspersed with blood. Back home, if you have a blocked nostril from a cold, it is still possible to breath through the other nostril when sleeping. At altitude, this is not possible
as you cannot draw enough oxygen through the one working nasal passage. Therefore you end up having to breath through your mouth, and as the air is so dry and cold, it completely dries out. Countless times I woke up drooling all over my pillow as my body tried to moisten my mouth during the night.
My back is playing up a bit, so we are chilling in Areuipa for a while before trekking into the Colca Canyon. The timing is not bad as i have been able to watch some Tour De France, and read some books.
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