Day 6: Maras Plateau
Today’s exploration was a full day hike to the Inca remains of Moray and the Maras salt mines. Although there was a concert next door until 4 am (seriously) we left the blinds open so we could wake up with the sun. We had breakfast and coffee and met our guide at 8:15. Turns out, even though there are a lot of guests in the hotel, we were the only ones on this tour.
Our guide, Chio, explained the route for the day along with the main sights. We got in the van and were off. It was about an hour drive to the town of Misminay, a small farming village at 3,710 meters. We walked along a path, learning about some of the local trees and herbs along the way. For example, muÃ±a, an Andean mint that makes great tea and is also used to help digestion.
We walked a couple of miles to Moray, an archeological site that shows 4 circular terraces. Since we hiked from a higher elevation, we had some great overhead views.
We continued to walk down along the paths along the highest rings of the Moray for a closer view. The function is unknown (possibly an agricultural research lab, possibly a religious site, possibly aliens, etc), but they were constructed deliberately. There were 4 existing sinkholes that were made into terraces with stairs connecting each level. The stairs are too far apart for people, leading archeologists to believe that they were made for the donkeys and alpacas. Up until about 10 years ago, people were allowed in the Moray, but now, only locals during specific celebrations and the restoration council are allowed.
After viewing the site, we continued our hike another 30 minutes to our lunch spot. Because we were hiking on or near main roads, the van was able to meet us for lunch — meaning, we did not need to carry our own — and we enjoyed an Explora style 3-course hiking lunch. Not too shabby. Once full and rested, we started again for the second part of the hike and the next main attraction: the Maras salt mines.
We continued our downhill hike through the town of Maras, where we drove through this morning to get to Misminay. Maras is one of the towns in Peru that has many preserved Incan architecture. We walked past a decorative doorway from the 1500s. Once the Spanish came, they changed the architecture and culture in ways that can also be seen today. Almost every building is still white with blue doors, and many have crosses above the door, showing the catholic influence.
From there, we followed a mountain bike path down towards the salt mines. This road is used by hikers and bikers alike, but it is specifically a route for a mountain biking competition.
Once we arrived at the Maras salt mines, we first stopped at a lookout point before hiking in closer. There are about 4,500 terraced pools from the pre-Spanish time that the villagers continue to maintain. Water is routed into the pools, which, when evaporated, leave layers of salt. The only people who are allowed to own a salt pool are those who live in Maras or Pichingoto, the two villages on the main road on either side of the salt mines.
The last stop was to meet the van 3 km down the road. We walked along the salt mine valley, with different views and perspectives the whole time. We made it past Pichingoto to the van, back at 2,850 meters. After stretching and enjoying a post-hike snack, we hopped back in the van and drove about 30 minutes back to Explora.
We arrived on the earlier side (at about 4:15) so Chio helped us pick our exploration for the day after tomorrow (we already know we are going to Machu Picchu tomorrow), and we went back to the spa to relax.
Tomorrow will be an easier day, but it will be long. We are set to leave at 7 am and likely won’t return until at least 7:30 pm. Should be a fun adventure.