When I travelled to Peru I had no plans to visit it’s most famous site – Machu Picchu. I was running low on cash and I was convinced that getting there for a day would be too hard and too expensive.
Instead, I decided to visit the ancient ruins of Moray. It was a lot cheaper, it promised to be much less touristy and I thought it would get the desire to see Incan ruins out of my system – it didn’t, but that is a story for the next blog!
Through my hostel, I organised what I thought was an English speaking day tour to Moray and the salt mines of Maras for a mere $25 AUD. This tour ended up being a Spanish speaking tour, but luckily for me, the guide was absolutely lovely and made a point to repeat everything he said in English even though I was the only English speaker on board – so nice!
Our first stop for the day was a ‘factory’ making goods from alpaca wool. In all honesty, it was a total gimmick to try and get us gringos to part with our moolah, but despite that, I actually quite enjoyed watching these women demonstrate how natural dyes are made.
There were also a whole bunch of guinea pigs nearby. On one hand, they are very cute, but on the other, it made me sad to think that they would one day end up on someones plate!
After this demonstration was over and I’d explained that I didn’t want to buy anything approximately fifty squillion times, we finally arrived at the ruins of Moray.
The ruins of Moray are considered unusual by Incan standards, and the exact purpose of this circular depression is unknown. Amazingly, the site was built so cleverly that the temperatures at the top and bottom of this 30m deep terrace can vary by as much as 15 degrees Celsius, thanks to the effect of sun and wind on the circular design.
Located at about 3500m above sea level, these ruins may not look overly deep, but believe me, the altitude can seriously kick your butt!
This was my first time ever really experiencing altitude. As an Australian, I have lived close to sea level for pretty much my entire life, and my body was seriously stunned by the dramatic change in altitude.
I had been fine while walking down to the bottom of these ruins, but I was gasping for air like the most unfit person in the world when it came time to get back up! It didn’t just affect my lungs either – it was pretty unbelievable how just a few steps could make my legs ache so much. These Aussie muscles are definitely not used to being deprived of oxygen!
After I had become the butt of the joke for a family of Peruvians who seemed to be very entertained by my struggle to breathe post ascent, it was time to head onwards to the last stop of the day – the Maras salt mines.
These ‘mines’ are essentially salt evaporation ponds that have been used since the time of the Inca.
In modern times, this is not at all a cost effective way to produce salt, so the salt made here is mostly sold to tourists.
Despite these mines being purely a place for tourists and travellers, it is definitely worth the trip.
These days, so many travellers try to only visit places that would not be considered ‘touristy’ – it is something I am often guilty of myself – however, one has gotta concede that sometimes things are popular purely because they are worth visiting.
Personally, I think these salt mines are absolutely gorgeous, and it is for that reason and that reason alone that I think they are worth trekking out to.
Getting to Peru: Peru is well connected to North and South America through Lima airport
Peru Hop: A hop-on hop-off type of transport with an element of group tour built in, I bought the ‘Get to Cusco Quick’ pass for $159 which you can find more information about by clicking here
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with the M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 lens
Remember: Wear ALL of the sunscreen! At altitude you are much closer to the sun and will burn much more quickly