Thursday, January 10, 2019
Peru: Chinchero, Maras and Moray
After 3 flights, 2 transits and total flying time of about 18 hours I decided that getting a taxi from Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (Cuzco) to Ollantaytambo will be good for my sanity. I landed in Cuzco at about 6 in the morning and it seemed a waste if I disregard Chinchero, Maras and Moray on my way to Ollantaytambo. It is only logical that I make a stop on the way to Ollantaytambo as they are exactly that, on the way. Of course, I could get myself to Ollantaytambo first before getting a colectivo and visit them but despite expensive, it was definitely worth the money spent when I landed in a cold, rainy Cuzco.
The main reason why I proceeded to Ollantaytambo right after I reached Cuzco was because of the altitude. At 11,152 feet above sea level, Cuzco is higher than the rest of the Sacred Valley.
There are two recommended companies to consider if one is to pre-book a taxi - Taxidatum and Cusco Local Friend. Both have very good ratings in Tripadvisor but I went with the former because of cost. Not a big variation but it is still cheaper. The driver, Julio (?sp) was already waiting at the exit of the arrival terminal with a board with my name but really, there probably wasn't a need for it. I was the only Asian who walked out of the airport at that time. First stop was Chinchero.
Firstly the driver dropped me off a 'house' in Chinchero village for demonstration of traditional textile dyeing. Despite beautiful scenery along the way, I fell asleep along with the moving car motion. I remembered my first thought was - I hope there is more to Chinchero as I was obviously not in a shopping mode first thing in the morning after getting off a flight.
Anyway, I got off the car and saw alpacas and guinea pigs. There were so many guinea pigs and for some reason the squeaky noises they made felt like sounds from video games. I was first served a cup of hot tea, which was brilliant as it was colder than I anticipated as it was autumn in the southern hemisphere. In front of me were some plants, flowers and wool in different colours. I was shown how to wash sheared alpaca wool and how washed and dried wool made into thread for textiles. The lady who did the demonstration also showed how they extract the different colours for dyeing process. The demonstration ended with her weaving the threads into shawls. I was then ushered to where they sell shawls, beanie, etc. I had a browse but wasn't in any shopping mood, I said thank you and left.
Fortunately, there is more to Chinchero. My next stop was Chinchero ruins. Entrance fee applies and this is where you'll need to decide which type of tickets that you want. A full ticket "Boleto General" covers 16 archeological and cultural sites in both Cuzco and Sacred Valley. It isn't cheap and costs S/130 (~USD 39 / ~AUD 54 / ~MYR 163) but valid for 10 days. There are also 3 different partial tickets at S/70 each. I initially wanted to take Circuit III which valid for 2 days and covers Pisaq, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero and Moray but ended up getting the general tickets as I also wanted to visit Saqsayhuaman and these will take more than 2 days.
I walked up the steps leading to the ruins at Chinchero. They consist of a series of nested terraces and a church which was built in the early 1600's. Photography is not allowed inside the church. It wasn't a big ruin but the surrounding scenery was beautiful.
On my way down back to the car, I bought a beef empanada (S/3) for breakfast.
Salt Pans of Maras / Salinas de Maras
As we cruised towards these salt pans, Julio told me we have reached the town of Maras. We didn't stop but just passed through. However, Julio stopped by the road side for me to take some photos as we approached the salt pans.
These salt pans command a spectacular view as it cascade down a hillside valley like uneven steps. They were said to be first created sometime pre-Incas. Whilst it looks quite big but the area can be accessed isn't large. There is a separate ticket to go in to the salt pans and it cost S/10 (~USD 3 / ~AUD 4 / ~MYR 13). I met a fellow visitor from Columbia who was limping a little due to muscle soreness as she hiked up Huayna Picchu the day before. Ahem, that worried me a little. Haha. On the other hand, she also told me that it was the first day she was such glorious sunshine, despite the rain earlier.
These circular terraces are archaeological site about 50km away from Cuzco. The full purpose of these concentric terraces are not fully known but it is believed that it could be related to agriculture. By this state I was already gasping for air when I walked a little faster or when there were very insignificant uphill patch. This was when I suspected I could've experience a mild case of seroche (altitude sickness).
The 3 stops probably took about half a day or so. By the time I reached Ollantaytambo, it was a good time for lunch.
Side note: I started writing this post in November! It got stalled because unfortunately I lost all my photos that was taken with my camera. All the ones left are the ones taken with my phone. The majority of my photos were taken by camera though... so... there... sigh.
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