We don’t usually enjoy taking organized tours while traveling. As we prefer to have as much time as we want to explore a site and move on when we are ready, but in this case (for ease of transport), we decided to take an organized tour. Cost was 25 soles/person (about $9, including transportation and a guide, but not including entrance fees to the sites).
Our first stop was Chinchero, a small Quechua village, located in the Andes about 30km from Cusco. Although there is an archaeological park there, the purpose of our visit was to visit a local weaving cooperative and learn about the traditional skills of dying the wool with natural dyes and the production of colors unique to the community. Adding salt (or other ingredients) can change the color, either darkening or lightening it.
Next, we headed to Moray. Moray is in the shape of an upside-down pyramid, and is believed that it was used as a agricultural laboratory. Because the terraces (Andenes) are at different heights, there is a temperature difference between the lowest and highest terraces, allowing the Incans to grow and develop new species of potatoes and other crops.
Lastly, we headed to Salinas (Salt Ponds). There are over 3500 separate ponds and in order to ‘own’ one, you have to be a member of the community of Maras. The size of the pond corresponds to the size of family.
There are intricate channels that run through the ponds to direct the flow of water. The channel into a pond can be closed off, so that the evaporation can take place, and then the salt is harvested by the family
The boys enjoyed picking up small pieces of salt and licking them.