As always, the day began with an early start, but when it was something as exciting as this I couldn’t be so grumpy about that. We were in Cusco central by 8:30 (very early for me), where we took a taxi way out of Cusco into the snowcapped mountains of the Sacred Valley or ‘Valle Sagrado’. The drive took us through some of the less nice areas of Cusco, built up on the hill like the slums in Rio. Litter littered the streets, and we passed a bustling local market where things from wardrobes to cows were being sold. 5 minutes onwards and we were out of Cusco heading towards Ollantaytambo and the Sacred Valley. Here the population becomes much more sparse of people, and much more busy with livestock. During the hour drive we had to stop numerous times to give way to packs of donkeys, sheep and of course alpaca.
After a rather uncomfortable and bumpy , but quite spectacular drive we arrived at the zipline. Known as the flight of the Condor, it is the longest in Peru and one of the longest in the whole world. It was an incredible, exhilarating experience where you really were chucked in at the deep end when passing over a valley you could barely make out as it was so far below. A favourite of mine was being strapped to an instructor and going hands free so you really did feel like you were flying like a bird. An incredibly loud, shrieking one in my case. The zipline is in such a beautiful place it was worth the visit just for the spectacular scenery. You really do feel when there why it is known as the Sacred Valley.
We then moved on to the small, American spaghetti-western style town of Maras. From here was a walk to the Incan site Moray, numerous Incan terraces used for drainage and agriculture. This was my first proper Incan site and it did not dissapoint. It offered spectacular views and, clichéd, but a great insight into the Incan lifestyle. The largest of the terraces has been restored, but nonetheless retains it’s Incan feel.
After Moray, we had an extremely dusty and bumpy ride towards ‘Las Salineras’ of Maras. These salt mines are unlike anything I had ever seen before, a lot like most of Peru, and it was great to be able to stick your finger in the mines and taste proper, natural salt. The mines seem to go on for ever, but it was great to see the locals of Maras mining the salt to then sell at a market. The mines are sort of like allotments, and families of Maras can own them, with the top mines being the most expensive and producing the best salt. When here, we of course had to sample it on chips, which was perfectly accompanied by an Alpaca burger, a lot better than it sounds!
We returned home with salty hair and absolutely knackered, but it really was an unforgettable day in some unforgettable places.