This Salt’s Mine


A dash to Cusco over Christmas was just the thing to set me up for a great new year. No Machu Picchu on the agenda this time; I had my sights set on different goals. Cusco, we learned, is open for tourism every single day of the year, and Christmas is no different.

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We chose to drive to the Salineras de Maras in the sacred valley. My interest had been piqued by a nice gift hamper containing a jar of Sal de Maras con aji (chilies) and I was ready to discover more.

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I tend to label all things in the Sacred Valley as Inca-built, unless corrected by a more knowledgeable person. While some websites and guides suggest it exists from pre-Inca times, Maras certainly has the characteristics of an organised society – cooperative effort, simple elegant planning, and respect for the environment.

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A natural salty stream is the source of this industry. As it emerges from the mountain, it gets channeled into a neat system of supply to every plot, and the owners have to maintain their ponds and harvest the salt. Every plot has a mechanism to open and close the water supply, operated by the owner, and nature does most of the work.

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Crusty salt gathered at the edges of plots makes for interesting photos.

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It is a spectacular feat of organisation, with thousands of salt pans perfectly arranged in the mountainside:

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The little shops at the entrance of the mines have an exciting array of salty delights: canchitas, chocolate and inexpensive packs of salt. I’ve come away with a collection; now to get cooking.

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Categories: La Conquista de Perú, TravelTags: , , , , ,

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