Saturday morning we board the local bus – destination Urubamba – approximately 1.5h from Cusco. This is the beginning of our trip toward Machu Picchu. We will cruise the Sacred Valley to arrive in Aguas Caliente in a few days which is the final destination for Machu Picchu.
For today’s expedition we will stop in Urubumba where we will meet Jorge, a Servas member who kindly offered us lodging for the evening. On the way we decided to stop in Maras, a small village, to see the 600 salt pans where locals cultivate salt. But first we have to find the site…. Exiting the bus we know Maras is 4km away so we jump in a local taxi who will take us there for a few Soles. Our ride will allow 2 or 3 locals to get in the car and to their destinations. It is understood that our fare covers transport for locals. It is win-win situation: the driver has a job, we get to destination and villagers get to transport their goods from/to the main roads.
Once on the plaza of the village – we notice that there’s not much going on there – except for a multitude of policemen in different uniforms and a ring leader (the mayor??) who is busy on the phone and giving orders to the men around him. Why is this quiet village in need of such a big force on a Saturday morning??? We will never know since all we want to know is where are the Salinas…beautiful site we’ve heard of…So, we asked a few people who all point to the same direction: go to the church, there’s a path..follow it! Got it!!
Next, let’s find a place where we can leave our bag pack so we won’t have to carry this weight all afternoon – only our small day pack. I approach this police man who has a different uniform than the others and with my limited Spanish ask him if we could leave our bag pack in his office??? Very nicely he sees no problem – shows me a locker and the key in his hand. Youpi! the bag pack has a home while we will hike all afternoon. Our savior is called Vladimir (i agree doesn’t sound very Peruvian!!!) and we agree to meet later this afternoon same place!
Since we travel the slow (and economical way) we use the less travelled road therefore the Salinas are not indicated. The directions given to us are sketchy…we run into a young girl who is leading her 2 burros somewhere in the fields. Those 2 burros are in a funky mood and all they do is chew each others’ ear and push each other in the dish…this young girl tells me that there some kind of bad blood between the 2. I tried to reason them (putting my mediation skills to test…) finally the youngest win by grabbing the other’s rope and pulling him ahead!! The young girl shows us the way (the usual directive: keep going straight!). The Salinas are 6 km from the village — that we know — anyhow after a few attempts we found the site: amazing site displaying over 600 rust to white color salt pans located in the deep valley.
Back to the village — we find our Vladimir and our bag pack. Heading now toward Urubamba, about 30 minutes by bus from Maras. Arriving in town i call Jorge, who i only know electronically – he will pick us up in a few minutes. Jorge introduces us to his universe, a house-office-mini-farm. We end the afternoon with coffee, cake and great conversations with our host. There’s a natural fit as travelers: we all love to discover each others’ world and exchange experiences. Jorge is a wealth of information being Peruvian and having lived in France for 30 years. He recently transformed his garden into a mini farm – as an experiment – raising ducks, rabbits, and chickens…and there’s the other companions: 2 English Shepherds, 3 parakeets, and a cat. The next morning Jorge made us home grown eggs for breakfast. What a treat and a special visit! We are glad we got to share some time with Jorge and his family.