Our three-day tour of the Salar de Uyuni began with lots of salt this morning, and it continued at lunchtime with lots of cacti (that's plural for cactus!). We visited "Isla Incahuasi" (lit: "Inca House Island", with "huasi" being "house" in Quechua), an island in the middle of the salt flats, which is completely covered in cacti. The Incas planted them there during their heyday, to mark the island as a place to take shelter and to set up camp, when making the journey across the salt. And in the wet season (Nov-Apr), when the entire salt flat gets flooded with about 50cm of water, this place really is an island.
After our visit to the Inca ruins of Moray this morning, we of the Hampy crew continued on this afternoon, and walked the short distance from Moray to the Salinas (ancient salt mines) near Urubamba and the Valle Sagrado ("Sacred Valley"). I already visited the Salinas about a month ago (with Jesus); but it was definitely worth visiting them a second time. With over 4,500 man-made salt pools on the side of the mountain, it's both an ingenious and a breathtaking site to behold.
For a nice little Sunday day trip, this morning we of the Hampy crew (including the complete Pilcopata jungle crew) went on a visit to the ruins of Moray, between the villages of Chinchero and Urubamba, about 1½ hours north of Cusco. We grabbed a local bus that was headed to Urubamba, then got off just before the descent into the Valle Sagrado ("Sacred Valley"), and flagged down some taxis to take us the rest of the way to Moray. Spectacular set of ruins, as well as an intriguing and ingenious example of ancient scientific experimentation at work.
After yesterday's visit to the ruins of Pisac and Ollantaytambo in the Valle Sagrado (north of Cusco), today Jesus and I continued this weekend's ruin-seeking crusade, by heading south of Cusco, to the town and the Incan ruins of Tipón. Although I was still recovering from yesterday's lethal buffet lunch, I was well enough today to make it to these ruins, and to appreciate the ingenious work that the Incas carried out here, hundreds of years ago.
After our tour of the Pisac ruins this morning, and my questionable-quality gourmet buffet lunch in Urubamba with Jesus, this afternoon I continued on to the last of the three main towns in the Valle Sagrado ("Sacred Valley"), Ollantaytambo. At Ollantaytambo, I climbed and explored the impressive Inca citadel / fortress that's built into the mountain there, right next to the town. In my opinion, the fortress of Ollantaytambo is the most impressive of all the ruins in the Valle Sagrado.
Last Sunday morning, Jesus and I went to Pisac and checked out the markets, but we didn't make it to the ruins. This morning, we returned to the Valle Sagrado ("Sacred Valley") and to Pisac; and this time, we overcame all hurdles, and made it up to the Inca ruins that overlook the town from high above. Temples, citadels, stepped hillsides... all I want to know is, what took us so long to get there?
After Jesus and I finished our excursion to Pisac this morning, we continued west through the Valle Sagrado ("Sacred Valley"), to the town of Urubamba, for the afternoon. Urubamba's a cute lil' town as well; but it's much quieter than Pisac, due to the lack of a big market, or of any major ruins nearby. However, it made a nice spot to grab some lunch, in our second trendy café for the day; and this time over a game of (my newly purchased) ludo (close game — but Jesus won). We really were taking our time and chilling out at every opportunity today. Ah well, that's what Sunday's for, right?
I didn't make it to Sacsayhuaman (a.k.a. "sexy woman") or to Qenko last weekend, when I got lost in the mountains; but I finally reached them this afternoon. Myself, Monika, and Juan Carlos wandered up from central Cusco to these nearby Incan ruins after lunch today, and we explored them at our leisure. As with Tambo Machay (the only ruin I did reach last weekend), they're nothing compared to Machu Picchu; but they're a convenient day trip, and they're beautiful and interesting nonetheless.
Yes, it was very stupid. Yes, we really were completely lost. Yes, we were lucky it didn't turn out very bad. Yes, it was fun and it was a good experience. And no, actually, we don't regret doing it one little bit.
Today, Jack and myself decided to explore some of the ruins north of Cusco. We made it (on the bus) to the first one; but we never reached any of the others. Instead, we became two Aussie bogans, lost in the mountains; and we had a grand adventure — one that we hadn't planned or anticipated at all.
In the classic postcard shot, you can see the city of Machu Picchu in the foreground, and a spike of a mountain rising up steeply behind it. That mountain is Wayna Picchu. It's popular, although challenging, to climb Wayna Picchu as part of one's visit to Machu Picchu. From the top, you can explore the ruins on Wayna Picchu itself, and you are afforded a pristine and panoramic view of Machu Picchu, which is spread out below. After our tour of Machu Picchu, three people in my group (myself included) made the ascent to Wayna Picchu.