The salt flats of Maras

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Maras is a town in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, 40 kilometers north of Cuzco, in the Cuzco Region of Peru. The town is well known for its salt evaporation ponds, located towards Urubamba from the town center, which have been in use since Inca times. The salt-evaporation ponds are four kilometers north of the town, down a canyon that descends to the Rio Vilcanota and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Since pre-Inca times, salt has been obtained in Maras by evaporating salty water from a local subterranean stream. The highly salty water emerges at a spring, a natural outlet of the underground stream.

The flow is directed into an intricate system of tiny channels constructed so that the water runs gradually down onto the several hundred ancient terraced ponds.

it was a beautiful sky
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Machu Picchu

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This has to be the number one sight in Peru. It’s amazing. Honestly worth all the trouble to see it, too. Let me say that when you visit it, it is worth the extra cost to hire a guide. There is virtually no signage, so you need one.

Here’s the Wikipedia page for information. I’m short on time, so will try to add explanations to the photos later.

To get here, you board a train, an hour outside of Cusco.

It’s a nice train, too. It takes you to Aguacaliente. From there, it’s a bus ride up the mountain. But you need to buy tickets for all of it in advance. The other option is hiking 3-4 days from The same location along one of the Inca Trails.

It’s a busy place.
Really busy.
….and really far down, so don’t fall.

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Nazca Lines

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Ready to fly!

Honestly, the photos from Peru are hanging a bit heavy on me. There are so many and I’m just not going to find the time to go through them all. As I write this, I’m with my dear friend Jeannie in Huntsville, AL. But tomorrow I leave on the next adventure: Nepal! I won’t have much internet access for the next month while I hike the Annapurna Trail. I’ll try to organize a few more posts, but don’t hold your breath.

Today, I’ll skip ahead on the photos and show you the Nazca Lines, located in the desert outside Nazca, Peru. I took a flight over them. In most cases, I’ve had to zoom in and greatly increase the contrast to see the photos. Very fascinating.

My pilot and co-pilot.
The spiral

According to Wikipedia:

The Nazca Lines /ˈnæzkɑː/ are a series of large ancient geoglyphs in the Nazca Desert, in southern Peru. The largest figures are up to 370 m (1,200 ft) long. They were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. The high, arid plateau stretches more than 80 km (50 mi) between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the Pampas de Jumana, about 400 km (250 mi) south of Lima. Although some local geoglyphs resemble Paracas motifs, scholars believe the Nazca Lines were created by the Nazca culture between 500 BC and 500 AD The figures vary in complexity. Hundreds are simple lines and geometric shapes; more than 70 are zoomorphic designs of animals, such as birds, fish, llamas, jaguars, and monkeys, or human figures. Other designs include phytomorphic shapes, such as trees and flowers.

The designs are shallow lines made in the ground by removing the reddish pebbles and uncovering the whitish/grayish ground beneath. Scholars differ in interpreting the purpose of the designs but, in general, they ascribe religious significance to them.

Because of its isolation and the dry, windless, stable climate of the plateau, the lines have mostly been naturally preserved. Extremely rare changes in weather may temporarily alter the general designs. As of 2012, the lines are said to have been deteriorating because of an influx of squatters inhabiting the lands.

Contrary to the popular belief that the lines and figures can only be seen from an aircraft, they are also visible from the surrounding foothills and other high places.”

I don’t entirely agree with that last line. There are a few that can be seen by mountain top, but not most.

Here a highway cuts through the upper tail of a lizard on the left. Then the tree of life and the chick to the right.
Chick and tree of life. At the bottom of the photo, you can see the tail of a lizard.
The hummingbird is one of the longest.
The spider.
The monkey and some interesting lines.
A killer whale.
geometric shapes–the triangles
Landing strip on top of a mountain? Who knows?
The spiral.
Maybe a condor?
Baby condor or dinosaur.
The Astronaut.

The blue area in the center is a mine.
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Sacred Valley of the Incas: Qenqo

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Located just 3 kilometers northeast of Cusco, Oenqo was one of the oddest Incan sites.

From Atlas Obscura: The Incan Empire was completely destroyed by Spanish forces in the 1530’s. Many of their massive temples, fortresses and cities were left standing, but without any clues as to their purpose. Qenqo Temple, fifteen minutes from Cusco is similarly mysterious and a dark account has formed in the historical vacuum.

In Quechua, Qenqo means labyrinth or zig-zag and the temple is named for the crooked canal cut out of its rock. Although it is clear the canal carried some sort of liquid, researchers have been forced to guess at its purpose, and at what liquid it transported. Hypotheses range from carrying holy water, chicha (corn beer), or blood. All three indicate that Qenqo was used for death rituals, possibly to embalm bodies or detect whether a person lived a good life by the course the liquid followed.

Qenqo is a unique temple in its construction as well, having been entirely carved out of a gigantic monolith. Stretched across a hillside, the temple is carved out of rock and marries the man-made tunnels with natural chambers. One of these chambers features 19 small niches and is set up as an amphitheater. Once again, the purpose of the theater has been lost over time, but most agree the area was used for some type of sacrifice to the sun, moon and star gods who were worshipped at the site.

From the information available, it appears Qenqo Temple was an extremely holy site for the Incas. Their dead were judged and possibly embalmed in Qenqo’s winding tunnels, and blood sacrifices were offered to the heavenly gods. Despite the probable grisly purpose of the temple, its carved tunnels and chambers are an amazing work of ancient architecture, and a trip to Qenqo is sure to turn the wheels of mystery inside every visitor.

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Sacred Valley of the Incas: Saksaywaman

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Saksaywaman is a citadel and a huge site, on the northern outskirts of the city of Cusco, Peru. Sections were first built by the Killke culture about 1100, though they had occupied the area since 900. The complex was expanded and added to by the Inca from the 13th century, mostly dry stone walls constructed of huge stones. The workers carefully cut the boulders to fit them together tightly without mortar. The site is at an altitude of 3,701 m (12,142 ft).

Since the language of the Incas was Quechuan, the spellings for Incan sites are varous: Saksaywaman, Saqsaywaman, Sasawaman, Saksawaman, Sacsahuayman, Sasaywaman or Saksaq Waman. In Quechua waman means falcon or hawk.

In 1983, Cusco and Saksaywaman together were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List for recognition and protection.

Today, Peruvians celebrate Inti Raymi, the annual Inca festival of the winter solstice and new year. It is held near Sacsayhuamán on 24 June. Another important festival is Warachikuy, held annually on the third Sunday of September. Some people from Cusco use the large field within the walls of the complex for jogging and other athletic activities.

From Wikipedia: “Because of its location high above Cusco and its immense terrace walls, this area of Saksaywaman is frequently referred to as a fortress. The importance of its military functions was highlighted in 1536 when Manco Inca lay siege to Cusco. Much of the fighting occurred in and around Saksaywaman, as it was critical to maintaining control over the city. Descriptions of the siege, as well as excavations at the site, had recorded towers on the summit of the site, as well as a series of other buildings. For example Pedro Sancho, who visited the complex before the siege, mentions the labyrinth-like quality of the complex and its many storage rooms filled with a wide variety of items. He also notes that there were buildings with large windows that looked over the city. These structures, like so much of the site, have long since been destroyed.

The large plaza area, capable of holding thousands of people, is well designed for ceremonial activities. Several of the large structures at the site may also have been used during rituals. A similar relationship to that between Cuzco and Saksaywaman was replicated by the Inca in their distant colony where Santiago, Chile has developed. The Inca fortress, known as Chena, predated the Spanish colonial city; it was a ceremonial ritual site of Huaca de Chena.

The best-known zone of Saksaywaman includes its great plaza and its adjacent three massive terrace walls. The stones used in the construction of these terraces are among the largest used in any building in pre-hispanic America. They display a precision of fitting that is unmatched in the Americas The stones are so closely spaced that a single piece of paper will not fit between many of the stones. This precision, combined with the rounded corners of the blocks, the variety of their interlocking shapes, and the way the walls lean inward, is thought to have helped the ruins survive devastating earthquakes in Cuzco. The longest of three walls is about 400 meters. They are about 6 meters tall. The estimated volume of stone is over 6,000 cubic meters. Estimates for the weight of the largest Andesite block vary from 128 tons to almost 200 tons.

Following the siege of Cusco, the Spaniards began to use Saksaywaman as a source of stones for building Spanish Cuzco; within a few years, they had taken apart and demolished much of the complex. The site was destroyed block-by-block to build the new Spanish governmental and religious buildings of the colonial city, as well as the houses of the wealthiest Spaniards. In the words of Garcilaso de la Vega: “to save themselves the expense, effort and delay with which the Indians worked the stone, they pulled down all the smooth masonry in the walls. There is indeed not a house in the city that has not been made of this stone, or at least the houses built by the Spaniards.” Today, only the stones that were too large to be easily moved remain at the site.”

NOTE: Much of this information is from Wikipedia

The views of Cusco in the valley are spectacular.

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