The taxi ride from Lima airport to our accommodation included a (lengthy) stop whilst Nick popped into a store for a local SIM card (we have had these in every country we have visited) – it had to be registered with his passport details and the guy doing it was having IT issues… so we tipped our Uber driver for the extra time. On arriving at our 10th floor AirBnB apartment we noticed it only had 2 beds – oops, another one booked in haste! On our travels using AirBnB and Booking.com we have found these allow for children to share beds, so we’ve been quite good ensuring this isn’t the case as our kids are not used to it, and getting a bit big to physically fit in one bed.
In Lima we noticed the presence of tuk tuks with doors – called Auto Taxis here – a mode of transport we haven’t seen since Asia! The traffic here was crazy, and the pavements were just as busy with pedestrians in the evening.
After a couple of days we headed back to the airport to get an internal flight to Cusco, where we were met outside the airport by our next hosts for a transfer to Urubamba in the Sacred Valley – about a 1 hour drive. We had arranged to stay in Urubamba (2,900m altitude) rather than Cusco (3,400m altitude) so we’d have a chance to acclimatise. We would visit Cusco after seeing the Sacred Valley.
Whilst in Urubamba we frequented the indoor market hall, managed to get the boys a haircut (£2.50 for both of them!), and for only £10 got a replacement battery (fitted while-u-wait) for my struggling mobile phone that we’d bought 2nd hand in Australia. We found Urubamba to be a lovely small town with everything we needed and a good base for exploring.
We planned a day out to Moray (famous for it’s circular Inca terraces) and Maras (home to a valley of salt farms), as a start to explore the Inca ruins in the Sacred valley. So we negotiated a price with a taxi to drive us to Moray. But once en-route found that the road (the main route back to Cusco) was shut due to a Rally Championship! We turned around and tried the back road, crossing the river on a very narrow bridge, but a mile further on learned that this way was shut too! So we ended driving further to Pisac Archaeological Park instead … for a higher price. It was a 1 hour 20 minute journey, and our driver waited for us whilst we looked around the Inca ruins. At the entrance, we bought the 10 day Cusco Tourist ticket here to allow us to explore this and several other archaeological sites in the Sacred Valley during our stay.
Pisac is at 3400m and you could definitely feel this whilst climbing the steps around the archaeological site. We covered only the main part of the site, walking up past ancient terraces, and seeing Inca tombs in the limestone cliffs opposite, to the hill-top complex known as Qalla Q’asa. Here we enjoyed incredible views of the surrounding peaks, valleys and terracing, before descending back down to the car park and our snoozing taxi driver. I think if the kids had been up for the walk, and we’d done our research on the site, we’d have planned for more time and gone on to see the ruins in the distance which included a sun-temple, but alas, we didn’t get to see this.
After the archaeological site, we went back down to the town to look around the tourist markets in the very small and quaint town of Pisac. They were very quiet and all the vendors were desperate to sell us their goods!
A couple of days later we tried again to go to Maras and Moray. We planned to walk from Moray to Maras then back through Pinchingoto to the main road. So we started off by going to the bus station in Urubamba, and got a bus to the Moray junction.
Here there were taxi drivers waiting to take passengers to Moray. The one we selected had no suspension left, was very rattly and the 4 of us were squashed in on the back seat as another tourist had the passenger seat. After this bone-shaking journey, we were dropped at the entrance of the archaeological site of Moray – famous for it’s circular Inca terraces.
From Moray we set off on our walk to Maras across the fields. We had incredible weather, and it was a very pleasant walk. We went through the quiet town of Maras as the local schoolkids were heading home and called in at the market hall in the main square for some lunch – another set menu – basic, but tasty and filling.
We then headed out of town to the Salineras de Maras. The walk was through fields and was marked by rocks with arrows (although we seemed to be doing the walk in reverse as they were all pointing the other way).
The Salineras de Maras is a valley fed by a salt water spring, containing over 6000 salt farms, each one less than a foot deep and owned and operated by a local family. The farms are filled by the spring, then blocked off (with rocks and cloth) and then they wait for the water to evaporate leaving the salt.
We walked along the side of the valley past the salt farms to Pinchingoto, it was quite a steep descent down to the river and then to the main road where a minibus soon stopped for us to take us back to Urubamba. The walk was 9.2 miles, but with some beautiful scenery we wouldn’t have seen had we driven.
From Urubamba, we continued along the Sacred Valley to our next stop in Ollantaytambo, which would be our base for visiting Machu Picchu.