A non traditional
circuit that in the last years is gaining importance
is visiting the Maras town, Moray, the "Salt
Works" and Pichingoto; they are visited all together
Maras is a district of the Urubamba province, possible
to be reached through a paved road from kilometer
50 on the road Qosqo - Chinchero - Urubamba.
It is located towards the west of Qosqo at an altitude of
3300 mts. (10824 feet); over a plain that in prehistoric times
was a huge plateau, from which it is possible to observe the
range of mountains of Urubamba including the snow capped mountains
of Weqey Willka (today "La Veronica", 5682 mts.,
18641 ft.) and " Chikon" (5530 mts., 18143 ft.).
It seems that in Maras there was a pre-Inkan settlement with
subsequent discontinued occupation. All over this zone there
is a large amount of pottery pieces of the "Chanapata"
culture, as well as obsidian scrapers and knives. The town
was founded in colonial times by Pedro Ortiz de Orue, and
its important occupation began when the Cusquenian Inkan noblemen
were dispossessed of their palaces in Qosqo and had to move
settling some other small towns such as San Sebastian and
Maras. Likewise, during the war started by Manko Inka willing
to recover his Quechua nation, it served as stronghold for
invaders that raided against the Ollantaytambo town that was
occupied by the Inka during 2 years. Many of its houses are
emblazoned with Spanish nobility coats of arms on their lintels,
which indicates the importance gained by the town in colonial
times. By that time, it was an obliged way for muleteers and
their mule droves transporting tropical goods and especially
coca leaves from the higher jungle for supplying the markets
of the city and the country. It was declared " Villa
of Saint Francis of Assisi of Maras" (Villa: city or
town that had certain privileges). By that time it had much
more importance than the Urubamba settlement; but, today it
is a town that languishes due to its isolation and development
of modern life. It has a church made with sun dried mud bricks,
typical of the village religious architecture, in which front
patio is a cross carved in granite. Inside the church are
Cusquenian school canvases representing the Apostles, and
some other very nice ones, the artist being Quechua painter
Antonio Sinchi Roqa Inka. He was native from Maras and painted
carefully for its church; he was contemporary of bishop Mollinedo
y Angulo and became famous by the middle of XVII century.
About 7 kms. (4.3 miles) away southwest from Maras is Moray,
a very unique archaeological site in the region. It is possible
to reach it by car through the dusty road and the path departing
from the town. Those are enormous natural depressions or hollows
in the ground surface that Inkas used for constructing irrigated
farming terraces around them.
What is surprising
is that the difference of average annual temperature
between the top and the bottom reaches even about
15°C (59°F) in the main depression that is
about 30 mts (100 feet) deep. In those natural formations,
nature has created an environment, conditions or micro
climates that in modern times people create in greenhouses
or hothouses. Moray, because of its climate conditions
and many other characteristics, was an important center
of domestication, acclimatization and hybridization
of wild vegetable species that were modified or adapted
for human consumption. Therefore, it is a prototype
of a greenhouse or experimental biological station,
very advanced for its age that helped so that the
ancient American Man could leave for mankind about
60% of the vegetable goods that are consumed; so that
the Andean Man could consume three thousand different
potato varieties, one and a half hundreds of maize,
and many other rich goods.
Nevertheless, there are still many enigmas about this site,
enigmas that rise because of the lack of serious scientific
researches that could clear present doubts. Structures found
over here are typically Inkan; although, some authors suggest
that they are earlier ones, at least in the lower terraces.
One of the enigmas is the way how drainage for water flowing
through the aqueducts worked; it is suggested that there must
be underground channels built by the depressions' bottom allowing
water to drain.
It is also argued that the bottom is over a very porous natural
rock formation that enables water filtering toward the earth's
interior; the truth is that even today, in the depressions'
bottoms there are no floods neither inundation in the rainy
season. It is indispensable to carry out serious palynology
studies; that is, divers analysis of the pollen samples that
are found in Moray, thus it will be possible to know the nature,
species, quality and some other characteristics of the vegetables
cultivated over here.
Towards the northwest of the Maras village are the famous
" salt works", which are possible to reach walking
by the trail or by car through a dusty road that is almost
useless in the rainy season. The Maras "salt works"
to which some people call "salt mines" are constituted
by about 3000 small pools with an average area of 5 m²
(53.8 ft²), constructed in a slope of the "Qaqawiñay"
mountain. People fill up or "irrigate" the pools
during the dry season every 3 days, with salty water emanating
from a natural spring located on the top of the complex, so
that when water evaporates the salt contained in it will slowly
solidify. That process will be carried out approximately during
one month until a considerable volume of solid salt is obtained;
about 10 cms. (4 inches) high from the floor. That solid salt
is beaten thus granulated, then packed in plastic sacks and
sent to the region's markets; today that salt began being
treated with iodine, thus, its consumption is not harmful.
Going on, from the "salt works" through the trail
towards the Northwest and following the small valley one gets
to Pichingoto that is located already in the Sacred Inkas'
Valley. It is also possible to reach Pichingoto walking from
the "Rumichaka" bus stop, about 7 kms. (4.35 miles)
away from Urubamba on the road toward Ollantaytambo. Pichingoto
is a Quechua community dwelling in the base of the basalt
"Qoriq'aqya" Mountain; the houses have facades that
are made with sun-dried mud-bricks, but, which entrails are
carved in the mountain. They are small caverns or caves inhabited
even today by the beginning of the XXI century; although,
their occupants are already educated or have some instruction
level, they have a small Catholic Chapel and even electricity
inside their houses. Some authors suggest that the name comes
from "pichinco" (bird), and "q'oto" (goiter).
It is argued that goiter (an enlargement of the thyroid gland
visible as a swelling of the front of the neck; supposed to
be a consequence of lack or scarcity of iodine) was very common
among its inhabitants who consumed non treated salt from the
"salt works"; but, all that is not probable because
today the local population that consumes the same salt do
not show any goiter. Possibly its name comes from "Pichinco"=
bird, and "T'oqo"= hollow. Its inhabitants believe
themselves to be descendants of birds and apparently until
the first decades of the present century they lived in caves
on the other side of the mountain and on an upper level where
they climbed with the help of ropes and ladders. The origins
of this community are lost in the past's darkness and it is
believed that some time ago they lived in Maras.