Moving on to Calca

This morning when I asked for breakfast, Pierina told me that it wasn’t included in the price of the room, which I had understood it to be. Consequently, I had a slight disagreement with her as I felt that she was already charging excessively. I had heard her mother telling someone yesterday that the single room price was 30 soles and the double 50. I was paying the equivalent of 80 soles through Airbnb. According to her, I got extra services for the price, these being a blanket and a bar of soap! I might not have been quite so annoyed if I had not just stayed around the corner for the same price and had a private bathroom, probably the best breakfast I had so far had in Peru, and wifi, none of which were included here. It is a lot of extra to pay for the privilege of staying in an old Inca room!

View from my balcony in Calca
View from my balcony in Calca

I packed up and left without breakfast. I was lucky enough to get a collectivo headed for Urubamba straight away and then a bus to Calca that was just pulling out from the collectivo station. Consequently, I arrived in Calca by 11am. Once there, I hoisted my far too heavy pack and walked up to David and Mabel’s house, where I had booked a room, buying a croissant and bread along the way.

On arrival, I was shown to my accommodation and then sat and chatted to them in their very attractive and private garden for quite some while. He is American and she Peruvian and they have two small children, who are younger than his grandchildren back in the States.

The garden in Calca
The garden in Calca

They were going to lunch at a cafe down the road and Mabel invited me to join them, which I did, and had a very delicious ceviche. After lunch, I trailed after them to the plaza where we all had ice cream and then I left them in peace. I had to go to the ‘supermarket’ (mini store with 2 small isles) for the basics of wine, water, milk and cereal, and then the fruit, vegetable and everything else market for avocados. The market was thronging, it being Sunday, and there was not another gringo in sight!

Calca people, so far, have been very friendly, almost going out of their way to try and catch my eye to say ‘Buenos Dias/Tardes’, which makes a very pleasant change. I think I have got a bit travel weary lately and fed up with being regarded as a cash cow.

The gardens in Plaza de Armas
The gardens in Plaza de Armas
The street from the house to the main plaza in Calca
The street from the house to the main plaza in Calca

Back at the house, I attempted to connect to the internet before giving up and joining the others in watching Peru lose to Brazil in the Copa America. (No, not rugby, but soccer!) The others were Tim and Jill from the Netherlands, Bill from the States, (all guests), a couple of David and Mabel’s Peruvian friends and 3 small children, who got a little excited, so it was all quite cosmopolitan.

Once the game was finished, I retired to my room, having declined to watch the X Men!

It is all about the journey, not the destination!

Today was one of those days when it was all about the journey rather than the destination, although I didn’t know this when I set out. After breakfast, I pottered for a while before starting on my adventure to get to Moray and Maras. This required 4 separate collectivos and 2 hours to reach Moray, which is another Inca site.

The turn off to Maras
The turn off to Maras

The first leg of the trip was from Huaracondo to Izcuchaca. This was the easy part. At Izcuchaca, I had to go on the hunt for the collectivo station from where cars/collectivos departed for Cusco that would drop me off at a crossroads outside Poroy. It took a bit of time to find the right place but, eventually, I was on my way in a station wagon type of vehicle in which several people were crammed in the luggage space. At the junction, I just had to stand at the roadside and wait for a passing collectivo to stop. It only took a couple of minutes!

On the road to Maras
On the road to Maras

Half an hour later and I was dropped off at the turnoff to Maras from where it was a 4km walk. Apparently, there are sometimes taxis waiting but, today, there were none, so I started walking. It was a beautiful day and the countryside was spectacular. However, it wasn’t long before another collectivo stopped and I could get a ride to Moray, about 13km away, beyond Maras, along a very dusty road.

Circular terraces at Moray
Circular terraces at Moray

On arrival, I was charged 10 soles but the driver wanted 25 soles for the return trip, which, surprisingly, I declined! I had a wander around the site, which is a set of 3 circular terraced bowls that were probably used for agricultural experiments. As with all Inca sites, there is much speculation about their purpose as the Incas did not leave any written records. I have to confess that I could only find 2 of these bowls despite following the signs for the third. I was either being blind or the third one was an illusion!

The Inca ruins at Moray
The Inca ruins at Moray
The second circular 'bowl' at Moray
The second circular ‘bowl’ at Moray

Moray is in the middle of nowhere. Having declined the collectivo driver’s offer, I found myself with a bit of a problem as most people seem to visit Moray on a tour. There were therefore no obvious taxis. There was nothing for it. I started walking! It was still a beautiful day, the scenery was still spectacular and I had all afternoon. However, the road was very dusty and there were sufficient vehicles to make it not quite as enjoyable as it could have been. Fortunately, I hadn’t gone far when a taxi stopped and only charged 5 soles to return to Maras. It was obviously my lucky day!

The road back from Moray
The road back from Moray

In the back seat were a young Peruvian couple. On arrival in Maras, they asked the taxi driver where the track was to the Salinas (salt beds), which was about 6km away and the other main attraction of the area. The taxi driver assumed that I would want to visit them as well (I did) and told me to go with the young couple, so I did. (They didn’t seem to have much say in the matter!)

The walk down to Salinas
The walk down to Salinas
There are donkeys under there somewhere!
There are donkeys under there somewhere!
Terraces of salt beds
Terraces of salt beds

Having bought water and a quinoa ice cream (which tasted much better than expected), we set off. They, of course, were able to ask directions, Francie had some English and I could understand most of what Francisco said in Spanish. It was a beautiful walk down the valley, which we took quite slowly, so it was over an hour later when we arrived.

The salt beds are quite extraordinary in that they are all built in terraces on the hillside. Francie and Francisco had been told that they could walk right through to them to the other side and then descend into another valley and get a bus back to Urubamba. This we did.

Crusty salt
Crusty salt
The salt beds at Salinas
The salt beds at Salinas

It was a lovely walk, the only concern I had being that it was getting late and I knew that I would end up trying to find collectivos in the dark, which wasn’t my ideal. However, I had little choice but to follow them by this stage and I really enjoyed it. I’m not sure how much they appreciated my company though!

Salt beds cascading down the hillside
Salt beds cascading down the hillside

By the time we arrived at the collectivo station in Urubamba, it was well after 5pm. The others went off to find somewhere to eat and I caught a collectivo back to the junction at Poroy. The sun had set and the sky was a lovely pink colour above the raggedy mountains.

The valley on the other side of Salinas
The valley on the other side of Salinas

It was completely dark when I was dropped off and there was only a small light above the shop at the corner. My worst nightmare! Another lady was waiting and when a car approached, flashing its lights in the manner of collectivos trying to attract custom, I assumed it was a taxi and got in, having ascertained it was going to Izcuchaca. It was only when the lady kissed the driver that I realised it was her husband and not a taxi! Whoops! They dropped me off in Izcuchaca anyway, I gave them the collectivo fare and tried not to think about getting into cars with strange people in a foreign country in the dark!

Finding the collectivo back to Huaracondo was even more of a mission. Streets are not well lit and, on asking, I was directed from one end of the street to the other. It is made harder by the fact that not all collectivos have their destination written on the front so you have to ask the people who are hustling for the business. I eventually found one (after starting to panic slightly) and learned from Lyle, when I returned at 7pm, that the collectivo station closes at 6pm and the collectivos then leave from the other end of the street – hence the conflicting directions. I was just very relieved to have returned safely and sat down to appreciate a much needed glass of wine and dinner.