Maras: 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 or separately.
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