I’ve given you a hint in the title of this post, so you probably already know what you’re looking at in the photo above. They’re not terraces of snow or white marble — they’re thousands of individual pools of salt in Peru’s Urubamba River valley.
They are all family-owned and passed down through generations.
The pools are filled with heavily salted water from a natural spring. The water is diverted into the pans through a series of channels, which can be blocked off, controlling where the water flows.
Once the pan is filled with water, the sun does its job and helps evaporate the water in a few weeks, leaving layers of salt about one meter deep (about 40 inches).
The top layer is used in the leather industry; the middle layer is used for animals and the very bottom, and finest salt layer, is for human consumption. I’m sure many of you have purchased fleur de sel from France for your cooking. In Spanish it’s called “flor de sal” or “flower of salt.”
At Salineras, they sell lots of different kinds of salts, including some flavored with herbs and spices.
I bought several bags, including one type of salt that’s used for medicinal purposes — very useful after my ankle injury on this trip.
Salineras is in a beautiful area of Peru called the “Sacred Valley” — an area of rolling fields and fertile farmland between Cusco and Machu Picchu.
It’s also an area of many ancient Incan sites, all crowned by the magnificent backdrop of the Andes mountains.
One of the most unusual places we visited was Moray. These concentric circles are thought to have been a center for Incan agricultural research, where crops were grown at different levels, and where temperatures changed precipitously from the lowest to the highest terrace.
We also stopped at Chinchero, where there are more Incan ruins and where we got a demonstration on natural dying and weaving from two Quechua women who were spinning baby llama wool.
Most of the colors came from plant material, such as this purple corn:
But one of the colors came from a small beetle that lives on cacti, called the cochineal beetle. It appears to be white, but once it’s scraped off the protective white covering on the cactus and crushed between the fingers, it turns as red as bright lipstick.
The beetles are dried,
Then crushed into powder before mixing with water.
There are so many more Incan sites to visit in the “Sacred Valley” and we barely scratched the surface.
The people we met were so friendly and warm, we were sorry we couldn’t spend more time there. I hope you get a chance to visit too.
Hasta la vista.