Sunday was El Dia de La Madre here in Peru, which is similar to Mother´s Day in the U.S., except that here all citizens are required to go to the bakery and then carry around a cake in a box covered with hearts. There were also a couple local celebrations going on in the Sacred Valley, so when I arrived at the bus “station,” I encountered a line running out onto the sidewalk. Luckily Nienke had arrived earlier, and was closer to the front of the line. I expressed that we should take a collectivo taxi instead – just a few Soles more, quicker, and probably more comfortable. But as I was trying to convice her that there is a marginal difference of safety between the driving habits of the taxistas and the bus drivers, a bus began to depart for Chinchero, with a final call for passengers. We boarded and fought for some standing room space for the 45 minute ride.
We succeeded in holding our somewhat comfortable spaces, as well as our belongings. Upon arrival in Chincheros, I stocked up on bananas and bread, and we negotiated with some taxi drivers for a ride to the terraces at Moray. I laughed heartily at their first offer for 70 soles to let them know I wasn´t a sucker gringo, and we tried to get it down to 20. None of the drivers seemed interested and they wandered off, so we stood around for a bit. One finally re-approached, we agreed on 30, and headed off across some dirt roads, through Maras, and on to Moray.
At the site Nienke worked her magic and convinced the guard that Moray wasn´t on her Tourist Ticket, and so that is why she didn´t bring it (they just recently added it to the Tourist Ticket, and her ticket had actually expired a few weeks ago. I never even bought a ticket yet.) I played along, mostly kept quiet, and in the end, we both got in for free! We had planned to hike on to Salineras, the salt making terraces, since Lonely Planet told us it was quite easy, but the nice lady who let us in for free said we would need a guide, as the trail is difficult to find along the way. So I flaged down a car driving out, we got a ride with a couple who had hired a private taxi from Cusco for the day, and off we went to Salineras. We walked across the terraces, I took 100 pictures that probably all look the same, and we hiked on down to the small village below.
We waited for a combi but they were passing us by, already full, so once again I flagged down a ride, this time with a large emtpy tourist bus returning to Urubamba. As we wandered around Urubamba looking for a place to eat, we ran across some girls in costume, so I asked if there were dances going on in the plaza today. Yes! In a half hour! Of course, this was one of the celebrations this weekend, el Señor de Torrechayoc.
We decided it was best to leave a little early so that we could manage to get back to Cusco at a reasonable hour. We headed to the bus station and again discovered that the lines were out the door. As we stood there not knowing what to do, a guy told us he could put us on a bus for Cusco without a ticket, 3.5 soles (50 cents above the typical price). He ushered us to the bus, kicked the people out of the front seats, and put us there. It turned out to be the bus that takes the side dirt roads all the way back to Cusco, and stops at every house along the way to pick up or drop off someone, but the scenery was beautiful and we eventually made it back.
Hmmm, how to get back to Cusco?