Category Archives: Travel

Galapagos Giant Tortoise

Galapagos Islands Tourists

Tourists at a Tortoise Sanctuary in the Galapagos Islands.

A Galapagos Giant Tortoise has retreated into his shell as a group of tourists gather in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands  to learn more about this magnificent creature. It was truly thrilling to see these giant tortoises in their natural environment. I remember seeing one in a zoo when I was a child. Children even rode them (I think I even did), which is a bad idea, and of course no longer allowed. They aren’t afraid of humans, but do make a chuffing noise if you startle them.

The nasty little fire ant has invaded the Galapagos Islands.  Here's a fire ant hill in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island of the Galapagos.   The ants found me before I found them, unfortunately.  There are efforts in the Galapagos to rid the islands of invasive species, which have caused great damage to the native animals and plants.

The nasty little fire ant has invaded the Galapagos Islands. Here’s a fire ant hill in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island of the Galapagos. The ants found me before I found them, unfortunately. There are efforts in the Galapagos to rid the islands of invasive species, which have caused great damage to the native animals and plants.

The tourists in the pictured group are wisely wearing rubber boots.  Our guide offered us boots, too, but I was happy wearing my comfortable “sporty” flip flops, relieved to let my feet breathe after a long trip.  Bad idea.  I successfully evaded puddles and tortoise poop, but I stepped right onto an ant hill teeming with fire ants, an invasive species in the Galapagos. This was within two hours of my arrival on the island of Santa Cruz. I got about six painful, itchy stings on my toes. I’m no stranger to fire ants, so I know enough to wear closed shoes in grassy areas in Texas, but I wasn’t prepared for the little devils in the Galapagos.

Galapagos is an old Spanish word for tortoise. The signs at this ranch warn visitors not to feed or touch the “galapagos.” The tortoises are now more commonly known as “tortuga” in Spanish. (At the bottom of this post is a link explaining how the islands were named.)  The Galapagos Island archipelago has been described as one of most scientifically important and biologically outstanding areas on earth, according to UNESCO in 2001.  My week there was amazing, wonderful and incredible, despite fire ants (and various other mishaps.)

Galapagos Giant Tortoise Poster

This Giant Galapagos Tortoise paused to give us a questioning look as he crossed the road in front of our car in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands. He is king in this place! (Or perhaps she is queen!)

 

Baby Galapagos Giant Tortoise Postcard

A yearling baby Galapagos Giant Tortoise, being raised at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands. Introduced predators threaten the eggs and young of the Giant Tortoise, so tortoise eggs are gathered, hatched and reared at the station.

Galapagos Giant Tortoise

Wise old Galapagos Giant Tortoise.

 

About the Galapagos Islands.

How the Galapagos Islands Were Named.

The Difference Between Turtles, Tortoises and Terrapins.

About Lonesome George.

GIANT TORTOISE FACTS: The Galapagos tortoise or Galapagos giant tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra) is the largest living species of tortoise and the 14th-heaviest living reptile. Modern giant tortoises can weigh up to 5oo pounds (250 kg); even larger versions, now extinct, roamed every continent except Antarctica and Australia. Today, they exist only the Galapagos Islands, and Aldabra in the Indian Ocean. The tortoise is native to seven of the Galapagos Islands, a volcanic archipelago about 620 miles (more than 1,000 kilometers) west of the Ecuadorian mainland. With life spans in the wild of over 100 years, it is one of the longest-lived vertebrates. One of the most famous was “Lonesome George,” who died in 2012, the last Pinta Island Tortoise.

Shell size and shape vary between populations. On islands with humid highlands, the tortoises are larger, with domed shells and short necks – on islands with dry lowlands, the tortoises are smaller, with “saddleback” shells and long necks. Charles Darwin’s observations of these differences on the second voyage of the Beagle in 1835, contributed to the development of his theory of evolution. Tortoise numbers declined from over 250,000 in the 16th century to a low of around 3,000 in the 1970s. This decline was caused by exploitation of the species for meat and oil, habitat clearance for agriculture, and introduction of non-native animals to the islands, such as rats, goats, and pigs. Conservation efforts, beginning in the 20th century, have resulted in thousands of captive-bred juveniles being released onto their ancestral home islands, and it is estimated that the total number of the species exceeded 19,000 at the start of the 21st century. Despite this rebound, the species as a whole is classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

 

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Filed under Animals, Biology, Environment, National Parks, Natural History, Nature, Photography, Travel

It’s Tea Time at Charleston Tea Plantation

A sign shows the distance to other parts of the world where tea plants are grown.

A sign shows the distance to other parts of the world where tea plants are grown.

What sounds perfect on a rainy chilly day?  Hot tea!  We’d set out from Kiawah Island in late February (2015) to visit some notable outdoor sites in Charleston, South Carolina, but the morning rain persisted so we saw little more than gift shops (where we could stay dry).  As we returned to Kiawah, we turned off at the Charleston Tea Plantation, which is about twenty miles south of Charleston on Wadmalaw Island. We could stay dry in a trolley as we rode around the plantation.  And there was plenty of free hot tea in the gift shop!

Guests tour the Charleston Tea Plantation on one of two trolleys. This one was purchased from the Kentucky Derby city of Louisville, Kentucky, and still retains its name of "Man of War," a famous race horse.

Guests tour the Charleston Tea Plantation on one of two trolleys. This one was purchased from the Kentucky Derby city of Louisville, Kentucky, and still retains its name of “Man of War,” a famous race horse.

It was overcast and a little misty when we arrived, but no umbrellas were required.   My hair was already frizzed out by now anyway.  According to the plantation’s website, “Wadmalaw Island is in the heart of South Carolina’s Lowcountry…Wadmalaw provides the perfect environment for propagating tea. With its sandy soils, sub-tropical climate and average rainfall of 52 inches per year, Wadmalaw possess idyllic conditions for the Camellia Sinensis plant. This plant is currently used to produce both black and green teas and exists in over 320 varieties on the 127 acre grounds of the Charleston Tea Plantation.”

Here are two kinds of American Classic Tea -- Charleston Breakfast Tea and Governor Gray, flavored with bergamot, one of my favorites.

Here are two kinds of American Classic Tea — Charleston Breakfast Tea and Governor Gray, flavored with bergamot, one of my favorites.

Owned by the Bigelow Tea Company, the plantation grows the tea sold under the brand name American Classic Tea. The Charleston Tea Plantation is the only working tea plantation in North America and is open to the public for tours of the grounds and factory and for hosting private events. Every year the plantation also hosts the First Flush Festival celebrating the beginning of the harvest season.  The name, First Flush, means the new leaves that are beginning to grow on the tea plant bushes that are ready to be harvested for production.

The tea Plant, Camellia sinensis, needs a lot of moisture, but doesn't like wet roots, so good sources of water, as well as good drainage are required to keep the plants healthy.

The tea Plant, Camellia sinensis, needs a lot of moisture, but doesn’t like wet roots, so good sources of water, as well as good drainage are required to keep the plants healthy.

Since 1987, the American Classic Tea brand of the Charleston Tea Plantation has been the official tea of the White House.

Plenty of rain is what Camellia sinensis likes, so at least the tea plants were happy!  There were several types of hot tea waiting for us to try, which we happily drank while waiting for our $10 trolley ride. Our trolley was called “Man of War,” named after the famous horse. Our driver told us that the plantation bought the trolley on ebay from the city of Louisville, the Kentucky Derby town.  We stopped along the way at the state-of-the-art greenhouse, where tea plant propagation takes place. The tour is narrated in a recording by William Barclay Hall, founder of American Classic Tea and world renowned Tea Taster, as well as by the very knowledgeable driver.  The plantation was only started in 1960, although other southern plantations had tried to grow tea plants previously.

The leaves are processed at the plantation factory, but the final product is packaged in Connecticut. We were there during the off-season, so we didn’t see any harvesting or processing.

Experimental tea plants at Charleston Tea Plantation in South Carolina.

Experimental tea plants at Charleston Tea Plantation in South Carolina.

From Wikipedia:  “In 1799, French botanist, Francois Andre Michaux brought the Camellia Sinensis  plant to the United States and gave it to Henry Middleton. They planted the tea at Middleton’s plantation. The tea seemed to thrive in areas like Charleston and Georgetown.  It took many attempts by multiple companies and individuals to successfully establish a tea company without an early failure. These failures included plantations in Georgetown, Greenville and Summerville, the longest of which lasted less than twenty years. The Thomas J Lipton Company decided to give it a try.  In 1960, they bought the failing tea plantation in Summerville and in 1963 they moved out to Wadmalaw Island  and operated a research station for about twenty-five years. 

You can't visit the Charleston Tea Plantation without taking home some tea! The plantation website also links to shops where the tea is sold.

You can’t visit the Charleston Tea Plantation without taking home some tea! The plantation website also links to shops where the tea is sold.

The Charleston Tea Plantation, as it is known today, was established in 1987 when Mack Fleming and William (Bill) Barclay Hall bought the land and the research station from the Lipton Company. Mack Fleming, a horticultural professor, had been running the plantation for the Lipton Company and Bill Hall was a third generation tea tester from England.  Along with establishing the plantation, they created the American Classic Tea brand. ”  The R.C. Bigelow Company in Connecticut bought the plantation about a decade ago.

Charles Tea Plantation Website.

Wikipedia: Charleston Tea Plantation

Bigelow Tea Company.

Health and Beauty Tips Using Tea!

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Filed under Drink, Gardening, History, Photography, Tea, Travel

The Mystery of The Amber Room

One of the sights I most wanted to see on a visit in July 2014 to St. Petersburg, Russia,  was the reconstructed Amber Room in Catherine Palace.

The original Amber Room was stolen by the Nazis in 1941, but the room was painstakingly reconstructed from black and white photographs and re-installed in 2003, with funds from German patrons.

It’s a magnificent room, and I wish I could have lingered longer.  My husband and I were on a tour, and we moved quickly through the beautiful rooms of the splendid Catherine Palace.  I had just enough time to take the above photo of a corner of The Amber Room, which shows how the pieces of amber are fitted together.

The Amber Room was on a long list of artworks that Adolph Hitler wanted looted from throughout Europe for a Third Reich Art Museum.  In 1941, the Nazis dismantled and removed  The Amber Room from Catherine Palace in the town of Tsarskoye Selo near St. Petersburg. They trashed most of what was left of the Catherine Palace, which has also been restored with some work left to be done.

Although one mosaic from the Amber Room turned up at auction and was used to help in the reconstruction, the rest of the room hasn’t been seen since. Art experts fear that the delicate pieces of the room didn’t survive. Below is a story about a man who is hot on its trail. I hope he finds the magnificent Amber Room.

Guard at Catherine Palace, Russia Post Cards
Guard at the Catherine Palace.
Welcome to Catherine Palace, Russia Poster
Military Band Greets Visitors to Catherine Palace.

 

Watch this National Geographic Video about the History of The Amber Room.

Wikipedia: About the Amber Room.

German pensioner needs drill to dig for Nazi-looted Amber Room

German Pensioner Needs Drill to Dig for Nazi-looted Amber Room

By Madeline Chambers

BERLIN (Reuters) – A pensioner has started digging in Germany’s western Ruhr region for the Amber Room, a priceless work of art looted by Nazis from the Soviet Union during World War Two and missing for 70 years, but says he needs a new drill to help him.

Dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Amber Room was an ornate chamber made of amber panels given to Czar Peter the Great by Prussia’s Friedrich Wilhelm I in 1716.

German troops stole the treasure chamber from a palace near St Petersburg in 1941 and took it to Koenigsberg, now the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, before it disappeared.

Conspiracy theories abound about the whereabouts of what some say is the world’s most valuable piece of lost art. Some historians think it was destroyed in the war, others say Germans smuggled it to safety.

Now 68-year-old pensioner Karl-Heinz Kleine says he thinks the chamber is hidden under the town of Wuppertal, deep in western Germany’s industrial Ruhr area.

After analyzing the evidence, Kleine has concluded that Erich Koch, who was the Nazis’ chief administrator in East Prussia, may have secretly dispatched it to his home town.

“Wuppertal has a large number of tunnels and bunkers which have not yet been searched for the Amber Room. We have started looking in possible hiding places here,” Kleine said.

“But the search is very costly. We need helpers, special equipment and money,” Kleine told Reuters, adding that a building firm which had lent him a drill had asked for it back.

“I only have a small pension, a new machine is too expensive for me. But whoever helps will get his share of the Amber Room when we find it,” he told Reuters.

“I am optimistic. I just need the tools, then it could go quickly,” he said.

Even Communist East Germany’s loathed Stasi secret police tried and failed to find the Amber Room. Hobby treasure hunters have launched expensive searches for it across Germany, from lake bottoms to mines in the eastern Ore Mountains. But in vain.

Historians say Erich Koch, convicted of war crimes by a Polish court, amassed a hoard of looted art and had it transported west from Koenigsberg in the final months of the war as the Soviet forces drew closer.

Russian craftsmen, helped by German funds, have recreated a replica of the Amber Room at the Catherine Palace from where the original was stolen.

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Lots of Locks of Love!

The Church of the Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg, Russia, is a popular backdrop for newlywed photos.  Here a couple stands on a bridge over one of St. Petersburg's many canals with the onion domes of the church behind them. In the red circle, not really visible in this photo, is one lock attached to the bridge rail.  I'm not sure whether this trend hasn't caught on yet in St. Petersburg, or whether previous locks have been removed.

The Church of the Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg, Russia, is a popular backdrop for newlywed photos. Here a couple stands on a bridge over one of St. Petersburg’s many canals with the onion domes of the church behind them. In the red circle, not really visible in this photo, is one lock attached to the bridge rail. I’m not sure whether this trend hasn’t caught on yet in St. Petersburg, or whether previous locks have been removed.

One of my favorite travel blogs is Gallivance by Terri and  James Vance.  When I read their post (linked below) on the trend of lovers placing locks on bridges and throwing the key in the river, I looked through my photos to find some examples of photos I’d taken of this trend. I only found these two, but never fear.  There are lots and lots more photos of locks in the Gallivance post, so don’t miss it!

Locks on a bridge in Nyhavn, an historic area of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Locks on a bridge in Nyhavn, an historic area of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Here’s the post by Terri and James Vance, which shows a lot of bridges where this locks of love trend has taken over, including one bridge in Cologne, which is bristling with so many locks you can barely see the bridge.

Cologne’s Locks of Love Bridge: A Romantic Fad or Steel Graffiti?

Here’s another post of some locks of love in Spain, which I stumbled upon

Locks of Love on a rail along the beach near the Anchor Museum in Salinas, Spain.

About the Church of the Savior on Blood, which is also known as Church of the Spilled Blood.

About Nyhavn in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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Dogs of Peru

Peruvian Hairless Dog Post Card
Peruvian Hairless Dog
Photograph by Catherine Sherman

I love photographing animals.  On a recent trip to Peru, I saw hundreds of dogs, so my camera got a real workout.

We saw many kinds of dogs, including this Peruvian Hairless dog (shown above) posing on a street in Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo), the village at the foot of Machu Picchu. We saw many dogs wearing clothes, but few wearing collars or on leashes.  Most wander freely, but seem to have homes or territories they return to. We often saw dogs sitting in the doorways to shops (and sometimes a cat inside) and at the front door of houses.

An ancient breed, the Peruvian Hairless Dog is the national dog of Peru. The dogs were kept as pets during the Inca Empire, but their history goes back even further. Depictions of Peruvian hairless dogs appear around 750 A.D. on ceramic pots and were featured on ceramic vessels in several Peruvian cultures. The Spanish conquest of Peru nearly caused the extinction of the breed. The dogs survived in rural areas, where the people believed that they held a mystical value. There’s a photo of another Peruvian Hairless dog in a shirt in one of the photos below.

Gray-Striped Dog in Cusco, Peru Postcards
Gray-Striped Dog in Cusco, Peru
Photograph by Catherine Sherman

We saw this dog near the main square (Plaza de Armas) of Cusco, often sitting in the grass. Here his coloring blends in with the ancient Inca stonework.

Dog Waiting in Front Of Blue Door, Cusco, Peru Post Card
Dog Waiting in Front of Blue Door, Cusco, Peru
Photograph by Catherine Sherman
A chihuahua shows off her fabulous dress as she stands in the doorway of a restaurant in Aguas Calientes, the town at the foot of Machu Picchu.  Isn't she a cute little diva?

A chihuahua shows off her fabulous dress as she stands in the doorway of a restaurant in Aguas Calientes, the town at the foot of Machu Picchu. Isn’t she a cute little diva?

A Peruvian Hairless dog, the national dog of Peru, wears a shirt to protect his bare skin.  He stands on a walkway along the railroad tracks in Aguas Calientes, the town at the foot of Machu Picchu.

A Peruvian Hairless dog, the national dog of Peru, wears a shirt to protect his bare skin. He stands on a walkway along the railroad tracks in Aguas Calientes, the town at the foot of Machu Picchu.

A man and his sportily-dressed dog rest on a street in Lima, Peru.

A man and his sportily-dressed dog rest on a street in Lima, Peru.

I think these are police dogs in Lima, Peru.  Here they are resting, but a few minutes later they were all awake and standing by the policemen.

I think these are police dogs in Lima, Peru. Here they are resting, but a few minutes later they were all awake and standing by the policemen.

Look at this cutie pie on a street in Ollantaytambo, Peru.  You can see an example of the ancient Inca stonework in this town, where an Inca emperor had an estate.

Look at this cutie pie on a street in Ollantaytambo, Peru. You can see an example of the ancient Inca stonework in this town, where an Inca emperor had an estate.

Here's another dog photographer, capturing this dog who has just gotten a drink at a dog watering fountain in Cusco, Peru.

Here’s another dog photographer, capturing this dog who has just gotten a drink at a dog watering fountain in Cusco, Peru.

A hairless chihuahua sports a camouflage jacket on a street in Aguas Calientes, the town at the foot of Machu Picchu.

A hairless chihuahua sports a camouflage jacket on a street in Aguas Calientes, the town at the foot of Machu Picchu.

A hairless chihuahua in a camouflage jacket watches a man with a wheelbarrow on a street in Aguas Calientes, Peru, the town at the foot of Machu Picchu. There are no roads to Aguas Calientes, so most goods come in by train and are wheeled around.

A hairless chihuahua in a camouflage jacket watches a man with a wheelbarrow on a street in Aguas Calientes, Peru, the town at the foot of Machu Picchu. There are no roads to Aguas Calientes, so most goods come in by train and are wheeled around.

Most dogs we met in Peru ignored us, but this dog was friendly and stretched out in a greeting at the entrance to the ruins of Machu Picchu.  He didn't seem to want food, which is good, because I didn't have any. He was at the entrance both days we went to Machu Picchu.

Most dogs we met in Peru ignored us, but this dog was friendly and stretched out in a greeting at the entrance to the ruins of Machu Picchu. He didn’t seem to want food, which is good, because I didn’t have any. He was at the entrance both days we went to Machu Picchu.

A man has a German Shepherd on a  leash while the puppies obediently follow across a street in Cusco, Peru.  You can see another dog lounging inside the shop just beyond. A man has a German Shepherd on a leash while the puppies obediently follow across a street in Cusco, Peru. You can see another dog lounging inside the shop just beyond.

Dogs meet up on a street in Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley of Peru.

Dogs meet up on a street in Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley of Peru.

A woman takes her fashionably dressed dog for a walk in Cusco, Peru.

A woman takes her fashionably dressed dog for a walk in Cusco, Peru.

This friendly Shar Pei dog patrols his corner of a market in Ollantaytambo, Peru.  The Shar Pei, which originated in China, is considered one of the most rare dog breeds.  Its name derives from the Cantonese words "sand skin" and refers to the texture of its short, rough coat.  As puppies, Shar Pei have numerous wrinkles, but as they mature, these wrinkles loosen and spread out as they "grow into their skin". Shar Pei were named in 1978 as one of the world's rarest dog breeds by TIME magazine and the Guinness World Records. The American Kennel Club did not recognize the breed until 1991.

This friendly Shar Pei dog patrols his corner of a market in Ollantaytambo, Peru. The Shar Pei, which originated in China, is considered one of the most rare dog breeds. Its name derives from the Cantonese words “sand skin” and refers to the texture of its short, rough coat. As puppies, Shar Pei have numerous wrinkles, but as they mature, these wrinkles loosen and spread out as they “grow into their skin”. Shar Pei were named in 1978 as one of the world’s rarest dog breeds by TIME magazine and the Guinness World Records. The American Kennel Club did not recognize the breed until 1991.

A dog sits in front of a shop in Ollantaytambo, Peru.

A dog sits in front of a shop in Ollantaytambo, Peru.

I took the following photographs from our van when we drove from Ollantaytambo to Cusco, so I apologize for the marginal quality. I really could have taken photos of dogs all day, and wished we could have stopped.

A dog waits at a doorway.  On the wall and light pole near him are political posters.

A dog waits at a doorway. On the wall and light pole near him are political posters.

A dog in Cusco, Peru.

A dog in Cusco, Peru.

A little white shaggy dog sits on a sidewalk in Cusco, Peru.

A little white shaggy dog sits on a sidewalk in Cusco, Peru.

A dog watches cars and trucks go by on the highway from Ollantaytambo to Cusco, Peru. (Taken from my car window.)

A dog watches cars and trucks go by on the highway from Ollantaytambo to Cusco, Peru. (Taken from my car window.)

Dogs dig in trash bags along a highway near Cusco, Peru.

Dogs dig in trash bags along a highway near Cusco, Peru.

Peru Dog Rescue

Misunderstanding the Canines of Cusco, Peru

Not to leave out cats, here is a link to my son and daughter-in-law’s photos of the cat park in the Miraflores District of Lima, Peru.  Some of the about 120 cats descend from a pair that city authorities introduced in the late 1990s to control a rat infestation. Others were abandoned. You know you can’t resist clicking on this link!

Cat Park in Lima, Peru.

Shar Pei Dog, Ollantaytambo, Peru
Shar Pei Dog
Photograph by Catherine Sherman

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Filed under Animals, Cats, Dogs, History, Photography, Travel

Howdy from the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas

Eiffel Tower, Paris, Texas Post Card
Eiffel Tower, Paris, Texas
Photograph by Catherine Sherman

On a recent drive home to Kansas City from a wedding in northeast Texas, we detoured to gawk at the Eiffel Tower replica in Paris, Texas.  Ok, I’m the only one of the three of us to gawk…I have this thing for oddball roadside attractions.

This Eiffel Tower isn’t the tallest replica in the world, but it’s the only one sporting a cowboy hat. Following a tradition of American cities named “Paris”, Paris, Texas constructed a 65-foot (20 m) replica of the Eiffel Tower in 1993.  Paris, Tennessee, dedicated an Eiffel Tower replica in the same year that was 60 feet tall.  (The Tennessee version was moved from Memphis and refurbished in its new Paris location in 1993.) The cowboy hat insures that the Paris, Texas, tower stands taller.

Both replicas are dwarfed by the 540-foot-tall Eiffel Tower replica along the Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada, built in 1999. The original in Paris, France, is 984 feet tall.

Paris, Texas, calls itself the “Second Largest Paris in the World.” The town boasts 25,171 residents, as of the 2010 census.

Last year, we visited Paris, Arkansas, which doesn’t have an Eiffel Tower replica, but it does have a mural that depicts the Eiffel Tower, which you can read about and see in my blog post here: Every Paris Needs an Eiffel Tower  The post also lists other states with Eiffel Tower replicas and other states with a town named Paris.

Eiffel Tower Replicas Around The World

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Salt Pans of Maras, Peru

Peruvians have been harvesting salt from these salt pans near Maras, Peru, since before Inca times.  The beautiful salt pans have become a tourist attraction, too.

Peruvians have been harvesting salt from these salt pans near Maras, Peru, since before Inca times. The beautiful salt pans have become a tourist attraction, too.

We were near the end of our visit to beautiful, amazing Peru, with a free afternoon.  My family and I had visited Cusco and Machu Picchu (too briefly) and now we were in Ollantaytambo, a town in the Sacred Valley of the Inca, where the Inca had won a battle against the Spanish.  In the morning, we’d climbed the ruins overlooking the city, the site of this battle.

We were walking to the Plaza in Ollantaytambo, deciding what to do and see during our afternoon, when a taxi driver approached us, saying the magic words “Moray, Salineras.”  Soon we were in his car for an hour-long taxi drive to the spectacular terraced salt pans, called Salinas de Maras, high in the Andes Mountains, and later to Moray, an Inca agricultural site. The trip with its stops took about four hours.

You can find salt harvested from the Moray salt pans available for sale at the market at the salt terraces.  The salt is available in a variety of flavors, such as basil, garlic and cumin.

You can find salt harvested from the Moray salt pans available for sale at the market at the salt terraces. The salt is available in a variety of flavors, such as basil, garlic and cumin.

Halfway there, we left the paved highway and drove on a dirt road that bisected pastures where shepherds watched flocks, where a rainbow arched across the valley after a rain shower, under the towering snow-capped peak of Ch’iqun (Chicon), which stands at 18,1400 feet.  In the distance, smoke curled from pastures being burned to renew the grass.  (Ranchers burn pastures in the Flint Hills in my state of Kansas, too.)

The driver stopped the car at an overlook, where we first saw the 3,000 beautiful multi-colored terraced pools of the Salinas de Maras (Salineras) stretching down a hillside in a valley fed by spring water.

Peruvians have been gathering salt from the terraced salt pans near Maras, Peru, since before Inca times.  Salty water originating from the Qoripujio spring is carefully channeled into shallow man-made pools. The water evaporates, leaving behind salt, which is harvested by the 600 area families that own the ponds. There are markets at the entrance, where you can buy food, woven goods, pottery and other souvenirs, as well as salt, both plain and flavored, harvested from the site.

The salt ponds are near Maras, which is 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of Cusco, in the Cusco Region of Peru. Cusco is the ancient Inca capital.

More than 3,000 salt evaporation pools in terraces spill down a valley near Maras, Peru. Peruvians have been harvesting salt from these ponds since before Inca times. The unpaved, narrow mountain roads don't stop tour buses and taxis from bringing many tourists to see this beautiful place.

More than 3,000 salt evaporation pools in terraces spill down a valley near Maras, Peru. Peruvians have been harvesting salt from these ponds since before Inca times. The unpaved, narrow mountain roads don’t stop tour buses and taxis from bringing many tourists to see this beautiful place.

A woman waits in her shop, selling food, woven goods, salt and souvenirs at the market at the salt pans, near Maras, Peru.

A woman waits in her shop, selling food and souvenirs at the market at the salt pans, near Maras, Peru.

 

We were inspired to visit Ollantaytambo and other Peruvian sites by Terri and James Vance, who write a wonderful travel blog at Gallivance.  Here is one of their many fascinating Peru posts.  Ollantaytambo, a Living City of the Inca. Here is a listing of their Peru blog posts: Gallivance: Peru

Here are some posts I found from other travelers who visited the salt pans near Maras.

The Sacred Valley of the Inca — Moray and Salinas.

A Visit to the Salt Pans of Maras

Off the Beaten Track: A Visit to Salinas de Maras

Wikipedia: Maras, Peru.

 

A sculpture in the center of the Plaza in Maras, Peru, displays some of the sights in the area, including Salineras and the Moray Inca agriculture circles.

A sculpture in the center of the Plaza in Maras, Peru, displays some of the sights in the area, including Salineras and the Moray Inca agriculture circles.

Salty spring water flows into the terraces of the salt pans  near Maras, Peru.

Salty spring water flows into the terraces of the salt pans near Maras, Peru.

Salt Pans of Maras, Peru
Salt Pans, Maras, Peru
Photograph by Catherine Sherman
Salt Pans of Maras, Peru
Man with a Harvest of Salt, Maras, Peru
Photograph by Catherine Sherman

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