Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Salineras de Maras

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Maras Salt Mines is located in Peru’s Sacred Valley, 10 km NW of Urubamba

What looks like a patchwork quilt of white and various shades of brown cascading down a hillside are in fact thousands of terraced salt mines that have existed since pre-Inca times yet are still operable till today. Fascinated by its beauty and astonished by the fact salt can actually come from ancient mines and not only from sea water, I was left speechless by the sprawl of salt encrusted ponds before me. My ignorance was evident: As I looked at the workers standing ankle deep in those ponds I could not comprehend how salt is produced. I needed to look it up. And here’s what I found out:

“Since pre-Inca times, salt has been obtained in Maras by evaporating salty water from a local subterranean stream. The highly salty water emerges at a spring, a natural outlet of the underground stream. The flow is directed into an intricate system of tiny channels constructed so that the water runs gradually down onto the several hundred ancient terraced ponds. Almost all the ponds are less than four meters square in area, and none exceeds thirty centimeters in depth. All are necessarily shaped into polygons with the flow of water carefully controlled and monitored by the "farmers". As water evaporates from the sun-warmed ponds, the water becomes supersaturated and salt precipitates as various size crystals onto the inner surfaces of a pond's earthen walls and on the pond's earthen floor. The pond's keeper then closes the water-feeder notch and allows the pond to go dry. Within a few days the keeper carefully scrapes the dry salt from the sides and bottom, puts it into a suitable vessel, reopens the water-supply notch, and carries away the salt.” (Maras Salt Mines)


Kayni said...

very interesting. i wonder why the spring produces highly salty water. there must a large salt deposit in the area.

Loree said...

That's very interesting. I had no idea salt was produced like this. I am used to the easy way of doing it - letting sea water evaporate.

Archerdee said...

Truly breathtaking! I wonder how the real thing would compare to this picture. Thanks for sharing Ms. Angeli! :)

Angeli said...

@archerdee: the salt mines look even better in person. and you can go down and walk in between the ponds or even touch and taste the salt encrusted within. the site is not that popular to tourists either so it doesn't have that carnival atmosphere most areas have.

@loree: same here. until i came to maras, i knew nothing about salt mines. hahah..

@kayni: yeah, it must have. the subterranean stream has produced salt for centuries. hindi nauubos no? ang galing talaga.

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