Thursday, July 30, 2009

Striking Images of Peru: Inca Terraces, Salt Pans, and Traditional Dance

Three of the best Photo Ops I found in the Cuzco area were the dance performances at El Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo, the agricultural terraces at Moray and the nearby salt pans of Salinas.

Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo, founded in 1924, was the first institution dedicated to preserving and cultivating the folkloric music and dance of the region. Seventy artists perform fifty different original dances. A live orchestra of local musicians playing traditional instruments accompanies the dancers with more than 100 melodies collected in the high land communities of PerĂº.

The artistry of the musicians and dancers is excellent, the costumes colorful and professional. The audience is usually made up of tourists and locals alike, a real tribute to the continuing popularity of the Andean traditional arts. The show is included on the Cuzco-area tourist ticket which is the best buy for admission to many of the regional sites, including Sacsahuayman, Corichancha, Pisac, Ollantytambo, and many other "must-see" attractions.

The experimental agricultural terraces at Moray (3 km. from the village of Maras) are interesting for their design element and much more. The various levels of terraces are carved into a huge naturally-occurring (but further excavated by the Incas) bowl. Experts think the Incas used these terraces to determine the best conditions for their crops.

Just a few km. away is the seldom-visited site of Salinas, also one of the most photogenic places I found in this area of the Andes. These salt pans have been used for salt extraction since Inca times. A hot spring at the top of the valley releases a stream of salty water which is diverted to the salt pans below. The salt, worked for very little money by a members of a cooperative, has been used for salt licks for cattle, although there is a movement afoot to begin an industry to provide it as a designer salt for cooking. For about $.80 each I bought baggies of the stuff to use in my own California kitchen, and to share with my foodie friends.

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