It’s All Downhill

Mikayla is all smiles at the start. ©2012 Cheryl Crockett Lezovich

Mikayla hates mountain biking. That became apparent shortly after we began our two-hour trek from Moray to Urubamba, Peru.

Geoff Hufford, S/V Eclipse, arranged this adventure with KB Tours of Ollantaytambo. His boys love mountain biking and jumped at the opportunity. I love biking and was ready to go despite my lack of experience with mountain biking. Mike isn’t fond of biking but didn’t want to miss the fun. Michelle and Mikayla had planned initially to visit the ruins at Moray via taxi and then return to the village, but Michelle could not ignore the call of adventure. Since everyone else was going, Mike insisted that Mikayla go, too.

It took about an hour to reach our destination in a van loaded with bikes. There was much beautiful scenery to see. Wildflowers popping their heads out of ruins. Torolitos, the twin bulls signifying good luck, spied on the rooftops of houses. Bright red flags atop long poles marking spots where chicha, the local beer made from corn, is ready to buy.

We had only 15 minutes to explore the ruins at Moray unfortunately. They’re my favorite due to their beautiful design, one perfect circle inside another. The Incas chose this plan to experiment with crops. A different species was grown on each terrace, and its success was measured against crops at slightly higher altitudes with different microclimates. Brilliant.

The Moray ruins form an ag experiment. ©2012 Cheryl Crockett Lezovich

We mounted our bikes at this point and began an ascent out of the valley. My knees shook from our climb up Huayna Picchu yesterday, so I walked my bike through most of this section. Then we began a slight descent into the village of Maras, four kilometers away.

By the time we reached Maras, it was feeding time again for the Hufford boys. Alec and Mike shared a plate of rice and beans. They topped it off with a generous quantity of hot sauce. The local men began laughing, and Alec and Mike quickly discovered why. Tears began running down Mike’s face and Alec grabbed some water from Jerome.

Mike tackles a steep descent. ©2012 Cheryl Crockett Lezovich

We began our trek anew, fortified with beans, rice, trail mix bars and cookies and water from the snack bag provided by Abel, our guide. The terrain became tougher as we made our way down narrow trails gutted by dry river stream beds and rivulets. It was hard to keep our bikes on the track without hitting gravel that would send us sliding down the path and over the mountainside.

Abel was very sweet and stayed at the rear with me until I gained some confidence. He also raced ahead to check on Mike’s condition when he took a spill. Mikayla didn’t fall at all, but she felt quite uneasy going downhill due to the rough conditions. I seldom see her so frustrated.

The surrounding landscape was beautiful. We passed thriving farms ringed by potato fields blooming in yellow, pink and purple. Women and children gathered corn stalks in large patches. In higher locations, we spotted caracara falcons but no condors, the national bird. The Andes Mountains at a distance remained covered with snow.

Chicha beer for the herder. ©2012 Cheryl Crockett Lezovich

I had a delightful encounter with a grandmother herding three burros. They were loaded down with sacks of potatoes and, of course, I had to have a photo of her. She insisted on three soles, $1US, to pay for the chicha she looked forward to after her chores.

The Hufford boys continued to lead us down the trail, frequently stopping to let the rest catch up. They rode confidently, Geoff included, hopping to other paths and jumping over obstacles. Michelle stayed close behind and I finally edged past Mike and Mikayla.

The salt pans are shallow but eery. ©2012 Cheryl Crockett Lezovich

Eventually we reached Salinas, home to hundreds of salt pans. These ponds date back to the age of the Incas. A hot spring at the top of the valley produces salt water that ekes its way down from one salt pan to the next. Families from Maras own from one to five salt pans, passed down through the generations, providing some household income.

From here we made our sharpest descent into the village of Tarabamba. Our van was waiting and we stretched out on the seats, still pumped up about the day’s fun and sights.

Abel kindly agreed to take us to Seminario Ceramics in Urubamba. My friend Linda Miller strongly advised a stop there to view the unique, handmade ceramics. It was well worth it.

An artistic oasis in the Sacred Valley. ©2012 Cheryl Crockett Lezovich

From the dusty street of Urubamba we stepped into a tranquil garden built around a large fountain. A parrot greeted us. One of the helpers arrived and suggested we watch a seven-minute video about the studio. We gratefully seated ourselves and learned about the work of Pablo Seminario and his wife Marilú Behar. Since 1979 they have used local artists to produce an array of pottery, utensils and wall art using motifs from the ancient Peruvian culture. The men typically throw the pots or make them from slabs of clay. The women paint the pieces using natural hues in designs of their own choosing.

Then we were taken on a tour and observed a team of 10-15 local artisans working together. We also passed by Pablo’s collection of museum-sized pots, llamas and alpacas. Much to our surprise, we also were introduced to Pablo himself.

He was working quietly when our guide knocked on his door. Pablo greeted us and talked about his current work. He bemoaned the fact that he had accepted a commission that was not giving him much pleasure and taking time away from his own pursuits. When Mike asked what his personal work was about, the artist replied that he was trying to find himself.

“I ask myself, ‘Who am I? What am I?’” It would seem for someone in his sixties and a lifetime career in art that he would already know the answer to those questions. His journey still intrigues him, taking him back to a boyhood fascination with arrowheads.

A painter at work. ©2012 Cheryl Crockett Lezovich

Like many tours found in the USA, ours ends with a stop at the retail store where Michelle, Mikayla and I gasp at the beautiful pieces available for sale. The boys, too, move from one area to the next and choose their favorites. Both families leave with large bundles, each piece nestled in bubble wrap and bound for our plane trip back to Colombia.

Stairs in the rocks at Moray ruins form perfect steps.
©2012 Cheryl Crockett Lezovich

There's beauty all around on the bike trail.
©2012 Cheryl Crockett Lezovich

We're almost at the end.
©2012 Cheryl Crockett Lezovich

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About Cheryl Crockett Lezovich

Mom, first mate and writer aboard a 40' Manta catamaran, S/V Happy Times.
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