There’s a sweet shuffle amidst the cobblestoned streets, sounds of flutes can be heard all around, and an ancestral hum of life seeps through every cracked door: It’s nighttime in Cusco, but the city couldn’t be more alive. Nestled within the lush Andean highlands, Cusco is a high altitude wonderland where life still holds a lineal delicacy. At the start of our Lares Adventure, thoughts of world wonders and ancient Incan villages swirl about, lingering in our minds like childhood dreams finally coming to fruition.
We first arrive to Chinchero, home to a quaint village living atop an Incan archeological site. It’s morning, and the patter of feet fill the air as locals make hurried strides to the market. Women are dressed in elaborate skirts and concave hats, each adorned in colors and designs specific to her community. The market sits in the town’s central square, adjacent to prodigious mountains, which cast a saturated shade of green on the countryside.
We make our way to the terraces of Moray. Here, the Incas harnessed the power of the mountain to create an internal irrigation system, creating a flourishing series of microclimates almost 100 feet deep into the valley. Functioning much like a modern greenhouse, Incas grew fava beans, potatoes and many other vegetables at a rate unprecedented for their time.
We journey further to the salt mines at Maras: Sitting like a large tannery perfectly carved into the highland mountains, Maras is a further introduction into the minds of the ancient Incas, who’s organization and agricultural structure made them masters of a vast landscape, cultivating and blending symbiotically with their immensely wild land. The salt mines cascade into each other, forming ethereal pools of white. Some are speckled with iridescent blue waters, and local salt miners glide along the clay gaps with ease, as if they have a mountain of space in-between each pool.
Our descent from the salt mines at Maras land us further into the Andean heartland. We arrive at a small village, and we happen upon a drawstring bridge that connects us to the neighboring enclave. A river cascades below as the sun beams along our bodies: the peace of the Andean range engulfs us.
At the end of our first day on the Lares Adventure, we’re greeted with home-brewed quinoa beer and a beautiful lodge in the heart of Lamay, where a steaming Jacuzzi awaits in the outdoor garden. Llamas graze around us as sun begins to set along the lodges crease with the mountain, creating a pocket of light that warms the air around us. We toast to the start of a journey that we know will stay with us long after it concludes.