Desert Vibes

Desert Vibes
Photo: Ben Clark

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Run: Salt Mines of Maras to Urubamba River


After viewing the ruins at Chinchero, our group enjoyed a nice and easy run to the Salt Mines of Maras and on to the Urubamba River. In all, the run was about 4.5 miles and mainly downhill. So the altitude didn’t really have too much of an effect. The run was full of amazing scenery and varying landscapes including snow-capped mountains, deserts, and river valleys. The salt mines themselves are a sight to behold. 

The run began on a relatively flat gravel road in open grasslands featuring spectacular views of snow-capped mountains in the distance. Just change the road into some nice singletrack with the same scenery and I imagine that is what heaven would be like. 
Mountains where we started our run

The road we began our run on with mountains in the background

Switchbacks began to appear on the road after 1-2 miles of flat, straight running. We began our descent to the Salt Mines of Maras. From a distance, the salt mines look like white dots in the desert landscape. As you descend further you begin to develop a greater appreciation for the immensity of the salt mines.
First view of the Salt Mines of Maras
Salt Mines, mountains, and the Urubamba River in the distance. You can see the trail we ran going from the salt mines, down the side of the mountain, and to the river.
Close-up of the salt mines

Sprawling view of the salt mines. If you look in the upper-left corner, on top of the mountain, you can see some cars...We ran from up there down to where this picture is being taken.
 
Shortly after arrival in the salt mines area the gravel road turns into some fairly technical, rocky, and nearly all downhill singletrack…Just the way I like it. This was where the run got fun for me (or more fun than it already was). I approach technical downhill runs with a bit of reckless abandon. Not too long ago I came to the realization (after falling several times) that it’s going to hurt almost as bad going slow down these sections of trail as it does going fast. Since then I’ve been flying down trails that bring most people to a walking pace. I don’t have too many photos from the singletrack section of the run since I didn’t want to stop due to having too much fun zooming downhill.
Great view coming out of the canyon and entering into the valley
Urubamba River valley view from the trail


Eventually, all good things must come to an end. This run was no different. Our run ended at the Urubamba River in the bottom of the valley, one of the many spectacular finish lines for the runs in Peru. Lunch was in a restaurant right beside the river with great mountain views all around. They could have served the shittiest food in Peru and it would have tasted instantly better due to the 360-degree views.
Urubamba River

Another river view

Restaurant where we ate lunch. I ran/climbed up a mountain across the river from the restaurant to take this photo.

Me finishing up the run...Just in time for lunch...
 
We hopped into the bus one more time and ventured to the town of Yucay for a night at the Sonesta Posada del Inca Hotel. This hotel was ridiculously awesome with more 360-degree mountain views, scenic singletrack trails within 5 minutes of my room door, and a great sunrise. I definitely would have loved to stay there more than one night. 

Of course, I decided to make use of the quick and easy access to singletrack mountain trails. Shortly after arrival at the hotel I already had my running gear on and headed for the mountains. Once again, the trails were rocky and moderately technical. The real "killer" on this run was the vertical gain. I ascended about 2,500 vertical feet within two miles, whew! I finally decided to turn around since it was already pretty damn dark outside. The run back was fun to say the least. Running in the dark down technical trails that are essentially all rock and no dirt is quite a rush. One wrong foot placement (which is easy to in the dark) and you're falling face first into a bunch of huge rocks, ouch! I did have a flashlight with me, but I opted not to use it in favor of being more adventurous. When I reached the hotel, it was pitch black outside. Not a bad run to end the day on...
Beginning my run in Yucay

Stream alongside the trail in Yucay

I came across a farmer burning his fields on the way back down. At first I thought it might be some ancient Inca sacrifice ritual and they were going to kill me or something...
Good morning, Yucay! View just outside of my room before sunrise.

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