After spending so many months on the move, I was looking forward to having some downtime in Urubamba. So after taking a trip out to Machu Picchu, I stayed in a really beautiful hotel called Casa Mama. It is the low season, so the hotel was empty and the owners were spending most of their time in Cusco. So I stayed there looking after their cats and relaxing in their beautiful garden and took short trips to places close to town. This time was actually extended a little because of the protests that broke out around Peru recently.
The protests in Peru
It took me a little while to understand the situation surrounding the protests. Not only because it’s such an alien political situation for me, but also because the news that was available internationally wasn’t lining up with what I was hearing in Peru. But here is my understanding of the situation. Firstly, as a little bit of background, Peru has had 5 presidents in the last two years. So politically, this is quite a turbulent country recently.
Before the protests, the president was Pedro Castillo. He was voted into power because he was seen as an outsider candidate. He was from a poor background and seen as a man of the common people. But once in office, his performance wasn’t good. The problem is that most people in Peru not only didn’t like the president, but they also didn’t like the representatives in congress. There was a strong feeling that an election should take place to replace everyone. The congress had been trying to get rid of him for a while and they had organised a vote to have the president impeached. It was in this situation that, on the morning of the vote, Pedro Castillo made an announcement that he was planning to close congress and organise elections to replace all of the representatives. The congress had the president arrested on charges of sedition and high treason for attempting a coup. They then appointed the vice-president as president.
As I just mentioned, the congress aren’t very popular. So when they were making announcements about the new president and how this was all thanks to the actions of the congress. People were annoyed. They came out to protest and demanded new elections. To make things worse, the new president announced that they would agree to have new elections, but that they would be held in 2024. That is around 18 months from the time of the protests. People felt like this wasn’t good enough and the protests intensified.
In Urubamba, the protests didn’t feel so intense. There were a lot of road blocks set up, so we couldn’t move around. But it didn’t feel dangerous when we walked around the streets. Luckily, the protesters decided to stop their protests to allow everyone to enjoy their Christmas and new years holiday celebrations. But they announced that the protests would come back stronger than ever on the 4th of January.
The Maras salt mine
Just north of Urubamba there is a natural salt mine in a town called Maras. After a short ride into the mountains you arrive at the Salt mine valley. The whole place is carved into these small pits which are filled with natural salt water from a local spring. As the water evaporates in these pools, it leaves the salty sediment in and around the pools. You can buy a lot of different flavoured salts there. It’s super cheap to visit. Only 10 soles ($2.60 / £2.20).
Urubamba is located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, north of Cusco. It’s actually the largest town in the Sacred Valley. As the town is surrounded by mountains, it’s a great spot to do some hiking. But for me, it has been a great spot just to hang out and relax. I stayed here to celebrate my birthday and Christmas. But my Peruvian visa ends in mid January. This, coupled with the risk of protests breaking out again, means that I’m planning a quick sprint up to the north of Peru to spend my last week or so cycling around the beautiful beaches that I have heard so much about. I’ll be taking a bus to Lima, trying to organise a replacement for my damaged drone. Then taking a bus up north to start cycling again. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to cycle all the way. But I am looking forward to seeing the north and crossing into Ecuador.