Near the city of Maras, Peru is a spring which releases cold, clear, salty water. This salt water spring has been used since Pre-Inca times to grow and harvest large quantities of salt. An elaborate system of terracing, ponds and channels has developed at this cooperative venture. It is said that an individual salt pond belongs to a family and the lineage can be traced back for many, many generations.
The entire operation is worked as a cooperative. This means each family contributes time, energy and resources to keep their part of the deal. Then profits, rewards, expenses are also split among all members. Regardless of the system, it is clear that these people work very hard at this venture. Look closely to see the mucky rubber boots and also the baby on the womans back.
The salty water leaves the mountain spring and travels through channels throughout the elaborate structure. Each channel can feed an individual pond, or can be blocked once a pond is filled. The individual ponds are filled to a depth of about 5 inches. Then the water is allowed to evaporate away, leaving the salt crystals behind. To help the speed up the process, the workers walk through the ponds, breaking up the crystals that have formed and allowing evaporation to occur more rapidly. Then they rake the salt into piles along the edge of each salt bed. These piles of salt are loaded on baskets or in bags, and carried away to a facility for further drying. The various colors can come from impurities in the pond and the water. The salt is graded by the final color after being dried. Sometimes herbs, spices and flavorings are added to the salt. And some of the lower grade salt is used for beauty treatments such as salt rubs and bath salts. This salt production encompasses an enormous amount of land. It is said that there are over 800 ponds and some ponds have been in existence for over 500 years.
We were able to camp just up the mountainside from the Maras Salt Beds. We have circled the camper in this photo so you can get some idea of the size of the operation.
After enjoying this experience we visited another old, Peruvian church in the nearby village. This beautiful facility is undergoing restoration. And the donkey crew nearby seemed quite happy to see us walking around.
We purchased several types of delicious salt from the Maras Salt Beds. If you come for a visit, I promise to prepare you a yummy meal that is seasoned with some natural salt from a spring in Peru. Just let me know when you plan to arrive!