Day 5: Today Pascal and I bid farewell to our new found friends at the hotel. We continued our adventures in the Sacred Valley and were heading up to the ancient Inca capital city, Cusco. We were picked up promptly at 8 a.m. by our fantastic guide Giovanni Alegre Of Willka Maki Sacred Expeditions and began the ascent towards the textile town of Chinchero, famous for its artisans.
Families here spin the llama wool and alpaca into yarn (while singing, creating a rhythm to control the speed at which the spindle spins), dyeing the yarns with natural dyes and weaving incredible cloth. The town is filled with weavers and Giovanni took us to visit the Kantu family. Baby llamas practically stole the show with their excited bleating as we arrived.
Inside we were greeted with cocoa leaf and mint teas and offered a seat to watch a demonstration on the textile process by the charming Flor Quispe Triro, who spoke fluent English. She showed us a special tree root that she shredded in to a basin of water. She frothed it up into a natural foaming detergent. She washed the raw dirty brownish wool, which soon was white. She then showed us how they spin it, singing in their native Quechua to maintain the rhythm. They then showed us the natural dyes they used to create hundreds of permanent colors.
The most fascinating one was from a tiny parasite bug that feeds on cactus, which they crush, using its bright red blood to make a vivid red. Or, mixing it with limes to create orange. They even showed us how they use it as a lip color, staining their lips bright red for 24 hours. They then showed us the loom and then intricate process of weaving blankets.
The girls start when they are six weaving little bracelets, then at nine they graduate to belts and at twelve they weave blankets with their intricate designs particular to each family. We were utterly fascinated by how complicated the process is to create these stunning blankets, which are so tightly woven that they are waterproof.
I told them I was a fashion designer and showed them pictures of the recent bridal show. The were all fascinated, crowding around the phone. They were especially mesmerized by the beaded gowns, which I tried to explain how we make them. I went back to the car and took one of my beaded t-shirts out for them to see .. they were riveted , utterly fascinated by the tiny beads, how they sparkled in the sunlight, the fire breathing dragon with wings... I was so moved by their awe, that we decided we would give my shirt to Flor. Her joy was indescribable, disbelief that this T-shirt was hers!
We continued the climb up towards Cusco (which is 3700 mètres above sea level). Giovanni filled us in on the fascinating history of the Inca’s along the way. Soon we arrived at the Adobe bricked city with its terra-cotta tiled roofs sprawling across the mountains and down on to the valley floor, at the center of which is the tiny airport.
We stopped off next door at Pucapucara, a pink granite military fort, where the army would set up when the Inca was at Tambomachay. From there we visited Q’enqo, the temple where sacrifices and offerings were made to Mother Earth, Pachamama. The Rock formations are stunning and it;s fascinating to see how they incorporated natural rocks in to their buildings. Harmony with Pachamama was a core belief of the Inca. We placed a little offering on the sacred altar ourselves, two little fuchsias for mom. We then visited the Enormous Sacsayhuaman (pronounced "Sexy Woman"). The structure here is so sophisticated that rumors abound that “Aliens” helped build it.
From there Giovanni took us to the Christo Blanco, the white Christ, a giant statue of Jesus with his outstretched arms blessing the city far below.
Our hotel is out of this world, built as a monastery in the 16th century and deserves it own post. After a quick swim, we explored the fascinating hotel. When we got back to our “double” upgraded room, now a luxury suite, a tray filled with delicious Savory canapés awaited us. We had enough time to relax and enjoy a delicious gourmet dinner at the hotel restaurant Tupay.
Exhausted after another incredible day, it was lights out at 10:30 pm ......