Posts Tagged ‘Ollantaytambo’

Festival near Machu Picchu, Peru


In a small hamlet, near the town of Ollantaytambo, a few hundred devotees hold festivals in honor of the Virgen del Carmen, known locally as Mamacha Carmen, patron saint of the mestizo population. The gathering, that raises the curtain on these days of celebrations is held in the main square, where troupes of musicians play their instruments while richly dressed choirs sing in Quechua. The setting gives way to a series of ingenious choreographies that portray events in Peruvian history.  The main and much bigger celebration of Virgen Del Carmen is in the town of Paucartambo, about four hours from Cusco, Peru. Mountain Spirit Institute participants, guide Guillermo Seminario, and host Anna Sequeros are in this clip.

New Biodiversity Museum, Peru


We stumbled upon Maribel Torres Leon’s  Museum of Biodiversity in Ollantaytambo, Peru,  when we walking on a side street one afternoon. The motto on her business card states, “Trade rightly, Sustainable Tourism, Cultural Identity”. Check out the video, and if you like it, please support Maribel’s work by either visiting the museum (see address and telephone number below), spreading the word about her good work, and/or making a donation. Well done Maribel!

Museum of Biodiversity
Maribel Torres Leon, Director & Founder
Calle La Convencion
Ollantaytambo, Peru
Tel: 51-84-984-962607 or 984-934263

Peru’09- Trading Places


By Randall Richards

Willoc Woman with Child

Willoc woman with child

Before I knew it I had a baby on my back. We were being shown how the Peruvian weaving process works from start to finish. We were in the town of Willoc for the afternoon, above Ollantaytambo, the gateway to Machu Picchu. We were being shown how the wool is shorn, carded, and spun, then dyed and weaved on a back-strap loom. The women showing us were wonderful and very gracious. I’d been there a number of times before taking a few MSI participants up to the mountain village, known for its weavings.

Gringo guide with child

Gringo guide with child

I have always been curious how the woman use the mantas, or clothes to carry everything from children to corn. I had been shown the day before how to fold and tie the knot but still was asking a woman who carried a child how it was done so the baby didn’t fall out.  Her idea was to show me by handing over the the whole lot, baby and manta to me.  As she helped me tie the knot, I thought, “this knot is as important as any climbing knot I’ve tied over the years. It better be good”  The young one hung out with me for about fifteen minutes when he decided he’d had enough and wanted his mom again.  I still need to figure out exactly how the folds in the material go, so the baby doesn’t fall out. I’ve got the knot down though!

I highly reccomend losing your stroller for this manta. We sell them at our fair-trade webpage, and I can even post some directions on how you too can carry everything from a child, to corn or even your groceries from Trader Joe’s, Hannaford’s, New World.

Peru’09: Planting Corn at Anna’s

Corn, Peru Style

Corn, Peru Style

Tomorrow, Amanda and I head back for Anna’s place in Ollantaytambo. I was just there a few weeks ago with our participants. I look forward to our second visit this year.  A few weeks ago, we spent an afternoon getting tutored by Anna on how she grows amazing varieties of corn. She took us down to her fields in the Sacred Valley, just a stone’s throw from her home, and showed us the different sorts of corn, and how she plants them. She explained that these are not mono-species. Most of the corn cross-breed every season creating a multitude of colors and styles of corn, used for everything from Chicha to toasting corn. She explained that most times every row will have a mix colors, which in fact makes them stronger against disease and drought. She also explained how all the other neighbors work together to share various tasks such as irrigation and maintaining the fields.

Anna giving a lecture on planting corn

Anna giving a lecture on planting corn

Unlike Monsanto corn, these varieties reproduce and are carried down through generations. Not to say there weren’t problems. Some twenty  years ago, there were serious health issues with the villages due to pesticide use in the fields. Cancer rates were high and people were really being affected. Now though, things are mostly if not totally organic. Most of Anna’s corn goes to feed her family and chickens, and doesn’t reach the local market. She also grows grains to feed her guinea pigs which she sells to neighbors and other villagers.  We’ll keep you posted on what we learn next at Anna’s.

Peru’09: Willoc Weaving


By Randall Richards

Kate J. at Willoc circa 1980's

Kate J. at Willoc circa 1980's

The first time I visited the small mountain village of Willoc, near Ollantaytambo was about 12 years ago.  Coincidently, my cousin Kate Jones spent a semester from the Lakeside School in Ollantaytambo and spent some time with a family in Willoc about twenty or thirty years before I showed up. This was before I knew where Peru was. She sent  a photo of her with her host family in Willoc, which I had on my desk for a number of years.  Then when I finally went Willoc, and recognized the local dress, I wondered if Willoc might be the  place that Katy ended up. I called her from Peru to solve the issue, and yes it was. Another year in Willoc, I tracked down her family. I’m headed there again in a few days, and will take a copy of the picture with me again to give to them.

Shearing & Drop Spindle, Willoc

Shearing & Drop Spindle, Willoc

On our Peru’09 program we again visited Willoc, and were shown a demonstration from start to finish of how the weaving is done – from shearing the wool to drop-spindle making the yarn, to dying the wool and finally the back-strap loom weaving.

While there we also were treated to a traditional meal and were shown the varieties of corn that are grown on the surrounding hillsides. The diffierent types are used for the fermented Chicha drink, toasting, cornmeal and other specialties.

As in other places in Peru, visitors are occasionally brought to small mountain villages. Mountain Spirit Institute limits our group size to a maximum of eight participants. Sustainable Travel International has guidelines on how to visit such communities as Willoc.

Learning about varieties of corn, Willoc

Learning about varieties of corn, Willoc

We feel at this point, there is a benefit to both the visitors and the villages for such visits, but they must be organized and done with care. One example, I always brief my particpants at the program start, and remind them of low-impact travel techniques, such as respectful use of the camera, matching voice volumes to that of local inhabitants, and follow cues from our hosts.

Our good friend, Anna Sequeros, a former president of the woman’s organization in the region has really worked wonders in bringing equality to village women in the area. More on that in another entry.

Peru’09: To Ollantaytambo


By R. Richards
In the next few weeks I’ll be journaling the Peru 2009 Cultural Immersion program which lasted 14 days. I won’t chronicle every day but the most important highlights of our experience.

We had 7 participants: Sally R. and her husband Scott S., Gail and Hal B. of Sunapee NH, newlyweds Tim Y. and Amy G. and Betsy S. of Grantham NH.  Most were teachers which made for good dynamics. On our first day in Cusco, we hiked up to Sacsayhuaman ruins. After walking the great walls, we had a little meeting as the sun set, setting the tone for open communication and willing to stretch outside of one’s comfort zone. The group all agreed they’d give it their best shot.  That night we had dinner at the Retama where Guillermo is the music director of his band Chimu’s/Chimu Inka and plays there almost nightly.

Guillermo plays "cane" flute at Moray

Guillermo plays "Quena" flute at Moray

After a night in Tika Wasi in Cusco, we headed for the Chinchero and the fascinating agricultural terraces of Moray.  Here, Guillermo took out his flute and played, setting a surreal tone in the ruins. You could hear the music echo through the terraces below. Then there was a hair-raising ride (not so much much for me, I’m used to the heights) to the Inka salt pans just before the sun set, then off to Anna’s pension.  Many thanks goes to Julio of Personal Travel Service for setting up our ride with Ernesto and the Mercedes bus plus all tickets and other logistics in the Sacred Valley.

Anna's Family, Guillermo & Ernesto

Anna's Family, Guillermo & Ernesto

It had been a few years since I’d seen Anna when I stayed at her pension for night. It was good to see Anna again, her daughter Katey and her other daughter who had been in Italy for four years, who I’d not  yet met. Anyway, we all settled in nicely, the participants heading off to stay in nearby homes, down the street. We’d all met up for dinner at Anna’s though. Although it was a bit of a switch from the four star Hotel Antigua in Lima, everyone adjusted well to Anna’s where we’d be basing ourselves over the next few days. Below is a short clip as we arrived at Anna’s. Ernesto our knowledgeable driver, Anna, her godchild, daughter, and Guillermo are featured.