Sep 16, 2011

Mystical Machu Picchu and colors of the Andes - Cusco

This past August, my husband, Subrata and I decided to go on an adventure in South America and it would also be a sourcing trip for Rajboori as I am increasingly seeking out global inspirations and sources to enrich our offerings.  Our key destinations were Machu Picchu, Patagonia and Atacama desert, with cities like Valpariaso, Cusco and Buenos Aires thrown into the mix to offer some cosmopolitan, historical and cultural flavor and reprise from wilderness living. 

After a day's journey from Vancouver, we reached Lima in the late evening.  The airport was our "hotel" that night as we had a flight to the high altitude historical city of Cusco in the early hours of the morning.  A few espresso shots at the Starbucks in Lima airport kept us awake that night.We reached Cusco in the early hours of the morning as the city was just waking up.  The cool, crisp mountain air greeted us. Upon our arrival at the hotel, we were offered coca leaves, either to be chewed like the locals did or consumed as tea. I opted for coca-tea and Subrata went straight for the chewing option, hoping to drive off any remote chances of getting altitude sickness.  Our 4 day trek to Machu Picchu on the Salkantay trail would begin from the next day.

Plaza in Cusco city center
Cusco is a beautiful city nestled in the Andean mountains, built primarily in Spanish architecture as most of the original Inca architecture had been destroyed during the Spanish invasion and occupation.  The alleys of Cusco were filled with sometimes enticing and sometimes strong smells of various indigenous food being cooked, out of which fried pork seemed to be prevalent and a favorite among most locals and some tourists. Cuy or guinea pig was a delicacy offered in most restaurants.
Royal Alpaca shawls
Now, I had to check out the amazing textile products I had been noticing since we had landed.  The alpaca looked exquisite and a few upscale boutiques had the most beautiful and luxurious collection of shawls, scarves, and sweaters made from royal alpaca and vicuna wool.  But I wanted to find something that was more Peruvian or Andean inspired and certainly more artisanal.  So, off we went to visit the textile center in Cusco. This center is run by Nilda, who does inspirational work with the local artisans and they offer home textiles and some apparel in the center for purchase.  There's also a very informative museum that illustrates how the art of weaving Andean textiles takes place and what ingredients/techniques are used to make these colorful items.

I was amazed to see the similarity of design patterns, style of weaving and the type of looms used by these artisan women and the ones that I have seen in North Eastern India!  Did exchange of ideas and skills take place between the tribal artisan women of Peru and NE India at some point in history?  If so, wouldn't it be great if we could revive that cultural exchange through design?  With these thoughts churning in my mind, I went to bed, only to get up at an ungodly hour to leave for the Salkantay trek to ultimately reach our destination, the mystical Machu Picchu.
Salkantay peak - playing hide and seek

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