Our third (and the least anticipated) stop on our Sacred Valley tour was to the local village of Misminay. I really did not know what to expect from our visit to the village other than I was probably going to feel uncomfortable.
I knew that we would be meeting with one or more local families and they would be cooking lunch for us and this just made me uncomfortable.
We arrived at the entrance to the village and were greeted by 6-9 people who were playing musical instruments and singing. We proceeded to walk five minutes to the village (they insisted that we walk in front of them as they played music and sang). Walking in front of them felt very strange and weird and I hated it and the walk to the village was the most uncomfortable part of our visit – the rest of the visit was amazing!
The first thing we did when we reached the village was to introduce ourselves. The locals spoke Quechua and a few of them spoke tiny bits of Spanish but for all intents and purposes, we could not understand them and they could not understand us and thank god for our translating guide!
The locals went first with introductions and I was relieved because I’m not one for small talk and I was unsure what type of information goes into an introduction such as this one. Their introductions included their names, ages, number of children, and marital status. One woman proudly stated that we were standing in front of her house. I must admit, it was an impressive house.
After the introductions, they guided us into the dining room wing of the house where we sat at a giant picnic table. I thought we would be dining with the locals but they had disappeared into the woodwork leaving our driver (“Dad”, more on that later), our guide, Sara, Jessi, and I seated at the table.
I remember being surprised at how airtight the house was and how the simple-looking windows were possibly made of magic glass. The wind was blowing across the hillside but it was cozy inside with no draft.
A few minutes after we were seated, our first course hit the table. It was a basket of bread and a side of Andean pico de gallo. We learned that Andean people put pico de gallo on/in almost everything they eat. Pico de gallo on bread had never crossed my mind but it was tasty and then I remembered that I needed to go easy on the pico because raw onions (and garlic) will give me heartburn for days, sometimes weeks.
The next course was soup. I do not recall what it was made out of but I feel potatoes and corn are a pretty safe bet. For sure there were potatoes in it. It was very good and I could have eaten the whole kettle because it was like 2 or 3pm and we had not eaten anything since the slice of chocolate cake we shared at 10am. “Famished” is how I would describe myself by the time we arrived at the village.
The next course was the main course and even though the visit to this village was just a little over a month ago, I have no idea what type of meat it was but was delicious. It was served with more carbs, probably rice or potatoes or maybe both. Probably both.
The last course was dessert and it was flan and the consistency of flan is disgusting so my portion sat untouched. Flan. I just can’t.
After lunch, we reconvened with the locals in the “front yard” for their textiles demonstration. They explained how they (a) make yarn out of alpaca hair and (b) dye the yarn using plants and herbs.
Sara, Jessi, and I were required to participate in various steps of yarn-making and yarn-dyeing. Jessi diplomatically stated that we would participate in alphabetical order by name. I asked, “Which name? First or last?” and then she rolled her eyes and shewed me to go dye yarn.
The key takeaways from the demo were:
- Making textiles is largely the role of the women in the village.
- It is a months-long process to take alpaca hair and turn it into a sweater.
- The process can be back-breaking such as when working the seated loom. They can only work the loom for a few hours a day due to the strain on their lower backs.
- Only natural plants and herbs are used to dye alpaca yarn.
- Natural plants and herbs produce dull and muted colors. Any textiles you see in a market or shop that are brightly colored are not authentic.
The demo lasted about 45 minutes and it was super fascinating! Following the demo, we had the opportunity to buy their textiles and then we said our goodbyes in various languages. They walked us back to our van singing the same song and playing the same music as when we arrived.
Our visit to Misminay was not something I was looking forward to but it ended up being my favorite part of our Sacred Valley tour.