12 Day Ayacucho/Huamanga Tour
The fact that this is the third tour I have done with PUCHKA is a testament to how good they are. The staff are wonderful, caring people who go out of their way to ensure participants have the best experience. We are very privileged that because of Maximo being friends with the brilliant artisans we visit, we gain unique entry to their workshops and homes where we receive an incredibly warm welcome. The welcome we received at Bellavista Village was an incredibly humbling experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. Experiencing Semana Santa in Ayacucho, especially being able to watch from the hotel balcony, provided a great opportunity to see the wonderful Peruvian culture and how important such festivals are to them. Penny Clay, Australia
Excellently organized; marvelous people met; wonderful things seen; treasures bought; delicacies eaten. !Inolvidable/Unforgettable! Alistair Hay, Australia
I enjoyed visiting the many workshops and trying my hand at the various crafts. I am taking a bit of Peru home with me. Gracias! Julie Jensen, USA
Easily for me the highlight of the trip was the visit to the village of Bellavista. Giancarlo, Anabel and Maximo have been very helpful and professional. I felt very safe with Wilbert as he drove through the chaotic traffic and loved visiting all the workshops – everyone very kind and friendly. I love Peru and hope to return one day. Gracias! Fran Pundole, United Kingdom
I enjoyed this tour as I did the longer tour in 2014. The visit to the village of Bellavista is the most memorable at this time, I’ve also enjoyed the workshops, especially the interactive ones. Elsie Siebelink, USA
Beautiful country and people. New friends and memories made. Gracias! Jill Siebelink, USA
Another wonderful PUCHKA Tour. Wonderful workshops with skilled and caring artisans. The team were unfailingly helpful and well organized. It was great to spend time with them again. I’m looking forward to the Internship with Maximo next year. Great friends made and sights seen. Rosalind Johansson, United Kingdom
Dear PUCHKA, I am very grateful that I had the care and kindness of your wonderful team to show me the beauty and specialness of Peru. Sasha, your love for the Peruvian people and your spirit of generosity in wanting to share your love is evident in how you look after all the tour participants. I am so happy to have met some of the people you love. I have great respect and admiration for how you are bringing the world together, so we can all fall in love and help one another. The incredible talent of Maximo Laura and the pride and support he has for all the artisans he introduced us to has left me wanting to come back so I too can be immersed in the creativity and talent he inspires.
I cannot say enough good things about Anabel and Giancarlo. Together they make a wonderful team. Each one so good at taking care of the participants. Always being respectful and enthusiastic while guiding/translating/showing us something new and just plain being wonderful people. Many thanks to Wilbert for driving through some hair raising traffic and safely getting us to so many remote places with many adventures along the way, spontaneous cactus eating, coca leaf and all his conversations.
Of course I will never be able to truly express how I felt visiting Bellavista. From the moment our van pulled up we were treated to a village of delight. The love and excitement that was offered to us was overwhelming. The beautiful flower archway, the singing elder women, mixed with the gorgeous children singing poetry, reading, dancing, laughing and ultimately sharing themselves will stay forever in my heart. I feel my world and my heart have grown bigger from my experiences thanks to PUCHKA Tours. Love and laughter. Elayne O’Byrne, Canada
Dear PUCHKA Tours, A wonderful two weeks. I loved the workshop visits, the marvelous work of the master crafts people. The weaving, the embroidery, alabaster sculpture, the tinwork, were all inspiring. As a fibre artists myself, I have come away with loads of ideas I can incorporate in my own work.
Anabel and Giancarlo took great care of all of us, Maximo was a great tour guide – giving lots of information at each of our stops and Wilbert was an amazing driver! I would certainly recommend the 12-day tour to Ayacucho/Huamanga to anyone interested in textiles and other artistic works. Thanks – I really enjoyed myself. Judith Newman, Canada
What an amazing experience. Sunday 18th. Wilbert and David arrive to take us to Paracas. Both men are excellent drivers but Wilbert’s skills as a superb, careful driver were yet to be exhibited until the narrow trails to Vilcashuaman and to Bellavista Village. He expertly transported us over switch back roads, plus the encounters with various animals, these experiences leave us in awe at his driving skills. We always felt safe knowing he was in control. The skill in which Anabel and Giancarlo exhibited in dealing with a variety of events was both discrete and unparalleled. Maximo was a generous and gracious welcoming host in his home town of Ayacucho. His contacts were a marvel to behold. Obviously many of the ground work would have come from Sasha. This is a tour for an open minded, savvy, cultural traveler, able to go with the flow and accept that conditions are not always those of a 4/5 star hotel. We were happy with the quantity and variety of experiences, and the Artisans, some with National recognition and who have exhibited abroad, were generous in sharing their knowledge and work. The social and “start up” groups were thought provoking and showed a great deal of promise for further development. We enjoyed our numerous acquisitions from both groups – much heavier suit cases going home.
We have no hesitation in recommending PUCHKA Peru to those with an open mind to adventure and a desire to know more about this wonderful country and connect with its people.
Congratulations to PUCHKA Peru for giving us a memorable trip and a life changing experience. This was an ideal add on the earlier 22 day experience, taking us to the wider communities, putting us in contact with the folk art of Ayacucho. We feel we have really met the lovely people of Peru! Beth Carter, New Zealand, and Marziah Kiehn, USA
Thank you Sasha for your warmth and all your kindness and friendship while helping me arrange this trip of a life time. It was everything and more that I could hope for. I will hold dear what you have said and embrace the mystery and possibility the future holds. Elayne Alexander, Canada
I just returned from participating in both the 22 day tour and the 12 day tour with Puchka tours and I could not recommend them more highly. I love the whole concept of the tours - bringing people who have a desire to learn about other cultures and a love of fine arts together with the people who are producing them, seeing where and how they are made and helping to make their production sustainable. Cutting out the middle men puts a face and a history with the products and process and builds connections among people around the globe. Participating in workshops where you can learn from master craftsmen (Elena; Hand Embroidery, Florencio; Gourd Carving, Rufina and Gloria; Knitting, Leon; Braiding, Simona; Machine Embroidery, Sra. Leonora; Drop Spinning, Maximo Laura; Tapestry Weaving) gives you a much deeper appreciation for the products and the people who made them.
Under the expert guidance of the Puchka tour organizers and leaders, Sasha McInnes, Maximo Laura, Giancarlo Soldi and Anabel Sanabria, our every need was anticipated and provided for. They were unfailingly good natured, helpful and efficient and always available if we needed or wanted them. In addition to the textile and arts tours and lessons, during the 22 day tour we had expert local guides (John in Lima, Patricia in Arequipa, Fidel and Nilo in Cusco) who took us to see museums, markets, cathedrals and many of the amazing Inca sites of Peru. They were extremely knowledgeable about Peru’s history, geology and culture and added so much to our enjoyment of them. Machu Picchu exceeded my very high expectations in beauty and mystique, and the other Inca sites we visited were equally impressive, though less known and visited by tourists. I also appreciated having a “home base” during each tour, to return to and become familiar with an area.
During the 12 day tour in Ayacucho we got to visit artist workshops and see the whole spectrum of artists in different stages of their careers, from the beginning artists who had just carved out a space in the family compound in which to work, to the masters with established businesses and home studios with several employees. I was touched that they took time for us and allowed us into their homes. We got to visit alabaster carvers, weavers and embroiderers, potters, jewelers, leather workers, retablo and mask scultpors and tablas de Sarhua painters (painted story boards). Visiting these studios with Maximo Laura, who is a long time friend to many of them and a source of encouragement to all, was a treat. Maximo is not only an extremely talented artist but a humanitarian who shares his talent and success with visitors and other artists and promotes the arts of Peru. It was a huge honor to visit his studios and offices and home and to see his tapestries and hear about his inspirations, process and designs. It is not hard to see why he has been declared a National Living Treasure of Peru.
In addition to the home based workshops we got to visit a shelter for teenage mothers and victims of abuse who were working on handicrafts to earn a living wage for themselves and their children while the young children were cared for and schooled within the same supportive compound. We also visited several textile cooperatives where people came together with their handiwork to share designs, companionship and markets. The high point of the whole 12 day tour for many of us was a visit to a small mountain village outside of Ayachucho where Maximo’s nephew and master weaver, Richar was born and where he had returned to help the income of the village by teaching weaving. As the first foreign visitors to this village we were given a most warm and excited welcome. The entire village turned out to greet us and show us their textile production. We were then treated to a heart warming performance of songs and dances by the school children of the village and shared a meal prepared for us. We hated to say goodbye when it was time to leave. On our way out of the mountains for the last time, our amazing and skilled driver and knowledgeable companion on the tour, Wilbert Rodriguez, led us all in a final, fitting farewell ceremony, inviting us to breathe in some of the amazing energy of the Andes and leave some of our energy there.
I will be forever grateful to the Puchka people for the unique opportunity they gave me, to not only see the amazing sites and arts of Peru but to get to know Peru and her people from the inside out. Cynthia Mateer, USA
Our last night in Ayacucho and with PUCHKA is accompanied by the sound of tape being ripped from its roll and bound around various precious pieces – in this case a retablo mirror by Silvestre and, from Gian’s room above, around an exquisite tin cross by Teófilo.
Visiting the many and varied workshops was interesting and, in some cases, fascinating as the makers showed so much enthusiasm for their craft. The 12 day tour took us to the heart of craft work and into the 'talleres' or workshops of masters and mistresses of their craft. It was wonderful to visit their workplaces and to understand what made them tick. But we also visited places where the crafts were practiced in cooperatives to help support women and their families. It was always living craft and that's what made the Puchka tours so special.
The serendipity of the visit to the teenage mothers from the DIA association gave a view of another side of life here and I learned a lot about how enthusiastic leaders can make projects work.
Our village visit to Bellavista was a joy.
I can say that, for me, for this trip and the first one too, PUCHKA Journeys are the best organized, managed and supported tours that I’ve experienced.
Of course, having Maximo as our conductor was a privilege. His knowledge and expertise across the many skills was informative and useful.
Giancarlo was the consummate professional; always polite, always helpful and informative, always tolerant and, above all, always enthusiastic.
And, of course, Wilbert our driver and philosopher was worth his weight in gold.
Thanks to all of you. Lesley Clements, United Kingdom
The PUCHKA Tour has been a great success for me! I had hoped to find new ideas and experiences on this trip and that has truly happened. I have so many new ideas to explore that I won’t know which adventure to take!!!! New friends have been made from different countries and visits will be made, which means lifelong friends have been made.
I asked Cindy if she wanted to go on an adventure??? Boy did that work out! Maximo is truly a gentleman to everyone and gives back more that I could ever imagine to his home country and the artists that work in Peru.
This has been one of the most enchanting and inspiring tours I have been on! It is a mix of great hands-on workshops, travel that welcomes everyone, and you will see the most impressive textiles that Peruvian people can produce.
I can truly say this has been a life changing trip.
Thanks to everyone, Jan Stortenbecker, USA
This tour offered a glimpse of Ayacucho that went way below the surface into the rare and beautiful. A few enduring moments on the tour out of too many to mention:
- Scouring the sandy beach at Paracas for vibrant pink flamingo feathers.
- Basket maker Jose swiftly forming brightly-colored fibers into an intricate pattern without once looking at his hands.
- Marveling at the scenery on the road to Ayacucho, the distant mountain peaks beckoning with every earth tone imaginable.
- Sensing enormous sorrow, courage, and endurance in the faces of those who lost loved ones, their photographs covering the walls at the Museo del la Memoria.
- Admiring the women working cooperatively to better their lives, supporting young mothers with shelter and childcare.
- Snapping photos of ubiquitous political ads for Elizabeth Prado, elected Alcadesa of Huamanga, and her grinning corn logo, each corny face more engaging than the last.
- Soaking up the sun’s rays beaming over Ayacucho’s main square onto Hotel Via Via’s veranda, a perfect spot for watching the town awaken and viewing the frequent firework displays and festive parades.
- Crushed red cochineal dripping red in Maximo’s palm from insects gathered off cactus in master potter Donato’s yard.
- Yarn skeins taking on vivid colors as Sergio dipped them into dye vats made from local plants.
- Dancing in circles to traditional Andean harp and violin music, reeling from the high altitude, the pisco sours, and the intoxicating rhythms of the dance.
- Picnicking along lovely Lake Pumaqucha, a place of unsurpassable beauty, and roaming among the stone remains of the Inka’s heavenly vacation retreat.
- Sitting in the stone Seat of the Inka high atop the Usnu pyramid in Vilcashuamán and delighting in the view as the Inka and his wife once must have done.
- Noshing on boiled potatoes slathered with soft cheese at the cavernous rest stop La Casa Blanca.
- Maestro Marcial graciously correcting the smudges I made when painting my Sarhua tabla.
- Children from the village of Bellavista gesturing tenderly to the sky and the earth as they danced and sang to welcome us, the first foreign visitors to their remote highland community.
- Wilbert shaping a heart from flowers on a high ridge overlooking the distant mountains and leading us together in a ritual of gratitude and love.
- Visiting Maximo’s new studio, meeting his vivacious sister, the color coordinator, and watching luscious Maximo Laura tapestries take form as weavers worked the looms.
- Humming along in the van to tunes from Wilbert’s vast musical treasury as he deftly drove us over winding mountain roads and crowded city streets.
- Enthusiastic Giancarlo shooting each and every photo with three clicks and answering each and every question promptly with a smile.
- Admiring Maximo’s deep commitment and connection to the artisans – the potters, embroiderers, weavers, leather workers, sculptors, tin workers, jewelers – and especially his mentorship of the young artists in whose hands the traditions will stay alive and grow.
So then, what’s not to like? Maybe only that rascal of a cuy that scurried off the plate and vanished before I could savor its juices. ;) This transformative trip will stay with me forever. Thank you, PUCHKA! Marilyn L. Geary, USA
What a wonderful experience. Thank you Giancarlo, Maximo and Wilbert for all the help you have given us. We have been on many tours before this and this tour is way up there amongst the best we've done. The hotel was wonderful especially being in such a central position. Peru is wonderful and the people we have met have all been very friendly and made us feel very welcome. Thanks! Susan and Warwick McAllister, Australia
Thanks for a wonderful trip and some truly heartwarming experiences. I learned so much about life in Peru, and the artisans were generous in sharing their knowledge. Alison Martin, Australia
I really enjoyed the Ayacucho tour. It opened up an entirely new view of Peruvian life & philosophy & an appreciation of people's energy, devotion to culture & country, their artistry, & their warmth in welcoming strangers into their daily lives. I also enjoyed the group I was with; we complemented each other in our arts interests and we enriched each other with our background differences; we genuinely liked each other.
During the actual tours to various artists, I appreciated Maximo for his knowledge, awareness of the artists' backgrounds, & his ability to put everyone at ease. I thought his insight into the makers' craft & family history was especially helpful for all of us. Wilbert was also very knowledgeable & his background in each area was great; however, his mastery of the tough mountain roads was so comforting. I always felt I was safe with his ability at the wheel. I am grateful to Sasha for, in the first place, enabling us to experience this part of Peru that few know. For me, it was a significant follow-up to my tour with PUCHKA in 2010 which intensified my awareness of the people.
I thought much care had gone into visiting artisans whose work would be of interest to the group as well as choosing activities we would enjoy e.g. painting and mask making. Personally, I found the amount of detail which each artist puts into his/her work mind boggling i.e. even the developmental history in achieving such skill in weaving, embroidery, tin work, silver smithing, pottery, painting, masks etc speaks to so much dedication & love. (I also have to mention the dancing we did after two visits. A real orchestra & singing....what fun we all had!)
We had picnic lunches, coffees & snacks together, all really enjoyable. We explored the highlands, seeing statues & monuments, ceremonies, markets, & enjoying life in the mountain areas. Personally, I gained a greater appreciation of the tribal history & the agricultural communities which carried on into my journey further north in the Andes. The vast vistas of the highland area were a revelation for me as I was accustomed to Machu Picchu &/or Chilean Andes. Such differences in terrain are not apparent in our Rockies from north to south nor ranges such as the Himalaya. I am sure one could spend a lifetime in the various parts of the Andes, never comprehend all their differences but would certainly be aware of the people's skill in coping with the terrain.
We toured the Museum of Memory, a heart-wrenching experience which I thought integral to understanding Peruvian people. So many people disappeared, so many families left with only memories, such sadness. I think such a tour is important to those who come to Peru & wish to know & feel more than just climbing a mountain or two & saying they have 'done it.'
I also appreciate the amount of thought that went into choosing hotels in Lima, Ayucucho & between. They were interesting locations, had friendly staff who went out of their way to assist any of us & provided delicious food. I cannot forget the enthusiastic Ayacucho hotel staff who always seemed to know where others were if we appeared on our own & provided us with huge servings of popcorn while we waited. I am sure the rest of the hotel guests must have wondered why we were so 'special.' Certainly they helped make us feel that way. I thank all for this tour. Sincerely, Betty Swindlehurst, Canada
My memories of the time spent in Ayacucho are not only positive, but glowing. It was a very special journey for me in many ways – meeting wonderfully friendly people, visiting in the intimacy of their small studios and feeling part of the vitality and energy of their creativity and vision, admiring their courage and resilience as we learned some of their stories. The times we tried our hand at their art were fun. And I loved the music and dancing.
In addition to the very special qualities of every day, there were things I could mention that made the journey a great pleasure: everything about the hotel was wonderful: the staff, the food, the building itself, the affordable prices, the location; the visit to the Museum of Memory was a vital part of the tour – very, very moving and informative – spending time at the museum, listening to the explanations and then visiting the studio of the sculpture family made tears flow and still have my seeking more information on the Shining Path; the visit to the heights of Ayacucho so we could look down on that fascinating city was important to give us geographical context; the amount of time available to us to do our own thing was also good. For me, the visit to Maximo’s studio at the start of the tour was a real highlight. An aspect of the tour that made every activity and every day special was the quality of the team of people who looked after us so well—responding with such good nature and so much useful information and assistance to our every need – those three men - Maximo, Giancarlo and Wilbert - were nothing short of awesome – and the final picnic, along with the tour of those ruins, was simply luscious. Thanks again for a wonderful experience. Louise Forsyth, Canada
No words can really do justice to the many aspects of this multi-faceted and multi-dimensional Ayacucho tour led by the fabulous team of Maestro Maximo Laura with his infectious sense of fun, tolerance and incredible humility and patience to the ever-reliable Wilbert, with his amazing knowledge of all things Inca, who every day met us with a sense of humour and a clean mini bus despite what it had been through the day before and safely drove on roads that sometimes seemed impassable; to the ever-attentive, helpful and kind Giancarlo.
As with any tour organised by the indomitable Sasha (this was my second adventure with PUCHKA), much thought had been given to our route and accommodation so from the Art Deco hotel in Lima we moved on to spend a night close to the peaceful National Reserve of Paracas to enjoy the abundant bird life, having had some fascinating stops en route, including one to the studio of a fabulous textile designer. The drive through the magnificent Andes to Ayacucho was truly memorable for its scenic wonders and, being situated on the main square; the hotel was convenient for walking to local amenities as well as serving fabulous food by friendly staff and enjoyed a great vantage point. As Ayacucho is made up of very steep hills, and many of the artisans lived at the top of one or other of them, we were more than happy to be driven to their studios by Wilbert and he negotiated the mountainous roads as skillfully when we had a memorable day tour to a Potters’ Village and an Incan ruin, which was topped off by a delicious picnic lunch by a picturesque lake.
What I have continued to have difficulty getting my head around is how all the people we visited could have been through the appalling 20 years of ‘ethnic cleansing’, of which Ayacucho was the centre, from 1980 where equal blame could be laid at the feet of the Shining Path Terrorist Group and the local militia, been able to return and ‘pick up the pieces’ and still be such wonderful people. To never take for granted the privilege of not living in such fear, everyone should visit ANFASEP’s Memory Museum, where we visited our first morning. Being from USA, Canada and Australia, we eight participants were safe to sit at dinner and discuss our own countries’ political weaknesses without fear of any retribution. This leads to another aspect of the tour; the enjoyment of meeting new people and sharing and enjoying with them this unique experience.
We were so fortunate that, as a native of Ayacucho who is held in very high regard by his fellow Peruvian artisans, being with Maximo opened doors for us that others would never be able to enter. Thus we were welcomed (often into the homes) of a stream of truly beautiful souls to view a palette of absolutely astoundingly talented works, from weavers and embroiderers to silversmiths crafting miniscule filigree works, to stonemasons working with alabaster and brilliant potters – the list goes on and they all made it look so easy and one was embarrassed how little they charged for the products of their labours. After being invited to a tie-dyeing demonstration on a rooftop terrace we were treated to more than one round of Pisco Sours to the accompaniment of the sound of talented local lads singing and playing their guitars and, as Peruvians need little excuse to sing and dance, we were all joining in with gusto. Our last afternoon ended in a similar manner, having had great fun painting masks created by a brilliant retablo maker before the party began. Penny Clay, Australia
The Ayacucho tour was my second tour with PUCHKA Peru. All around my home I see reminders of my travels with you. They bring back many fond memories. The artisans Maximo introduced us to have a lot of respect for him and for his beautiful tapestries. I enjoyed meeting all of them, watching their demonstrations, hearing their stories, and getting a taste of their lives. With Maximo’s delightful sidekick Giancarlo and the expert driver Wilbert, I know that all of you will be very successful continuing the Puchka tours. As though the amazing handmade crafts were not enough, we were treated to incredible sights, a lovely picnic, dancing and pisco sours. Maximo entertained us modeling hats and bags while being quite the enthusiastic salesperson. Thank you for all that was done to make the trip so special. Elizabeth Christeller, United States
We left Cusco in Wilbert’s 16 passenger van for Nazca with Sasha, our guide Wilbert and his brother Fabrizio, our wonderful and very careful driver - with four tour participants in total - how great was that! The land we drove through was unbelievable with huge mountains and then we were following rivers meandering through deep valleys surrounded by the mountains that we had crossed over and multi-coloured fields with the locals working their land. When we arrived in Nasca we stayed at a cotton plantation - a beautiful place with lots of charm, where we had a Pachamanca for dinner which was delicious! We saw Peruvian coloured cotton growing and being spun. With our local guide, Leon, we saw ancient wells and canals that still irrigate the cotton fields and some of the Nasca lines. We also saw the beautiful Quipu work made by the owner of the guest house and marveled at her talent. Then we were on our way to Paracas, passing acres and acres of grapes,which are grown to make the world famous PISCO Brandy, the main ingredient in Peru's delicious drink, the Pisco Sour - I had more than a few of those delicious drinks during my tours!! At Paracas we had an overnight right on the beach of the Pacific ocean in a cute little hotel. Many different sea birds to see and the flowers were amazing, red pink yellow and orange, all the Peruvian colours that we see in their textiles.
On leaving Paracas we headed to Ayacucho which turned out to be the "out of this world" part of our trip. Again we headed back into the mountains and deep valleys but this time to the Central Andes and here we followed the road to the" top of the world,"over 5,000 meters high, where we saw hundreds of vicunas and alpacas and huge and interesting rock formations. As we began our descent to the beautiful city of Ayacucho, the excitement was mounting. Ayacucho is Maximo's home town and he met us there to guide us during the remainder of our adventure, along with Carmencita who teaches Drama and Literature at the School of Fine Art. Our accommodation was wonderful, like a small palace, we loved it. Maximo and Carmencita took us to the sites outside of Ayacucho, to villages and historical sites and also in the city of Ayacucho itself; we met families of spinners, weavers, dyers, using natural vegetation and cochineal beetles; embroiderers, alabaster carvers, tin work, retablo makers and even a mask maker who invited us to paint our own mask to take home. What an experience - it was all so much fun! We were so honoured to see these artisans at work and they loved to show us their techniques that were so unique and special. During our visit to this beautiful region of Peru, we saw so few other people from abroad it amazed us. Thank you so much Sasha and Puchka Peru for this wonderful experience. I feel truly blessed to have visited Peru and her people, twice! I would do it again in a heartbeat!!! Nancy Goodman, Canada
I would like to thank you, Sasha, so very much for all the fun & hospitality you gave me. I had a wonderful time being with you, and all the touring around Lima. Your kindness was very much appreciated. I would have to say, the whole 6 weeks were fantastic. After going on the PUCHKA workshop tour in Sept/Oct of 2010 I knew I had to go back in 2012 and I found the second time was just as enjoyable. The 10 day extension was fabulous, with all the scenery, people and learning about the various textiles in Nasca, Paracas and Ayacucho The road trip was fantastic. We were able to see some of the Nasca lines, spend time on the beach in Paracas and all the wonderful scenery and crafts in and around Ayacucho. It was an excellent time. Would I do it again, you bet. Thank you Sasha for all of it - the journey was worth every step of the way. Alberta Antosh, Canada