Traveling Begonias

Bringing the world to you one artifact at a time


Coziness in the Sacred Valley

PeruKate BegoniaComment

I had been in Pisac for two days and felt like I’d seen it all. The market, the church, the ruins…what else was there? It’s a small village and you really can get to know the topography in a few days. But just like that, it changed. The village I met on Friday was completely transformed into a substantial marketplace on Sunday. There were shops where inconspicuous doors had been before. The open market expanded from 6 (ish) square blocks to 16+. There wasn’t enough time to see it all in one day. My plans to see Chinchero evaporated as I explored this new version of Pisac.

One little storefront I came across appeared to be a typical souvenir shop at first. From a casual glance outside Taller de Artesanias / Munay Millma appeared like many of the tourist shops - with some notable exceptions. In addition to the usual key chains, stuffed alapacas, and shot glasses there were flavored piscos, salts, honey, coffee, and chocolates. And then there were the slippers.

The slippers gave me pause. I love a good pair of wool slippers and these felted wool and alpaca slippers were like nothing I had seen in Pisac. They’re soft and pretty and they have leather bottoms and feel quite durable. So I stopped. And I stayed in that store for over an hour.

My Spanish is very, very poor on a good day and the shop owner’s English is non-existent so we spent a lot of time trying to communicate. But he was a good sport and we had fun talking about how the slippers are made, the therapeutic uses for salt, the differences in the piscos he carries, and a multitude of other sidebar conversations. He showed me a little of the technique they use in creating the slippers.

They breed their own sheep and alpaca and use the freshly shorn wool from the animals for their creations. They start by laying down the decorative pieces on their pattern and then essentially follow a typical felting process: they lay down hand-plucked pieces of fiber onto each layer, with each level crossing over the last. Then they add soapy water to soak the layers. This is done over and over again. After they have the right thickness they knead the piece and roll it to squeeze the soap out. Then an incision is made into the middle of one side and the pattern is pulled out. Then the slipper is molded around a foot form.

After that initial shaping is done they remove the foot form and continue to knead and roll the slippers again and again. They intermittently insert the foot form to keep the shape of the slipper as they continue to expel the soapy water. Once that is completed they let the slipper air dry and then hand-stitch leather soles onto the bottoms.

Believe me when I tell you I’m over-simplifying the process. It takes hours to make a pair of slippers and at times the repetition seems tedious to me. But you can’t argue with the results.

The have cute baby booties, designs for women and men, and they even have handbags. The varieties are only limited by the artist’s imagination. They are also starting to do some Ugg-like boots with manufactured soles now.

I brought back a few pairs that will be at the showcase. In the meantime, here are more photos for you to enjoy.

A weekend in Pisac

PeruKate BegoniaComment

Nestled at the bottom of Incan ruins, the village of Pisac is a perfect place to experience much of what Peru has to offer. Coca tea helps visitors acclimate. The ruins are not quite as grand as Machu Picchu but they are quite breathtaking (especially if you hike all the way through them!) The village itself is anchored by a beautiful Catholic church where mass is said every Sunday in Quechua, the language of the local indigenous people. The opportunities for experiencing authentic ayahuasca rituals abound. I had a blast…yet only did a few of these things.

Much has been written about the villages in the Sacred Valley and I wish I could have seen more. The few days I spent in Pisac really charmed me and I would definitely go back. The hosts of the b&b I stayed in were so gracious and lovely that I’d return just to spend more time with them! The breakfasts they made were top notch; seriously delicious. And the inn is simple, clean, and welcoming. The family that runs Pisac Inca Guest House knows hospitality.


I arrived on Friday and kept plenty busy, but it wasn’t until Sunday, when the procession from the mountain comes down to hear mass, did the village truly come alive. One of my favorite things to do in new countries is to hear mass, and I was lucky enough to be in Pisac on a Sunday.


Listening to mass in another language is kind of magical for me. There are all the rituals I’m used to, and I know all the parts of the mass, yet I can’t quite follow along. It’s a familiar mystery. I absolutely love it.

Bootleg footage: Quechuan Mass on 10/14/18

After mass, the Quechuan exit through the marketplace. There weren’t many in attendance that Sunday but everyone stood aside as the group processed out of the church.

Pisac is full of charming little shops. The overnight transformation from small, sleepy, weekday market to a bustling center of commerce on Sundays is kind of crazy to witness. Literally every door facing the square opened up to reveal a store you didn’t realize existed the day before. I loved wandering in and out of storefronts, over to the open market, and back again. The beautiful textiles, the penises protruding from sculptures unexpectedly (I’m not kidding), and the creepy masks were all intriguing. And really fun.

I found some beautiful, unique things in Pisac (sorry, penises are sold out) and can’t wait to share them at the showcase on December 9th. I’ll be writing more about some of these finds in blog posts in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!