Visiting Patacancha Peru on a Budget
During our one-month volunteering in Ollantaytambo, one of my highlights was a visit to Patacancha - a traditional weaving community of the Sacred Valley. If you are like me and are absolutely entranced by the beautiful colours and patterns of Peruvian artensanals, you will love this experience. A close-up look into the weaving process, learning to weave your own bracelet and getting to buy hand-woven products directly from the people who made it. A truly amazing experience for us - and on a budget too!
Not many people venture here, and the ones that do are usually on a tour with Awamaki (an NGO which supports weaving co-operatives). A tour with Awamaki costs $70 and while I've only heard great things about it, we weren't able to afford it. This is about how we visited Patacancha on our own and had an amazing experience.
Take a collectivo (mini-van) from around the corner of the Ollantaytambo Mercado. Just ask the collectivo drivers outside the Mercado for the Patacancha collectivo and they will point you in the right direction. As with many collectivos in Peru, there's no set time, you simply wait in the van until the collectivo has enough people (we waited 45 mins before the van was full enough to leave)
The ride to Patacancha takes about 1 hour and costs 3.5 - 4 soles. By the time we were close to Patacancha, the only people left in the van was us and some Patacanchan locals.
Once you arrive in Patacancha, you might be able to spot the weaving co-operative straight away. There's some colourful ladies in the distance, sitting together underneath some thatched shelters. If you want to be sure, we first went to the school to go to the toilet (flush toilets are relatively new to the village but the flush didn't work so expect what I'll politely call 'build-up') and asked a young girl where we might find the weaving co-operative.
In the rest of Patacancha, the locals will likely look at you with some confusion/distance as foreigners really stand out. At the weaving co-operative though, the ladies are really really open and friendly. We were welcomed with open arms and a huge array of wools and fabrics.
Bracelet weaving lesson
We happened to be there when there was an Awamaki tour on so we met the Awamaki organisers and their group. The Awamaki girls were really nice and helped organise a bracelet session for us where you can get to weave your own bracelet with a personal instructor. It costs 20 soles ($6 USD) and is about 45 mins - 1 hour.
Our teachers spoke Quechua predominantly but we conversed with them in Spanish just fine. If you don't speak any Spanish at all, it may be harder.
To organise this, I believe any of the ladies will be more than happy to oblige, they seemed very happy that more people had come. :)
My teacher was Doris, a really really lovely woman. I practised my poor Quechua on her and she helped show me some complex weaving magic.
Her daughter even took over as the maestro while Doris was breastfeeding her baby son. Peruvian babies are soooooooo cute, he was maybe the cutest Peruvian baby I've ever seen. I wish I had a photo but alas, another great reason to visit Patacancha is to catch a glimpse of this most ADDooRRABBLLEE Peruvian baby.
Doris even offered to let me try on her traditional hat!! I'd been really curious about it, asking her many questions. Each woman makes and sews her own strap, meaning each hat is unique to the individual.
When she offered, I didn't even bother to disguise my excitement. YE HATH BLESSED ME, I would have yelled, if I had known how to speak Shakespearean Spanish.
Purchasing Hand-woven Artesanals
If you've been waiting to buy some hand-woven good directly from the people who make it - this is the best opportunity! Especially because you'll have just taken a one-on-one lesson with one of these gurus - it'll be awesome to have something made by a person you actually know.
The one strange thing is that each lady will put out her wares and sells on an individual-basis. We thought they might earn the money as a co-operative and we really wanted to buy the gorgeous products of all the ladies but alas one must choose. :(
Prices for a small tablecloth was 180 sols, and this is the general price across all the ladies. However, for some reason the ladies that were our instructors offered us lower prices so we were happy to buy from them. I spoke to the Awamaki organisers and this normally doesn't happen; but to me it seemed that the co-operative ladies really appreciated our extra business! I assume this is because if the Awamaki tours are the ONLY people who come by, business must not be super frequent as the Awamaki tour is not budget-traveller friendly.
Thus, I wanted to spread a little word about how budget travellers could still have access to this super awesome and authentic experience, as well as help support a traditional Peruvian weaving co-operative. :)