Saturday, April 7, 2012

Kichwa Village Tour

As I said in my last post, yesterday I went on a tour of a Kichwa village.  Here's your own guided tour.
High tech comes to the Kichwa village.  Most of the farmers still use     a plow pulled behind two cows or oxen

High tech, part 2.  To be honest, I don't think I saw a field big enough to warrant anything this big but I also can't imagine them having something this expensive that they wouldn't use, either.

Aren't they cute?  Two moms with their babies.  It's hard to imagine, but the babies are only 2 months old.  They're so big already.
Time for a little manicure and pedicure for one of the alpacas.  Since they're in grassy areas instead of climbing around on rocky mountain sides, their nails grow too long.
They shear alpacas with a scissors.  If you look very closely you can see that the scissors' handles are covered with alpaca hair to cushion them.  It only takes them an hour to shear each alpaca.

Nope--not Joe Camel.  In fact, it's just a piece of straw he's eating.

This is the Watcher.  He tends the herd and handles all the breeding records to make sure they have a healthy herd.  You can tell how much he cares about "his" alpacas.

This is a traditional Kichwa home.  There are three buildings.  The one on the right is for sleeping, the center one is for cooking, and the one on the left is for storage and "outdoor" activities.  The front half of this building is open to the outside but is completely covered.  The first two are thatched but the third has a more recent style of roof tile.

This is the sleeping building.  The walls are made by packing mud in a form similar to a concrete form, then adding a cross pole, more mud, and on until it's as tall as they want it.  The little opening on the side is the only opening other than the front door.  There are no windows in the buildings.

This is the front part of that building I mentioned earlier that has the covered front half.  This guy is blowing on the coals of the fire to get a flame going.  The container on top of the rocks is made from clay and is used to cook any number of things.  Right now it's being used to cook corn kernels.  The corn is dried on the cob, then removed, and cooked over a fire.  The kernels kind of pop while they're cooking but the corn never breaks loose from the kernel.  It's actually a lot like corn nuts.  Quite good.
Here are the kernels ready to eat.  The bowl is made from the shell of a seed--a very big seed.
This bowl was made from an even bigger seed.

Our guide demonstrated how to grind corn into corn flour.  They don't use corn meal--when this process is finished, the flour is every bit as fine as wheat flour.  Juan said it would take him at least an hour to grind a pound of corn flour.  It would take one of the women 20 minutes.
As soon as this guy finished cooking the corn, he picked up his macrame to work on bracelets that will be sold to tourists.  While we were walking from here to the next stop, his wife took over and was knotting while she walked.  I have a hard enough time keeping track of what I'm doing when I'm sitting still and watching every knot.
After our outdoor demonstration we went into the indoor kitchen where the wife used another of the cooking pans to make Ecuadorian tortillas.  They're very thick and are eaten more like a biscuit--a very tough biscuit--with honey on them.  This room is also where you might find the family's chickens and you definitely find one of their sources of protein.  If you look very carefully, you'll see something just to the right of the cooking pot up against the wall and another something peeking out from behind the room's center pole--those are guinea pigs.  Oh, and the bowl she has her tortilla dough in is another of the giant seed bowls.  I have to tell you, I'd really love to have one of the big ones and several of the smaller ones.  Very cool.
This little guy was right next to the bench where I was sitting.  You'll see the garden material on the floor.  It's all the way around the walls of the kitchen, out about 12"
This is the more modern home.

Fencing material comes where it can be found.  To the left of this section made from branches there is barbed wire.  It looks like they may have run out or perhaps this is their equivalent of a gate.

Hens and chicks wandering the road.  I'm not sure how people know which chickens belong to whom but I'm sure there's a way--either that or they just kind of share them.  There's a lot of community owned property, like the alpacas and the bee hives.

Piglets out foraging along the road.,

This picture is as much about the road bed as it is about the rooster.  If you look closely, you can see the rocks that are used for the road.  Each one of them is placed where it sits.  I don't know how much road there is but we traveled over a mile on it and there was definitely a lot more than that.

Beehives set up across the ravine from where we were standing.  To get over there you have to walk down a very steep trail down to the ravine and an equally steep trail up the other side.

At the end of the tour we went to their alpaca products "store" and watched the women spin the alpaca fiber, knit with the yarn, weave with it, and then saw the end results.  On the left edge of the frame you can see a woman holding a hank of dyed alpaca yarn.  It's hard to tell from here but it's almost a pound of pure alpaca yarn for $10--pretty amazing.  Twice that much alpaca/wool blend is $5.

Half of me wishes I had taken more pictures and the other half figures I inflicted enough on you as it is.  I hope you enjoyed them.

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