Walking by the narrow streets of Cusco, Andean people is depicted in paintings, small clay figurines or dolls made of wool. It is almost a fact that you will meet women next to a llama standing in the Main Square and you wonder how they daily life is like. Following them all day long until they return to their hometowns might sound tempting, however View Latin America presents the best way to approach true Andean lifestyle in a single day: the Misminay Village Tour.
From sunrise to sunset in the Highlands
The villages in the far rural areas do not make use of artifacts like the computer or smart phone where you read this. No alarm clock sounds in the rustic adobe mud brick huts and houses, but their inner clock makes them feel the near onset of the morning. It is still dark, but highlanders salute the sun with joyful hearts and the hands ready to transform the world.
The first hours, the trained eyes of these people examine the sprouts and smile at the blessing of the soil. Ancestral agricultural knowledge let them know how to use sunlight, manure and water to contribute to life. Metal or wooden tools are also present like manual and animal-driven ploughs. Kids are also trained in their original tongue, Quechua, or they are playing around with a dog, a sheep or other kids.
Ranching is also part of their culture. The fact of Incas seldom consuming meat is arguable, however nowadays llamas, sheep, cattle and fish are raised for selling them in the market or for their own feeding. Furthermore, in a land where the need of protecting the body from cold temperatures, along with inventiveness, primed the pump and brought to life textile works.
In Misminay and the rest of villages, many other activities are also performed. Builders are the masters of the adobe mud bricks for houses, musicians are a sort of chroniclers bringing to life songs from the past and today with quena flutes, charango guitars, or their voices, then you will find cookers, wise enough to fight hunger pangs, restore energy, cure the body and share love at the same time. In villages close to tour routes pottery and silversmithing have found their place as well in the shape of small clay figures, decorative plates, whistles, jewelry or ornamentation.
Even though habits imported from several cultures have changed their traditional way of life by the introduction of Spanish language, Christian religion, European clothing, sports, modern education and technology, Andean values like cooperation, persistence, mutual aid, and respect for nature have mixed in their hearts and souls.
Our tour destination, Misminay
This time, the van will not go by the main road to a world wonder like in most tours. If you are sensitive enough, the vibration resulted from the wheels in the rural roads will announce you something new to try. Misminay andean community is located in the Maras District, part of the Sacred Valley of the Incas zone, about one and a half hour away from Cusco and 20 minutes away of the ruins of Moray.
Once you get off the van, your skin will feel a warmer and slightly more humid climate than the main city. Large glacier-clad mountains in the background, meadows and hills, a chilling breeze and different hues of crops above the adobe houses. Similar sights can be seen in tours by the Sacred Valley, however it is your time to be observant and find the charms of Misminay andean community.
Your itinerary of experiential tour
Before any van ride, you should prepare yourself for this experience. This encounter of two worlds, your world and the daily life in the Andes has a visitor and a host. Both parts are really excited to have a happy time together! As your bus takes you to the small village, think about a group of people in the middle of the mountains, with no big hotels nor luxurious restaurants, where organic ingredients are cooked in clay pots, and fashion is brought to the real world every day next to the quiet herds of sheep. What other questions about Andean lifestyle are in your head? If you don’t have any, ask a kid or any curious one in your travel group.
Once laughs and landscape pictures are over Cusco, get off from the bus and be prepared to dance! Flute pans and women’s voices will give you a warm welcome to the village, headed by the president of the misminay andean community. A short walk with the locals dressed with colorful ponchos, hats and skirts can solve questions about how they dress. If you feel like talking, use your Spanish skills learned in the classes in tour and give a kind ¡Hola!
After introducing yourself with your hosts, you will witness the barebones of Misminay economy, agriculture and textiles. Be careful when stepping the soil where the miracle of life and the power of humans transform a small seed of corn into a healthy tall plant. Listen to the instructions of the farmer to use correctly the plough, feel the humidity in the soil and air with your hands, it doesn’t matter if you have no experience or you are green thumbs, you will always learn something. Forget the fear of ruining the crop or failing in the garden, villagers’ patience and love for their culture are big enough to repeat as many times as necessary to help you appreciate nature and life through agriculture.
Once the soil is ready, the next step is in the physics and chemistry laboratory of Misminay. No, this time there will not be any explosion nor the lava experiment, however color changing substances. Weaving is a fundamental skill for women. One of them will show you how the sheared fluffy wool of light colors are soaked and boiled along herbs and minerals from all the valley to later take them dyed in a range of tones including brown, green, red, orange, pink or sky blue. Finally, after wool is spun into delicate threads, the fast minds of highlander women put their hands into the backstrap loom and little by little, thoughts, feelings and memories are codified with complicated movements into an astonishing piece of textile.
Words nor time are not enough to describe all the details of their daily life. Using your eyes, mouth, ears, nose and hands to fully appreciate just one light slice of the reality of Misminay andean community is mandatory. View Latin America has a seat in this experiential tour for you. Traveling is sharing. Go further and discover how wonderful the world is.