One of the first things I would recommend to any sojourner in the Sacred Valley would be a trip to a rural village such as Patakancha. My fiancée and I recently spent time visiting friends of Apu Lodge, and it was one of the most peaceful and refreshing experiences I can remember. We stayed overnight there but it also works well to visit for just a couple of hours, as Patakancha is less than an hour’s taxi ride from Ollantaytambo.
We knew from the minute we stepped into the colectivo (minivan) to Patakancha that this would be a unique adventure. The vast majority of the passengers were wearing the traditional dress of the area—ponchos and lliqllas—and everyone was speaking Quechua. They all knew each other and were laughing and joking for most of the way. Everyone in Patakancha speaks Quechua; some speak Spanish, but many, especially the older folks, do not.
Elena, the mother of the family, was sitting on the floor and weaving when we arrived. She was warm and welcoming and pointed us to the tea that was on the table, but didn’t go out of her way to entertain us. There was no TV or music; she just peacefully wove a skirt while we drank our tea. We had a variety of choices, all freshly picked plants from around the area. Once in a while she would ask us a question, after which we’d sip our tea in peaceful silence. There was none of the normal anxiety of hosting, which I appreciated so much.
When we left the house to go on a walk, she immediately gave us a poncho and a lliclla. We assumed she wanted us both to feel like we fit in with the community, and to have some extra protection from the cold.
Later, we got to watch her and her daughters weave, and they taught us some tricks of the trade. They let us try our own hand while they made bracelets for each of us. We were amazed with the intricacies of the patterns, and the patience it took to make even something as small as a bracelet, let alone the much larger articles of clothing that they weave all by hand. Coincidentally, on the day we were visiting, Elena was just finishing a skirt she had been working on for three months. To our great amazement, she immediately started on another one as soon as she finished! We also got to see the dyeing process, which is fascinating. They produce the colors for the wool with flowers grown right there around the village.
At one point, Juan, the father of the family, took us out to plant about 30 trees on the side of a mountain. He showed us around the farms, taught us some things about adobe houses, and let us guide his horses down the mountain to a new place to graze. For dinner we went down to the fish farm in town and bought some trout, which we helped prepare with the family, and Juan shared lots of interesting stories about life and culture in Patakancha.
The whole weekend ended up being an experience of unplugging, unwinding, and unlearning a bit of the anxiety-ridden way of being that we’re accustomed to back home. There wasn’t much else to do other than relax and enjoy being in the company of good people and beautiful scenery, and we couldn’t have asked for more.