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There are several workshops in the two little villages. Some are on the main street, others more difficult to find because off the main street and not really shops, more like private houses where whole families work at carving the gourds. Ask your hotel for recommendations.
We visited two, one of them was:
Artesania Jaspe Alex, Av. Loreto N. 326, Cochas Chico
The main street ones were fine so no need to panic if you cannot find others! One of the work shop on the main street has a little museum, ask to see it.
Photo 1: A family at work sorting gourds
Photo 2: an artist carver explains the story he carved on the gourd
What to buy: Carved gourds. They are locally made but can be bought all over Peru.
First the gourd is brought in from another region, they are then washed and sorted by size. They are carved and coloured by burning the skin with a little gas burner.
There are two types:
1- the standard type which consits of carved and decorated gourds in shapes of boxes, hedgehogs, birds, little charcters etc... These are usually quite cheap and prised according to size.
2- The 'story' gourds. These take ages to carve as the carving is very detailed and very intrincate. They are more expensive. They tell a story that you can read by turning the gourd around and following the little comic strip.
Each carver has his own style and likes to tell some different types of stories. The one we visited explained to us an entire tale while pointing at the illustartion on the gourds: how a young boy from one village wanted to marry a young girl from another village, went to visit the girl's father with the traditional offering of coca leaves and the wedding party that ensued.
What to pay: A few soles for normal gourds (eg. 10 soles for a good size bird, 3 soles fro a medium hedgehog).
From 20 soles to 600-800 soles depending on size for gourds with a story.
Updated Oct 3, 2006
Address: Cocha Grande and Cocha Chico
Muña (minthostachys setosa) leaves are something like mint. They are growing mostly wild. In the Inka time, it was used to avoid worms in the potatoes.
Nowadays the extraction is used as digestive. The liquor is sold at least in the restaurant of hotel "Olimpico", on the main square.
Updated Apr 7, 2008
THERE IS A MUSEUM OUTSIDE OF HUANCAYO CALLED WALI WASI, WHICH MEANS SACRED HOUSE IN QUECHUA. IT HAS MANY NATURAL SCULPTURES AND PAINTINGS OF ANDEAN SPIRITS. THE ARTIST/SHAMAN PEDRO ALSO TAKES PEOPLE TO THE HUAYTAPALLANA MOUNTAINS TO MAKE OFFERINGS TO MOTHER EARTH, AND SEE YOUR FORTUNE WITH THE COCA LEAVES. FROM HUANCAYO TAKE A TAXI (OR BUS) 15 MINUTES,TO CEMETERIO UMUTO AND ASK FOR WALI WASI.
Written Feb 25, 2005