If you, like me, think the number one criteria for a honeymoon destination is the quality of their knitwear, tear up your Aruba brochures and check out Peru. Beautiful intarisa hats, sweaters, gloves, socks all made of llama or alpaca, for prices that made me simultaneously squeal with delight and sob at the inhumanity of it all. Fingering weight, hand-knit, baby alpaca gloves for $12? Si, senora. And that's charging you double! And these are just the stacks of goods made for the gringos. The real swoon worthy stuff is being worn by the locals. The wealthy women have beautiful sweaters underneath impecably tailored jackets. The farmers and merchants have equally beautiful sweaters, though a bit more stretched and frayed from years of use. Or as I like to call it, love.
Below I ramble about the great fiber-full sights me and the fella saw in Peru, and I'll do a later post showing off all the goodies I brought home. Spoiler alert: there will be yarn.
Before we went to Peru, this was the city that I thought was going to be made for me. It has a reputation on the interwebs about being all about the baby alpaca, and true to its reputation, it was busting at the seams with hats, ponchos, little alpaca dolls, and everything else you could possibly want made out of yarn.
It was glorious.
We also found Mundo Alpaca, which was an estate setup to teach about the animals and fiber traditions, all as a precursor to convincing you to buy a $1,000 weaving. And you totally should. I didn't, but you certainly need one.
This was the first city we visited where we saw llamas and alpacas just hanging out, and at the time, I thought we'd reach the pinnacle of Peru's fiber market (commercially, I think it is. For tourists, not so much.) and would have been satisfied, but there was so, so much more as we headed toward Cusco and the Sacred Valley. It got so much better. I feel a little bad for Arequipa.
But the food? You might want to bring an extra stomach. We had the best meal of the trip here. It included, uh, a llama steak. They are as delicious as they are soft.
The Sacred Valley
I'd like to believe that the Andean people considered this valley sacred due to the abundance of alpacas, llamas, sheep and the things that are made out of them. I'd be completely wrong in spreading that rumor. It's because the sun, viewed as a god, follows the path of the valley, but where's the fun in that?
This, my friends, is where you go to find the fiber. Specifically, the Sunday market at Pisac is worth a journey of a 1,000 miles. I had great photos of it, but they are on my 3 week old iphone 5 that was lost on a flight between Cusco and Lima. I appreciate your words of comfort through this difficult time.
The markets were piled high with hats, socks, blankets, tapestries, and sweaters of all colors and quality levels, and this was the most inexpensive place we shopped. The market used to be for the locals to trade their goods with merchants who, presumably, bring them to Arequipa and Lima and triple the price.
In theory, you are able to haggle on prices, but when someone says 8 soles (about $5) for handknit socks, the knitter in my dies a little. Even hastily made and sloppily constructed socks, as these were, are worth more than $5 when your camping in the Andes.
The other beauty of Pisac was that they actually sold yarn. There was a little in Arequipa, but it was more of an after thought. In Pisac, it was piled high in tons of colors, and sold by the bag. It was a good thing I didn't have much carrying space, or things might have gotten out of hand.
This is truly where we must mourn the loss of the cell phone, because there is a street of magic in Cusco, and I have no documentation it ever existed. I could probably find pictures strangers have taken online, but since they don't include me wearing the same clothes for the fifth time, I think everyone would think they were photoshopped.
There is the market of St. Sebastian. What is inside it is wonder - cheap lunch, cow's heads for sale, clothes, juice stands, whatever you're looking for - but outside is shop after shop of fabric, yarn, notions and trim. It was a true fiber district, and it was a little overwhelming without having had my cafe con leche yet.
Also, the fun things about the streets of Peru is that all the vendors are knitting. They stop, sell you Inka Cola (which tastes like liquid pineapple dum dums - gag), and then go back to knitting. Somewhat suspiciously, they seem to always be casting on.
Throughout the region, locals will dress a little extra "authentic" in order to entice you into taking their picture, in exchange for a sole. My personal favorite were the young girls walking around with lambs and baby llamas, though apparently I loved them so much I never took a photo.
Alpacas. Vicunas. Llamas. Sheep. Stray dogs.
Love so much.
And, to close, this statue is wearing socks.