After spending about three weeks in Puerto Maldonado enjoying the city, jungle, family, and friends, it was time for Shirley and me to fly to Cusco to seek out Alpaca sources and communities to work with. I had booked an Airbnb in Cusco near Tupac Square for a week as our base. Shirley had contacted her friend Sumaq who would meet us and show us the inside scoop on the Alpaca Industry. She let us know that most of the dry goods were made in Chincheros and Pisaq communities and shipped to Cusco to sell at high markup to tourists. She was extremely knowledgeable, and I learned a lot about the history and processes involved and the Quechua culture and traditions.
Our goal is to establish “Alpaca Trueke Natural Outdoor Clothing” as a joint effort with the native Quechua communities in the Andes Mountains to provide high-quality Peruvian alpaca clothing at a reasonable price and help support the communities by creating a relationship and profit-sharing. We will also be offering customized adventures and travel packages to Peru in the future.
When I first traveled to Peru from the United States to hike the Inca Trail and visit Machu Picchu, I discovered Alpaca fiber’s extraordinary natural qualities. I have had a hard time wearing wool in the past because of it irritating my skin, but I found alpaca fiber to be amazingly comfortable. Alpaca fiber contains no lanolin and is also naturally hypoallergenic. Most people who are sensitive to wool find that they can wear Alpaca without the itching or irritation they feel from wool because alpaca fiber is smooth and hollow. Additional performance characteristics include flexibility, water repellent, odor reduction, and excellent insulation compared to other natural wool’s. Also, alpaca fiber production does not have harsh effects on the environment like synthetic materials do. We will start by offering a basic line, including a beanie, socks, sweatshirt, bag, and backpack, and will expand our future line.
The next day, we visited the Puma stones in Cusco, which includes a twelve angled stone made from diorite with incredible precision. After enjoying a few more days in Cusco, walking around the city and eating some fantastic food. We decided to travel to Pisaq and the local communities around that area to make handmade alpaca dry goods. Shirley organized the transportation to Pisaq is a small minivan filled to maximum capacity but only cost us around $10. It was a three-hour drive through some beautiful scenery, including Saqsaywaman and other ancient Inca ruins. Once we arrived in Pisaq, we hiked up into the town through an old narrow street lined with shops and a wide variety of handmade goods. The first man we met owned and operated an Alpaca store and also a restaurant, but his prices seemed high as he purchased from communities. We met amazing women with a mountain of knowledge and experience both in Alpaca and life. Not knowing the language and some of the women-only speaking Quechua made it a little difficult for me, but thankfully, Shirley understood. We purchased a variety of goods and gathered as much information as possible. While in Pisaq, we also checked out the local market, which was filled with an amazing array of flowers, fruits, and vegetables all grown locally. We decided that we would visit Chincheros, Ollantaytambo, and the Sacred Valley the following day. We headed back to the main street in Pisaq to catch a ride back to Cusco, which luckily we only had to wait 10 minutes. We packed back in the minivan, and I enjoyed the ride back to Cusco while Shirley slept. That evening was cold in Cusco, so we bundled up and enjoyed walking around the main square, which was having a play “Lord of Coyllority” on the Basilica steps in Quechua about a people’s Pilgrimage up a mountain carrying blocks of ice on their backs. After that, we decided to have pizza at our favorite place Carpe’ Diem, which was delicious. After that, we walked back to our apartment and called it a night, the next day, we would try to leave early for Chincheros and the Sacred Valley.