Hidden Morocco, Blue City

November 13 – 27, 2018

Arrive in Casablanca on November 13; depart for home from Tangiers on November 28.

dreamstime_xs_19087188Highlights: This custom-designed textile tour to amazing and exotic Morocco emphasizes art, architecture, and cuisine in addition to the textiles. Travelers are very welcome here; no visa is necessary for most visitors! We’ll meet you at the Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca (CMN) on November 13, and we’ll drive to the hotel for a good night’s rest.
This trip takes you behind-the-scenes to experience traditional Moroccan hospitality! We’ll meet Berber women who are excellent rug weavers and button-makers, and men who are leather dyers, metal workers and ceramic artists. We’ll drive north to the mellow town of Chafchaouen, famous for its stunning old city area being all painted watery shades of blues. Another must-see destination is Tetouan, made famous recently by the Spanish television series Entre Costuras, or Time Between, as it is translated. Most of the series takes place in Morocco, and most of that is in Tetouan with its narrow, labyrinthine lanes of the old town. This northern area of Morocco is not often visited by tourists so we will discover the rug weavers and search out the mysterious and famous ‘laine de Habba” or the cream-colored sheep’s wool yarn somehow spun with tiny pill balls added in. It is used for high quality djellabas for men and we simply must discover HOW it is made because it defies the usual spinning methods!

Exotic Tangiers awaits our discovery too, and we will wend our way through the souks in the medinas to find the most interesting textiles, jewelry and artwork. Charming little hotels called riads will be our home bases. We’ll learn how to knot the complex silk buttons in a workshop with delightful ladies who will also serve us an amazing lunch! As we travel, we’ll explore the historic walled medinas, watch craftsmen at work, and poke around in the traditional little souks for spices and other treasures to take home. In cooking classes we’ll put our spice knowledge to work and create a delicious lunch that will include tajine, a typical, succulent vegetable stew, with or without meat. Everywhere we go, our guide will show us the hidden corners to visit and the most interesting people to meet!

Trip Details:
We’ll start by flying in to legendary Casablanca, check into our hotel in the morning then after lunch, visit the fabulous Hasan II mosque at seaside Casablanca. Today the popular city has modern businesses on the outskirts, but still manages to feel exotic and other-worldly, especially in the old fortified city area, called the medina.

DSC01867Next we’ll head north to our charming riad in the city of Fes, another UNESCO World Heritage site for its perfectly preserved walled medieval city. Wander here to find the perfect carpet or a pair of stunning earrings or an intricately painted plate. Often referred to as the country’s cultural capital, Fes has over a million inhabitants, but it’s primarily known for its sprawling, medina or ancient walled city, the best-preserved in the Arab world, and another UNESCO World Heritage site. Craftsmen still work and sell their products here, and the medina’s souks or market sections are divided into areas by trade—the leather crafters, dyers, ceramicists and so forth.
Over the next few days we will see master artisans at work and wander through the medina’s souks. We will also have the special treat of a cooking class! We’ll visit the food and spice market to find specific ingredients and flavors necessary for the unusual flavor combinations that typify Moroccan cuisine. And we’ll learn how to make local dishes redolent with harissa or ras el hanout (multi-ingredient spice mixtures that can contain dozens of spices). You can pick up some spices in a souk for foodie friends too!

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Stork nest Volubilis

Another UNESCO World Heritage site! Next stop is to marvel at the detailed stone mosaics of Volubilis, and the resident storks that make their nests on the columns of the Basilica. Founded in the 3rd century B.C., Volubilis became an important outpost of the Roman Empire and had many fine buildings; extensive remains of some survive at the archaeological site. UNESCO: “Covering an area of 42 hectares, it is of outstanding importance demonstrating urban development and Romanization at the frontiers of the Roman Empire, and the graphic illustration of the interface between the Roman and indigenous cultures.”

After seeing the detailed floor mosaics and buildings at Volubilis, we’ll drive to Rabat, the capital city of Morocco, for the night. Next morn, we’ll tour Rabat which is located on the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the river Bou Regreg. We will marvel over treasures at the splendid Jewelry Museum of Rabat, called the Oudayas Museum.

On our last night (November 27) and time for the Farewell Dinner when we take leave of new and old friends, and pack our suitcases, ready for flights home from Tangiers the next morning/day of November 28. After the trip, you’ll receive a photo journal book to remember your trip!

Tour Price:  $4850
Single Supplement:  $985

hIncludes the following:

  • 15 nights accommodations, (double occupancy), in charmingly decorated riads (small private villas with central courtyards), and an excellent modern hotel in Casablanca)
  • All meals and non-alcoholic beverages–except 1-2 lunches* and 2-3* dinners.
  • All ground transportation by private van with excellent, professional driver
  • Bottled water in the van for road trips
  • English-speaking, licensed, professional guide to accompany whole itinerary.
  • Transportation to/from airport on set arrival and departure dates.
  • French- and English-speaking textile expert Cynthia Samake also to accompany whole itinerary.
  • Two cooking classes with gourmet cuisine for your lunch or dinner!
  • Entrance to all historical sights, museums, etc., on the itinerary
  • Beautiful custom photo book, created and sent once you get home, with group pictures, sites and recipes from our classes!

hNot included: Personal items such as phone calls, internet fees [some of our hotels have free wi-fi]; laundry; overweight luggage; sites or activities not on the itinerary, between-meal snacks and bottled water when not in the van.

*If you don’t want to do the cooking classes, the meal included during class time is on your own those two days, since class participants will eat what they create. Cooking classes are lots of fun, but optional; we hope everyone will join in!

Please note that citizens of the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Canada, and many others do not need a visa to enter the Kingdom of Morocco and may stay up to 90 days.

Email * info@btsadventures.com if you have any questions.

All photos  © Cynthia LeCount Samake except Dreamstime.com:
© Vladislav Jirousek: ceramic shop photo
© Boggy: Shoes in souk; © Madrugadaverde: Hasan mosque foto

Textiles & Tajines: MOROCCO


September 24 – October 8, 2017  Fly home October 9.
Our popular textile and cuisine tour is back!

Highlights: This custom-designed “textile tour” to amazing and exotic Morocco emphasizes not only the textiles, but also the ceramics, mosaic art, architecture, and cuisine. Travelers are very welcome here; no visa is necessary for most visitors! You will be met by the tour leader and/or the guide in Casablanca at the Mohammed V International Airport (CMN) upon arrival on September 24.

Morocco is an exciting and exotic country; remote kasbahs of striking architectural design contrast with the bustling cities of Casablanca and Rabat, and the coastal fishing town of Essaouira. Our small group will marvel at SIX stunning UNESCO World Heritage sites. We’ll go behind-the-scenes to experience traditional Moroccan hospitality! We’ll meet Berber women who are excellent rug weavers and button-makers, and men who are leather dyers, felt makers and ceramic artists.

Charming little hotels called riads will be our home bases, except for that night in a Berber tent on the sand dunes! In two entertaining cooking classes we’ll create lunches that include tajine, a typical, succulent vegetable stew, with or without meat.

As we travel, we’ll explore the historic walled medinas, watch craftsmen at work, and poke around in the traditional little souks for spices and other treasures to take home. Everywhere we go, our guide will show us the hidden corners to visit and the most interesting people to meet!

DSC06533Trip Details:
We’ll start by flying in to legendary Casablanca, check in to our hotel, and get a good night’s rest. Next day we’ll see the fabulous Hasan II mosque at seaside Casablanca, and drive south to the fishing town of Essaouira, now home to many galleries featuring popular up-and-coming young artists. We will have the special treat of a cooking class in a private home with Cynthia’s friend Latifa. We’ll visit the food and spice market to find specific ingredients and flavors necessary for the unusual flavor combinations that typify Moroccan cuisine. And we’ll learn how to make local dishes redolent with harissa or ras el hanout spice mixtures. You can pick up some spices in a souk for foodie friends too!  Then after a lovely time in Essaouira, we’ll head over to  fabled and friendly Marrakech. In Neolithic times, the region was primarily agricultural, and it wasn’t until 1062 that the town of Marrakech was founded. The red walls of the city, built in 1122–1123, and various buildings constructed in red sandstone during this period, have given the city the nickname of the “Red City.”

IMG_6439Marrakesh grew rapidly and established itself as a cultural, religious, and trading center. Today the popular city has modern businesses on the outskirts, but still manages to feel exotic and other-worldly, especially in the old fortified city area, called the medina. In Marrackeh we will stay in a beautiful and comfortable riad, as always decorated with traditional Moroccan furniture and accessories. The medina of Marrakech is a densely packed, walled medieval city with labyrinthine alleys where little market shops offer a treasure of traditional textiles, baskets, leather and silk shoes, pottery and jewelry.

Here we will see master artisans at work and we’ll wander through the medina souks. We will also see the Majorelle Gardens begun by French painter Jacques Majorelle, and the Berber Museum. We’ll visit the bustling open-air square called Place Djemaa el Fna where snake charmers vie for space between tiny barbeque grills and water sellers. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001, the central square of Marrakech is chaotic and thrilling at the same time.

IMG_6486Next we leave Marrakech and drive over the Atlas Mountains to Ouarzazate, visiting the mystical ‘mud castle’ at Ait Ben Haddou on the way. A striking example of the architecture of southern Morocco, the spectacular ksar of Ait Ben-Haddou makes a perfect stop along the way. This group of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The earthen castle effect and the decorative motifs sculpted into the reddish adobe walls make Ait Ben Haddou an aesthetic wonder.
In Ouarzazate we can go through the Museum of the Cinema if you are interested; dozens of ‘swords and sandals’ films have been made in this desert area. And along the way, we’ll check out the glowing handmade carpets in a favorite shop, and meet some Berber weavers who will show us their techniques.

Next we’ll head to a remote and fascinating town, not visited by many people, where there is a small museum with a superb collection of Koranic texts and other ancient books. This is also the home of Morocco’s green-glazed ceramics; we will visit some of the pottery workshops here. After an overnight in this area, we continue into the arid and spectacular eastern region. In the mid-afternoon, we’ll go by 4-wheel drive across the stark landscape to the golden-orange Saharan sand dunes. Then we’ll climb aboard camels for the short trek into the dunes to watch the sunset. We’ll have a traditional tajine dinner and fall asleep in comfy Berber tents under the stars.

Terrasse des Oliviers_my roomAfter breakfast we head back in the Jeeps and then we’ll begin our drive through the Middle Atlas Mountains. Most of the day will be spent traversing beautiful forests, dramatic rock formations, and little villages on the route north to Fes, another UNESCO World Heritage site.  As always there will be stops for photos and bathroom breaks whenever desired. Half way, we will stop in the town of Midelt, famous for its geodes, trilobites and ammonite fossils and interesting crystals from the nearby mines at Mibladen. Beautiful mineral specimens are for sale in Midelt; don’t you want to take home a few pounds of rocks?!
We’ll spend several days in Fes, sleeping in a charming riad in the old medina area. Wander here to find a carpet or a pair of earrings or a painted plate. Motorcycles are not allowed in Fes medina so we can relax here; shopping and visiting the mosques and madrasas is much easier than in Marrakech. Often referred to as the country’s cultural capital, Fes has over a million inhabitants, but it’s primarily known for its ancient sprawling, medina or ancient walled city, the best-preserved in the Arab world  – and another UNESCO World Heritage site. Craftsmen still work and sell their products here, and the medina is divided into areas by trade—the leather crafters, dyers, ceramicists and so forth.

DSC06560 (1)Another UNESCO World Heritage site! Next stop is to marvel at the detailed stone mosaics of Volubilis, and see the resident storks that make their nests high on the columns of the Basilica. Founded in the 3rd century B.C., Volubilis became an important outpost of the Roman Empire and had many fine buildings; extensive remains of some survive at the archaeological site. UNESCO: “Covering an area of 42 hectares, it is of outstanding importance demonstrating urban development and Romanization at the frontiers of the Roman Empire, and the graphic illustration of the interface between the Roman and indigenous cultures.”

After seeing the detailed floor mosaics and buildings at Volubilis, we’ll return to Casablanca in the evening. This is our last night and time for the Farewell Dinner when we take leave of new and old friends, and pack our suitcases, ready for flights home the next morning/day of October 9, from Casablanca.

After the trip, you’ll receive a photo journal book that will keep you dreaming of Morocco and your new friends!

Tour Price: $4750
Single Supplement: $985  To sign up, click here for instructions and forms.   

  • P1050438Includes the following:
    Six UNESCO World Heritage sites
  • 15 nights accommodations, (double occupancy, in charming riads (small private villas with central courtyards), a comfortable Berber desert tent [1 night], and excellent modern hotel in Casablanca -2 nights)
  • All meals and non-alcoholic beverages–except 2 lunches* and 2 dinners, depending on cooking class participation.
  • All ground transportation by private van with excellent, professional driver
  • Bottled water in the van for road trips
  • Transportation to/from airport on set arrival and departure dates
  • English-speaking, licensed, professional guide to accompany whole itinerary.
  • French- and English-speaking textile expert Cynthia Samake also to accompany whole itinerary.
  • Two cooking classes with gourmet cuisine for your lunch!
  • Entrance to all historical sights, museums, etc., on the itinerary
  • Beautiful custom photo book, created and sent a month or two after you get home.

IMG_6498Not included: Tips to guide (we’ll suggest guidelines for this), personal items such as phone calls, laundry; sites or activities not on the itinerary, between-meal snacks and bottled water when not in the van.

*If you don’t want to do the cooking classes, the meal included during class time is on your own those two days, since class participants will eat what they create. Cooking classes are lots of fun, but optional; we hope everyone will join in!

Please note that citizens of the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Canada, and many others do not need a visa to enter the Kingdom of Morocco and may stay up to 90 days.

Email:  info@btsadventures.com if you have any questions, or call 925-957-6690.

To sign up, click here for instructions and forms.

Camel photo: © Miroslav Novotny Dreamstime.com

 

India: Textile Heaven!

September 1 – 17, 2018  •  Depart for home from Mumbai on September 18.
Our popular India Textile Tour is back for 2018!   (The 2017 textile tour is full.)

INDIA famiy in RajasthanHIGHLIGHTS: We’ll welcome you to India at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. After a good night’s sleep, we’ll visit the wonderful Crafts and Textile Museum and ancient monuments of the city, such as Q’tub Minar.  Then we head southwest to the famous textile and art producing states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, where we will visit many textile artists in their work places and homes. We’ll travel to the Little Rann of Kutch, a very interesting area, and stay in traditional round bungalows. Then finally we head south to visit coastal Cochin and spend a couple of days on a beautiful houseboat in the tropical lagoons of Kerala. Cynthia LeCount Samake and a local guide will accompany the itinerary. In order to make the most of our time in the country, we will fly to several destinations.

DETAILS: Master textile artists will hold private textile workshops, just for our groups: block-printing, tie-dye on silk, indigo-dyeing, and more! We will learn several dyeing and printing processes, beginning with a visit to the place where slabs of wood are carved into intricate designs for the printing blocks. At the block-print studio, we will be welcomed to watch the artists stamping designs with precision onto the cotton fabric. In our dye workshop, we’ll make silk scarves, tying off or stitching the areas to be resisted from the dye. We’ll tour the world-famous Calico (textile) Museum in Ahmedabad, with its exceptional cloth and clothing collections, and we’ll meet the famous double-ikat weavers of Patan. Seeing their complex dyeing techniques and finished masterpieces is totally fascinating.

Silk tie-dyed scarf before white threads were taken out.

Silk tie-dyed scarf before white threads were taken out.

During the trip, we’ll travel by private van, and stay in fascinating Heritage hotels in towns, [even a Majarajah’s palace!] and new, traditional bunghas in the little-visited rural northern Gujarati area of Kutch. The round earthen bunghas with thatched roofs are embellished with floral scrolls of bas-relief mirror and mud decorations around the windows and doors.

We’ll also meet the delightful Rabari women who do the intricate mirror embroidery, in northern Gujarat. We will visit many ancient temples and other architecturally fascinating sites such as the famous Rani Ki Vav stepwell. These enormous and elaborate fresh water wells were built between the 11th and 16th centuries, with carved marble columns, decorated niches, and other details.

In Jaipur we’ll meet the director and the girls at a workshop/home established to help girls stay in school and learn skills – to sew and make crafts, to eventually make a living on their own. If you’d like to bring them some sewing or school supplies they would be thrilled! They need good quality scissors like Fiskar snips, trims, cloth scraps, and so forth, as well as pens and pencils and notebooks. In Jaipur, we will also visit the excellent Anokhi Printing Museum for a great introduction into our next workshops of wooden blockprinting! In a nearby village, we’ll visit an expert block print artist for a complete introduction into block-printed or stamped fabric. At his studio, we will have the option to print 2 yards of light cotton cloth suitable for clothing or a tablecloth, or you can print a cotton scarf.

When we have made some wonderful projects in our workshops, and have seen all the art and architecture that we can possibly absorb, we will fly south to the state of Kerala, and the pretty coastal town of Cochin. We land in Cochin, see the Chinese fishing nets at the beach, India’s oldest synagogue, and Mattancherry Palace. The palace was a generous gift presented to the Raja of Kochi, Veera Kerala Varma (1537–61), as a gesture of goodwill by the Portuguese in 1555. There is also an excellent privately-owned folk art museum that we will visit, and see traditional Kathakali dances. Then we’ll head to the gorgeous backwater lagoons and spend a couple of days floating on luxurious, private wooden houseboats with our own chefs!

Cynthia dips her stamped piece in indigo dyebath.

Cynthia dips her stamped piece in indigo dyebath.

Deepak.Baghru

Bird life is abundant on the water; we will float by trees full of weaver bird nests, as we enjoy the peaceful ambiance. Bring a ‘real’ book or a book on your iPad or Kindle, your knitting, or your yoga moves! Thoroughly relaxed from our houseboat cruise, at the end of our great tour, we fly home from Mumbai on September 18th. Plan your flights to depart BOM anytime after 9pm.

TRIP PRICE:  $4960    (Single Supplement: $875)    Maximum 12 travelers.
Includes: 17 nights accommodation (double rooms with private bath) in charming heritage hotels, modern hotels in cities, and clean local hotels in remote areas. On the houseboat, the comfortable, A/C cabins are double share (singles subject to availability).
The itinerary has been carefully planned to cover a lot of ground, but also not to move around every night. We spend 2 or 3 nights in each destination; for example, 3 nights in both Jaipur and Bhuj.

We relax on houseboats in the tropical lagoons.Also included are all meals and tea breaks, water/tea/coffee and soft drinks with meals; all local transportation in good vans with professional, good-natured drivers. Also all interior flights, bottled water on road trips and houseboat; all village visits and museum entrances as on itinerary; all temple and cultural site visits as on itinerary; airport arrival and departure transport (on group arrival and departure days), luggage porter tips, professional English-speaking Indian guide, and American textile expert Cynthia Samaké to accompany entire itinerary– plus WOW! a custom travelogue photo book sent to you after the trip. Lunch and dinner included on September 18, departure day.

Not included: International airfare, visa for India, required travel insurance (recommend Travel Guard); alcoholic beverages, tips for guide and driver, laundry, between-meal snacks and water (although we will have bottled water in the van for all the day trips); internet charges if any, and camera/video fees if required. You will need a visa for India; information will be forthcoming for online application.
Tipping Guidelines will be sent with trip information.

India woodblock carver

 

Argentina & Uruguay

July 24 -August 5,  2018
(Arrive July 24, depart for home August 6.)

Fiber and Culinary Adventure in Argentina and Uruguay, for knitters and friends!
Includes Knitting and Dyeing Workshop
with Joji Locatelli and Alejandra Pont

Main house of the Estancia.

Highlights of the trip include a visit to the Malabrigo yarn dyeing facility in Uruguay, five days in exciting Buenos Aires, a fascinating Street Art/Graffiti Tour, four nights and relaxing days at a traditional ranch (right) with an exclusive workshop with Joji Locatelli, well-known Argentinian knitwear designer (below), and a dye workshop with expert dyer Alejandra Pont. We will also go to the Malabrigo sheep ranch and meet the Merino and Corriedale sheep that produce the famously soft Malabrigo fiber! Of course we will visit charming Colonia del Sacramento, a UNESCO Heritage site across the river from Buenos Aires in Uruguay, and peek into the many shops on the “Yarn Street” of beautiful Buenos Aires. There in the capital city, we’ll also have some amazing typical meals and we’ll enjoy a flamboyant Tango Show with our Farewell Dinner.

Joji with Shawls 2016

Joji with beginnings of our lace shawls; 2016.

Details of flexible itinerary:
We land in Buenos Aires at the EZE airport where you’ll be met by Cynthia or her assistant for the taxi drive into the city. Check into our charming hotel in the peaceful and pretty Palermo section of Buenos Aires. Spend time settling into the Argentine rhythm of life and discovering typical foods. We’ll take a ferry north across the Rio de la Plata to Montevideo, Uruguay, and there we’ll tour the Malabrigo yarn dyeing mill where we will each dye a skein of the most lovely fiber; photo below.

Dyeing.Malabrigo 2016

Cynthia and Gerardo dye merino at Malabrigo.

We can’t miss the UNESCO Heritage site of historic Colonia del Sacramento, founded by the Portuguese in 1680, and one of the oldest towns in Uruguay. Lonely Planet calls this town “irresistibly picturesque.” We’ll check out the main sights, then stroll the streets marveling at the colorful old homes and pretty plazas. You can take photos, visit the cool shops and art galleries. We will meet up with some delightful Uruguayan women who have a knitting group, and see what they are working on! Lunch and dinner on your own in Colonia; it will be great fun choosing interesting places.

After a couple of nights in this charming and colorful town, we take the ferry back to Buenos Aires to relax and see more of the city. Then we drive south to the most gorgeous traditional Estancia (ranch). During four tranquil days here, we’ll immerse ourselves in knitting, making the pattern created especially for BTSA knitters by Joji, using our own hand-dyed Malabrigo yarn. She has designed a pattern that uses the yardage in the weight of Malabrigo yarn that they will let us dye!

La Sererna sheepThere will be plenty of time to relax, knit, eat, walk or bike over the Estancia’s 250 acres, then drink some wine and relax some more! In addition to Joji’s workshop and Alejandra’s dye lesson, Cynthia will present an Update to Andean Knitting, Powerpoint showing examples of some of the new innovations and techniques done in nearby Bolivia and Peru – and give a sneak preview of some contents of her soon-to-be-published, updated book. The estancia house has roaring fireplaces in the library and living room so it is very cozy for hanging out in the evenings. During the days, we can walk outdoors or knit or read a good book, between cold drinks!

Food at the Estancia is plentiful and delicious; we will savor the famous Argentine BBQ meats and sausages called asado; vegetarians will have other options. At the Estancia, we will enjoy some of Argentina’s most classic dishes and typical desserts. And one day we will make our own lunch of empanadas! People from last year’s trip are still craving the rich homemade caramel topping called dulce de leche! Every day we will have tea and cookies in the afternoon, then dinner later, as is the custom.

La Serena asado

BBQ and Picnic at Malabrigo Ranch. 2016.

After we return to the capital, we’ll enjoy the scene at the lively weekend art and antique market, then we’ll see the fascinating Recoleta Cemetery which contains many elaborate marble mausoleums, decorated with statues, in a wide variety of architectural styles. Many Argentine presidents are buried here, as well as Eva Peron and other famous people.Then you can wander along the “Yarn Street,” within walking distance of our hotel; we found that the shops sold mostly synthetic yarns, but there are a couple that carry other fibers, and some of the synthetic is quite unusual and appealing. Dinner on your own tonight.

The next and final day is at leisure: shop some more, relax and wander around the neighborhood, then pack up your suitcases for the trip home! Lunch on your own this free day. Fabulous Tango Show and Farewell Dinner on last night.

Plan your plane departure time for the next day, August 6, but don’t leave too early in the  morning so you can enjoy the TANGO SHOW and Dinner and wine at Angelito’s the night before.

Street art Colonia 2016TOUR PRICE: $4650.
(Single supplement available for $825.)
Includes 13 nights accommodation in double/twin rooms in comfortable hotels with private bath, and at the historic estancia (with some shared bathrooms there); all meals except a few lunches and dinners on free days when the group is not together, soft drinks and water during all meals, dye and knitting workshops by Joji Locatelli and Alejandra Pont, taxi transportation into city from Buenos Aires airports on group arrival date, all interior transportation by private Mercedes Sprinter van and professional driver, city taxis, and modern ferry boats (BuqueBus) across the river between Argentina and Uruguay; Street Art/Graffiti Tour around Buenos Aires, Tango Show and dinner, skein of Malabrigo yarn to dye for workshop project.

Happy Knitters with Joji in blue, center; Cynthia and Alejandra at far right. 2015

Not included: International air fare, airport departure transportation, alcoholic beverages, personal items such as laundry charges, luggage porter tips, and between-meal snacks and drinks (if you haven’t eaten enough at our bountiful meals!).

We will arrange your airport departure transportation for you, but it is not included because everyone departs at different times/flights.

If you arrive at either Buenos Aires airport on a different date from the group arrival date, you’ll pay the taxi into town, but the hotel will arrange your pickup at the airport.

For more images, see the Argentine and Uruguay trip Photo Gallery.

Cambodia, Thailand & Laos

Textiles, Temples and Festivals

Dates coming soon for 2018.  June 22 – July 8, 2017  Depart for home on July 9.

3 PTK edited-CalendarGo Behind-the-Scenes to a fabulous festival in little-known northern Thailand. See the superb UNESCO site of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and the golden Buddhist temples of Luang Prabang, Laos! This is more than a textile tour, but there will be plenty of textiles: We’ll watch weavers at work, and learn how they tie and dye threads to create exquisite ikat patterned fabric. We travel in a big loop, seeing the best of all three countries — the most interesting textiles, architecture, archeology and culture — including three UNESCO World Heritage sites.

TRIP DETAILS: We’ll meet in the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok on June 22, spend the night in a modern hotel near the airport, then fly into Loei the next day. Then we head southwest to a village known for its raucous and entertaining PHI TA KHON parade of fabulously masked dancers. Phi Ta Khon, means “Ghosts Following People,” and the celebration commemorates a joyful event in young Buddha’s life, as a prince. Dancers create sensational costumes and masks, and dance with  phallus-shaped swords, related to the fertility emphasis of the festival.

The masks are true works of art, taking some artists months to make from a hard, woody coconut palm tree sheath (the end of the big stem, where it attaches to the tree trunk), with a sticky rice basket stitched on top.Despite the many playful aspects of this two-day event, it also has very serious significance for the animist locals. You will see the Spirit Medium dressed in white, riding in the parade, and you’ll learn about the ceremonies, both Buddhist and animist that give meaning to the festival. This is sure to be a favorite part of the trip! While in the festival village, we stay at a beautiful country resort with infinity pool, owned by Cynthia’s friend, Neeracha.

Angkor Temple-ROOTSNext we head into Laos to see the ancient royal capital, now designated a UNESCO Heritage town of Luang Prabang. We will visit important temples, then you have a free day to explore this laid-back and friendly town on your own. Time to soak up the tranquil, tropical ambiance: we will spend the afternoon at the textile center of Ock Pop Tok where we’ll dye our own silk scarves and watch talented silk weavers.  Dinner on the Mekong; see if you are brave enough to try the fermented water buffalo skin condiment! The fried river moss is actually delicious.
The local market is interesting, and there is an excellent new textile museum that we will enjoy, then we can shop at the Night Market  with all its handicrafts and art. Along with the magnificently decorated temples, a significant part of the old town’s appeal is the many French provincial style houses, the riverside location, and the tropical ambiance—this is a delightful place to relax and learn about Lao culture.

Then we go south to the capital of Laos – Vientiane – where we visit the enormous market, the famous Wat Si Saket with its 10,000 Buddhas, and an innovative silk weaving studio. Later we cross the Mekong into Thailand, and continue south to the town of Ubon Ratchathani. Ubon is known for the fabulous Wax Candle Festival or Khao Phansa, and we’ll visit friends who will show us the incredible wax floats they are preparing for the event next month. Finally we head into Cambodia, to Siem Reap and the  Khmer temples of Angkor Wat! A UNESCO Heritage site, Angkor Wat and the surrounding wats form a world-class temple complex, with sophisticated wall carvings. “Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. Stretching over some 400 km2, including the surrounding forested area, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. They include the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations. UNESCO has set up a wide-ranging programme to safeguard this symbolic site and its surroundings.” (UNESCO site info) We’ll stay 5 nights in this pretty hotel with pool (photo) and have an optional hands-on cooking class to learn the subtleties of delicious Cambodian cuisine.

Golden Banana

TOUR COST: $4195 for 2018 – LPQ flight included. Single Supplement: $615

Minimum 6, maximum 12 travelers.

Includes 17 nights in comfortable A/C hotels in double/twin rooms (a couple of the hotels have a pool), all meals except two lunches and two dinners in Siem Reap and Luang Prabang on free days, soft drinks and bottled water with meals, all in-country travel by bus, train, or private van with professional driver, two-days entrance fees at Angkor Wat, transportation in the Park, entrance to archaeological and museum sites on the itinerary, a Cambodian cooking class at an excellent restaurant in Siem Reap, and an 8″ x 11″ photo book documenting your trip! Fly into Bangkok and home from Siem Reap. (2018 itinerary change; see details later.)

Cambodian Cooking class in Sim Reap.

Cambodian Cooking class in Siem Reap.

Not included: International airfare, airport departure transportation, alcoholic beverages, personal items such as laundry charges, luggage porter tips and internet fees, and between-meal snacks and drinks. Count on about $35 total tips per person for the van driver.

 

Knitting & Weaving: Peru

 March 18 – 28, 2018   This trip is FULL!! Look for new dates soon.

Textiles, Machu Picchu, and Lord of the Earthquakes Procession in Cuzco

(Arrive on March 18, fly home late on March 28 or early AM March 29)

El Senõr de los Temblores LOW

Christ statue carried in procession by villagers.

This exciting adventure goes from the superb museums and gourmet restaurants of the capital city to the Andean highland villages– with the jungles of Inka Machu Picchu, and beautiful, colonial Cuzco in between!

TRIP DETAILS
Cynthia (or the hotel driver if after 10 pm.) will meet you at the Lima airport, upon arrival, on March 18. Check into the Hotel El Patio, below, for a good night’s sleep in this charming and cozy place that is overflowing with flowers and greenery, in the upscale Miraflores neighborhood.

In the morning, after breakfast in the hotel’s downstairs breakfast room, we will have a brief orientation. A friendly money-changer will come to the hotel lobby to change our dollar bills to soles, the Peruvian currency. Cynthia will hand out currency conversion charts to use until you get used to the money exchange. The van driver will pick us up at the hotel to begin our adventure in Lima, Peru’s bustling and prosperous capital city.

EL PATIO-LIMA

El Patio Hotel in Miraflores, Lima.

Lima has world-class museums, flowery parks, interesting architecture, a fabulous crafts market, and great restaurants where we will sample typical Peruvian cuisine. We’ll spend a very full day in Lima, first seeing the wonderful ceramic and textile collections of the Rafael Larco Herrera Museum, housed in a beautiful old mansion with flowery gardens. It has just been renovated and the presentations are superb, but we still love the storage section with the floor-to-ceiling glass shelves of mostly Moche ceramics, like a huge library of pots, all carefully arranged and grouped by subject, crab pots, squash-shaped pots, llama pots, etc. After lunch, we’ll go to the recently revamped Amano Museum which has one of the world’s best textile collections; there we will meet the Curator and hear his story of the museum’s evolution to its present glory! Our Welcome Dinner will be at one of Lima’s many excellent restaurants.

Cynthia at Machu Picchu

Next we fly over the Andes to Cuzco, and from the airport, drive to lower altitude. We’ll spend the night in a pretty hotel in Ollantaytambo, in the Sacred Valley. In the little shops and the handicraft market here, we can look for interesting textile finds. Early next morning, we’ll take the train to the incredible, mystical site of Machu Picchu. The ‘Sanctuary’ site was overgrown by trees and brush but known by the local people, when American Hiram Bingham re-discovered it in 1911.

An expert local guide will accompany you as you walk around the site, and will explain the Inkas and their culture. Machu Picchu (now a National Park) and Cuzco town itself are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Machu Picchu is lower than Cuzco and the environment is very different. Rock cliff faces bristle with bromeliads; orchids and begonias line the sinuous road to the site. That night we’ll sleep to the roar of the Urubamba River and visit the Inka sanctuary again the next day, if you wish.

Our return train journey to Cuzco will be in the afternoon on the second day. Upon arriving in town, we’ll check into our historical hotel, a beautiful stone Colonial mansion built in the 17th century, and restored in 2004. The hotel is in the perfect location, on a quiet side street two blocks from the central Plaza de Armas, and close to many other historical sights.

Machu Picchu LOW

Machu Picchu from the back left side.

Cuzco was the center of the Inka Empire and you’ll see Inka stonework at every turn around the central Plaza de Armas. We’ll take it easy the first day in the altitude, walking nearby to have lunch. Then we’ll visit the good exhibition at the small museum of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cuzco (CTTC), founded and managed by dynamic Peruvian weaver Nilda Callañaupa [English-speaking]. Cuzco is safe and easy to walk around in, mostly flat cobblestone streets, with some hilly areas. From Cuzco, we will drive to several remote Andean communities on day trips (coming back to our wonderful hotel, below, to sleep).

Peru - Bolivia

Weaver picking up warp patterns with llama bone.

In the villages, you’ll meet textile artists and will be welcomed to learn some new weaving or knitting techniques from these masters. One day, we will have a dye workshop in Nilda’s village with her family and the other women there. You’ll buy white alpaca yarn at the Michell Alpaca store, close to the hotel, and we’ll dye it with natural dyestuff such as cochineal, yellow flowers, green leaves, and more. (You can buy as much yarn or as little as you want to dye.) This day is market day in the village too, so you can check out the little local market, now as full of tourist souvenir textiles as local produce. We will also visit Nilda’s brother’s studio; Angel paints charming watercolors depicting various animals from local myths and legends, such as foxes and mice.

LosMarqueses CUZCO-low

Patio of our heritage hotel in Cuzco.

Monday afternoon is time for the fabulous procession of the black statue of Christ on the cross. We will have good seats in a restaurant above the plaza to look down on the celebration, take photos, and to toss the symbolic red flowers onto the statue as it passes below (for blessings and luck). Note that in the photo at top, the base of the figure is covered in red flowers. The procession includes several priests, deacons, and perhaps a cardinal, military marching men in uniform and brass bands, city dignitaries, school children, and college students. By the end of the long celebration, the participants are all sprinkled with red flowers thrown from balconies along the route.

Tuesday March 27, the day after the Easter Monday festivities, we have a free day, with our Farewell Dinner that night. Then next morning (March 28; breakfast only included today) we fly to Lima, and either connect onward to home that afternoon/evening, or go to the Hotel El Patio to rest and perhaps shop in the neighborhood until time to go to the airport. We will suggest convenient flights for arrival and departure.

Price: $3650 for 5 – 8 people

$3400 for 9 – 12 people

Single Supplement: $440  * To sign up, click the Sign Me Up! link on home page and follow instructions.

Included:

  • All meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner– except two lunches and two dinners on free days, when group is scattered.
  • 10 nights accommodation (March 18 – 27) in beautiful, small boutique or heritage hotels, all locally-owned, safe, and friendly. Private bath, double or twin occupancy.
  • Day Room on March 28 until you depart for the airport which may be in the wee hours of March 29. (We’ll coordinate flights for easiest planning!)
  • Powerpoint lectures by Cynthia, on woven ancient/pre-Hispanic and contemporary knit/woven textiles.
  • Knitting workshop to learn ingenious knitting techniques; yarn provided.
  • Two interior flights (Lima to Cuzco round-trip) about an hour each.
  • Causa, typical yellow potato cold dish with crab, peppers, avocado.

    •  Dye workshop with Nilda, and natural vegetal dyes, cochineal, etc. (Fiber not included; you’ll decide how many skeins you want to dye and we’ll go together to Mitchell alpaca store near hotel to buy yarn for dyeing.)

  • Peruvian Master Weaver, Nilda Callanaupa to accompany group for Andean village visits.
  • All interior transportation by private van with professional, known driver.
  • Bottled water on van rides (please bring a refillable bottle for personal use, or re-use one there).
  • Visits to typical, remote Andean highland villages to meet the textile artists; picnic lunch in a village.
  • Entrances to all museums on itinerary
  • Licensed, professional English-speaking local guide, and guide tips for Machu Picchu.
  • Airport arrival and transportation on group arrival date
  • One-day Machu Picchu entrance, and shuttle to the site—(2nd day about $75 optional)
  • Andean textile expert Cynthia LeCount Samaké to lead tour and accompany entire itinerary.
  • Traditional lunch in village with a family.

Cynthia and Claudia in a kiwicha field, Chinchero highlands.

Claudia dyes alpaca yarn with rock lichen. Chinchero.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GHANA ARTS & CULTURE

February 3 – 16, 2018     (Fly home on February 17)

Ghana fabric MarketGhana is sometimes called “Africa for beginners” because of the ease of travel, the friendly, welcoming people and the relative level of modernity compared to other West African nations. Yet the people have retained many cultural and artistic traditions such as the patterned ‘kente’ weaving and adinkra cloth – and have created some others, such as the fairly recent mode of fantasy coffins. You will be met by the trip leaders at Kotoka International airport, in the capital city of  Accra on February 3. Plan flights to arrive after 10am or before 8pm if possible.

This exciting adventure, led by Malian Barou Samake and Californian Claudia Avila, includes the very best of Ghana! These two upbeat leaders with their positive attitudes will ensure that your travel experience enchants and enriches you. Also professional English-speaking guides at historical sites will add depth to your knowledge by explaining the historical context and background of the sites from a Ghanaian’s perspective. Expert Ghanaian artist-friends lead the three fabulous workshops: batik stamped cloth, adinkra-printed fabric, and glass bead-making.You can try your hand at weaving on a kente strip-cloth loom if you like, also.

Shirley stamps traditional Adinkra Cloth

Shirley stamping adinkra patterns.

We’ll go from ocean beaches to forest canopy, with lakes and traditional villages in between!  On this wonderful adventure, we will cover as much as possible of the fascinating southern part of the country, spending several days in specific areas such as Kumasi, so that we get a good feeling for Ghanaian life away from the busy coastal areas. First we’ll head west to tour Cape Coast Castle with a professional English-speaking local guide. This important UNESCO World Heritage site was one of thirty large commercial forts built by European traders on the Gold Coast of West Africa (now Ghana). Originally it was built by Swedish settlers to trade timber and gold, but later used in the tragic trans-Atlantic slave trade. St. George’s Elmina, another fort we will go through, was built in 1482 and is one of the oldest European buildings outside Europe.

Bead vendor in a whole market of BEADS!

Bead vendor; Krobo Odumase market.

The historic town of Elmina is believed to be the location of the first point of contact between Europeans and sub-Saharan Africans. Today both towns are fishing villages with colorful scenes of fishermen and boats on the beach. We’ll also stop in the fishing town of Jamestown, with its fresh fish market, tuna smoking ovens and fishing scene on the beach (taste the delicious smoked tuna!). We will meet with a friend who works there, and he will show us the boats being crafted by hand, and will explain how the community/communal fishing works. He will also show us the school that has been built recently for the fishermen’s children and you can donate school supplies here if you wish.

_DSC6779The famous Ghanaian kente cloth is still woven in several places; we will see the beautiful patterns of both Ewe and Ashanti versions. We’ll meet the weavers in individual and coop settings, see their weaving demonstrations, and be able to buy their work directly from them. Hand-printed batik cloth and other arts such as music, dance, and bead-making are all thriving, alongside the modern aspect of the city of Accra. We’ll try our hand at some traditional crafts in several half-day workshops–stamping and dyeing our batik yardage, stamping cloth with hand-carved adinkra motifs made from sections of dried gourd. We’ll also make some colorful glass beads from recycled glass and pore over dozens of stalls of handmade beads at the weekly Bead Market, above.

Jeff, master kente weaver holding warp threads.

We will visit a talented coffin carver friend at work, to see which of the latest styles are the most popular. These wooden, custom-made coffins reflect the career or aspirations of the deceased. Fishermen might be buried in a huge colorful fish or a carpenter in a big hammer-shaped coffin! Ghanaians can request burial in a carved wooden version of their favorite automobile, or airplane; farmers can order cocoa pods or chile peppers for the journey to the other life.

Some men choose a beer bottle or an oversized Coca Cola bottle. Popular women’s coffins include huge chickens, with smaller wooden “chicks” at her feet, one representing each of the lady’s children.

DSC_1802 (1)We’ll also stop at the rural school that we have ‘adopted’ to give them school supplies. These kids are adorable and have almost no school materials, but the principal is wonderful as are the hard-working teachers; see below.

Fabric enthusiasts, bring an empty suitcase to hold all the amazing printed fabrics you’ll discover in the overflowing markets! We will go on a special market tour in Kumasi with a friend who knows the labyrinth of stalls and where to find the best fabrics – and whatever else you may need – great fun!

Arrive on February 3 and fly home from Accra on February 17. February 16 is LAST included night of hotel but you may leave your bags, and hang out at the hotel, until time to go to the airport. Many flights leave Accra late at night.

Behind the Scenes Adventures IN ACTION:
We have a project to help local schools where we travel; we visit an elementary school in a remote area in Ghana and offer school supplies.  BTSA travelers have been wonderfully generous about donating pens, pencils and notebooks during our visits, and the children are so sweet — Ask about participating in this heart-warming experience!!  See the BTSA Helping page here.

Stamping wax on white cotton in batik workshop.

Stamping wax on white cotton for batik.

Price: $4195 for 4-12 travelers 
Includes 14 nights accommodation in comfortable local hotels (double rooms), transportation by private vehicle, all meals, except one lunch on last [free] day in Accra, all soft drinks and water with meals, bottled water in the van on the road; airport transportation on group arrival and departure days, all entrances to historical sites and museums on itinerary, guide at Cape Castle and Elmina, guide for Kumasi market tour, three workshops: glass-bead making, adinkra stamping, and batik printing – 2 yards of cotton cloth are provided for the batik printing workshop. (Maximum 12 in group)
Single supplement: $685


Not included:
International airfare to the capital, Accra; visa for Ghana; personal items such as laundry, massage, between meal water and snacks, and the cloth to print Adikra on. There will be a group market outing in Kumasi to buy cloth for adinkra printing. Batik cotton included.

See the Ghana Image Gallery here.

NOTE #1
If you arrive or depart on a different day than the designated group arrival/departure date, you will need to pay the taxi from airport to hotel, and any additional nights of hotel. Barou will meet you at the airport, with the driver on the group arrival date. Otherwise, we will arrange for the hotel to send a known and safe taxi driver for you. The Ghana airport is enclosed and fairly un-chaotic!

Glass bead kiln with bead molds heating.

NOTE #2
It is impossible to plan attendance at traditional musical or dance events or even holidays and festivals, from afar. We love these events and we’re happy to be flexible and spontaneously attend traditional performances in villages along the way, if the chance should arise.

NOTE #3
After you have paid the $500 deposit, and several months before departure, we will send you the form to fill out for your visa to Ghana, and an information packet with lists of what to bring, cultural info, maps, recommended reading, etc.

 

Textiles & Carnival: Bolivia

February 1- 14, 2018

Arrive in La Paz from home in the morning of February 1. Depart for home on February 15.

OVERVIEW: This is a fabulous 14-night Carnival and textile tour to see the best of Bolivia – the intricate weaving and the amazing knitting, a peaceful rural hacienda, historical places such as colonial Sucre and the famous silver-mining city of Potosi, the exciting city of LaPaz – and finally the amazing Carnival celebration, with elaborate costumes, masks and music.

TRIP DETAILS: We’ll plan our flights (preferably on American Airlines #922 at 10:35pm out of Miami), to arrive, and meet in the early morning at El Alto International Airport in La Paz, literally ‘the Heights!’  To acclimate as soon as possible, we’ll take a connecting flight – 1 hour – and descend directly to the beautiful city of Sucre where we will spend the next few days. Check into our lovely hotel, in an 18th C mansion, with terraces full of flowers, below; take a city tour and visit a fascinating handmade felted Hat Factory! Sucre is one of two capitals of Bolivia (with LaPaz) and despite its population today of around 300,000, the historical center with its notable colonial architecture is pleasant to stroll around in. Sucre is also the center of expert textile production.

History of the city is interesting; in 1559, the Spanish King Philip II established the Audiencia of Charcas (high court of justice) in Sucre, with authority over an area of present-day Paraguay, southeastern Peru, northern Chile and Argentina, and much of Bolivia! In 1624 St. Francis Xavier University of Chuquisaca was founded here; it is one of the oldest universities of the New World, housed in a magnificent building.

We’ll visit the University’s Anthropology Museum, with good folklore and ethnography exhibits, and the local market with crafts, textiles and produce.  We’ll also see the superb textiles at the excellent ASUR Textile Museum, in a 17th C colonial home. This small museum and the museum shop show and sell traditional pieces from the towns surrounding Sucre: Ravelo, Potolo, Tarabuco, and Candelaria. Watch weavers at work in the courtyard, using different techniques and oblique looms. Later, relax on the hotel’s rooftop terraces or walk around Sucre’s pretty central plaza, only three blocks from our Hotel.

On Sunday, we’ll leave early for the town of Tarabuco and its weekly market full of textiles and all the usual garden produce. People living in this area maintain their traditional culture, evident in their unusual dress, interesting customs, and Quechua language. Men typically wear rounded, black leather helmets, called monteras, reminiscent of the conquistadors’ helmets, with colorful hand-woven ponchos, pants and sandals. Women also wear hand-woven clothing with boat-shaped hats, and adolescents and some women wear yet another type of hat, a tightly crocheted, black version called a “tadpole” hat because of the tail in back.

Next day we’ll drive by private van to the historical silver mining city of Potosi (3 hours, with interesting stops along the way). It is known as the world’s ‘highest city’ and is notable for the riches (and tragedies) of its mining history. In the mid-1500s, the founding of the city and the discovery of fabulously rich silver veins went hand in hand. By the end of the 18th century, Potosi had grown into the largest and wealthiest city in all of Latin America; many beautiful colonial churches and buildings still hint at this former splendor. We’ll visit the Carmelite Santa Theresa Convent that dates from the late 1600s; it has amazing art and artifacts, and shows a sad but interesting part of old Spanish-Catholic-influenced history. Visit the Royal Mint (Casa de la Moneda) if there is interest, where colonial coins were produced on a variety of machines.

141-400x400Then we’ll drive a short ways outside of Potosi, through a dramatic agricultural valley to our rural Hacienda (left), arriving in the afternoon. We’ll spend two nights at this peaceful retreat, relaxing and reading, knitting, hiking, etc. The farm and mansion date from colonial times; Hacienda Cayara was an encomienda (grant by the Spanish Crown to a colonist in America) whose title dated from 1557, making it the first hacienda in “New Toledo,” or present day Bolivia. The rural hacienda remains a working farm, producing vegetables and dairy products for its own guests, and to be sold in the city. Staying there is like relaxing in a comfortable, antique-filled home of a gracious friend; the library, private chapel and museum are fascinating. The focal point of the living room is a cozy fireplace, and we’ll have delicious and typical meals in the dining room.

We’ll drive out to weaving villages, 52 km. to Potolo. In this rural area, local women weave the well-known red and black textiles (photo at bottom) and men weave brilliant tapestries full of animals and birds. These indigenous communities that belong to the Jalq’a ethnic group maintain their traditional culture in the architecture of the houses, the agricultural techniques and especially in the handmade textile production, which is totally unique. Knitting is also fine and detailed in villages around Potosi; we will see examples.

Apple AnataFinally ¡¡CARNAVAL!! We’ll drive to Oruro, arriving in time to see the indigenous people’s carnival called Anata Andina on Thursday. Invited groups of villagers from far and near converge in Oruro, wearing their very best, newly hand-woven clothing and hand-knit caps. Their brilliant outfits are often adorned with bundles of greens or strands of fruits and vegetables, as symbols of fertility. The musicians play wooden flutes and handmade drums. Llamas or sheep sometimes accompany the groups. On Friday at mid-morning we’ll go to the main market for the delicious treat of Api, the hot, sweet corn drink and fried Pasteles with powdered sugar – yum! We’ll visit one of the other markets, and perhaps watch some Carnival preparations.

Go to bed early in preparation for the big event tomorrow: Saturday Entrada, or grand opening of Carnival. There are approximately 50 groups with hundreds of dancers each, so it is a huge event. The goal is to dance the whole route, right up to the church on the hill, three kilometers. These groups are different Bolivians from the villagers; they are apt to be system programmers or teachers, taxi drivers, or doctors and lawyers. They dress in masks and costumes that are intricate and expensive – and sometimes uncomfortable, as in the case of the girls dancing the entire 3 km. parade route in tall boots with platform heels! The main day, the Entrada of Carnival is an all-day event, often ending at 2-3am; we will have bleacher seats – and sandwiches/drinks for lunch.

DSC04350_1You may watch as much or as little as you like, of course. There is a huge variety of costumes: Devil dancers, furry bears, Morenadas in huge embroidered cardboard outfits, Caporales with bells on their boots, and so forth. There are five devil groups called Diabladas with both men and women performing various roles in the dance. Cynthia will do a presentation and hand-outs about the many groups, so you will know a bit more about what you are seeing! The whole event is really spectacular. You might want to watch from the bleachers for a few hours, then relax at the hotel for a while, then go back out to watch the night-time displays.

One Devil group that performs late has light-up masks and pipes that shoot out propane flames! Finally, drive back to La Paz with time to visit the town. Check into our sweet hotel, have lunch, then walk down Sacarnaga, the street of textiles – and spend the rest of the day exploring La Paz on your own. Next day is a free day in La Paz; you could take an optional day trip to the archeological site of Tiawanaku. Our hotel’s tour department has convenient and good Tiawanaku guided van tours which include lunch, for a nominal cost. The Museum of Ethnography and Folklore is very interesting with drawers full of very accessible textiles to admire. We’ll have our Valentine’s Day Farewell Dinner on this last night, then get a good sleep for early departure the next morning, February 15.

Potolo-Ravelo LOW

BOLIVIA TEXTILE & CARNIVAL TOUR PRICE:  $4125  Single supplement $535

INCLUDES:

  • 14 nights accommodation double/twin rooms with private bath, in boutique hotels where available, historical buildings, and a rural hacienda with modern plumbing
  • All meals, soft drinks and water with meals (except 2 lunches and 1 dinner on your own)
  • Air flight from LA PAZ to SUCRE
  • All transportation by private van to textile villages
  • Bleacher seats and box lunch during two Carnival days
  • All entrance fees to the museums, archaeological sites and group events on itinerary
  • Visits to textile-producing villages near Sucre and Potosi
  • 2 Spanish- and English-speaking tour leaders/textile/festival experts to accompany the tour
  • Specialized local English-speaking guide for village tours
  • Airport departure on group departure day

Machu Picchu and Amazon

Herpetology and Photography of the Peruvian Amazon THIS TRIP IS FULL!  Try next year!
January 17 – 27, 2018  (Organized by MT Amazon Tours)

Optional pre-tour to Machu Picchu and Cuzco
January 12 – 16, 2018  (Organized by Behind the Scenes Adventures) There is space on the pre-tour and the price has been discounted! Only for people signed up for Herp and Photo Tour.

We have created a seamless adventure from Lima to Machu Picchu, then back to Lima for the flight to the Amazon!
Scroll down to the Emerald Boa for link to the Amazon tour, led by experts Mike Pingleton and Matt Cage.

Emerald Boa; Peruvian Amazon. By Matt Cage.

Machu Picchu LOW

Experienced together, Amazon Herps and Machu Picchu – you’ve got the BEST OF PERU!!

Highlights of Pre-Tour: We’ll meet in the Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima, to spend the night at the nearby hotel, before flying next morning to the city of Cuzco, ancient Inca capital. Then to help acclimate to the altitude, we’ll hand off our large luggage to the hotel driver for storage, and get in our van for the drive down to the lower altitude of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Then by train, we descend further, until we arrive at Aguas Calientes Village on the Urubamba River, about 6500 feet. Then we’ll take a shuttle bus up to the entrance of the world-class site of Machu Picchu. Even at this altitude, it’s a temperate, tropical environment with orchids, bromeliads and bird-of-paradise blooming.
Machu Picchu is stunning, and much more accessible than you might think. Don’t let yourself be intimidated by its seemingly difficult terrain! Thousands of people of all ages visit annually and it is possible to walk in on gentle, packed gravel paths with not too many steps, and appreciate much of the site. Ask your travel doctor about taking Diamox for the altitude; it makes acclimation much easier.

For our visit, we will have TWO professional English-speaking guides, one for the group that wants to climb to the top of everything, and another helpful guide for those people who have the place on their Bucket List, but prefer to stroll in and around the grassy main plaza area, admiring the very accessible stonework walls and incredible views from that level. Walking sticks or a cane are allowed for those who need them, although not for everyone. You’ll probably meet a few of the resident llamas that mow the grass!

Maras PERU low

Maras, Inka era salt basins

In 1983, Machu Picchu was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site: “Embedded within a dramatic landscape at the meeting point between the Peruvian Andes and the Amazon Basin, the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is among the greatest artistic, architectural and land use achievements anywhere, and the most significant tangible legacy of the Inca civilization.”  Machu Picchu is set in the Andes Mountains, above the Urubamba River valley. Built in the 15th century, it’s renowned for its sophisticated stone walls made of huge blocks interlocking without the use of mortar – intriguing buildings that play on astronomical alignments and panoramic views. The approximately 200 structures making up this outstanding religious, ceremonial, astronomical and agricultural center are set on a high ridge, crisscrossed by stone terraces.

Hotel Marqueses

Patio of our heritage hotel in Cuzco.

We’ll arrive in Machu Picchu around noon on the train, see the site with the guide, spend the night and re-visit the site the next morning. Then we’ll return to Cuzco, by way of the huge salt basins at the spectacular site of Maras, in use since Inca times (photo above). We’ll spend that night and the next in Cuzco, in a charming heritage mansion (photo right).

We will have the whole next day in Cuzco to see your choice of sights: among the possibilities are the famous fortress of Sacsahuayman above town, the Center for Traditional Textiles (founded by Nilda Callañaupa, a longtime friend of Cynthia), the Inka Museum and an excellent museum of pre-Hispanic ceramic, gold and textile treasures. Around the Plaza de Armas are little shops full of alpaca sweaters and other typical crafts. We’ll top off our Andean adventure with a Farewell Dinner at Gaston Acurio’s new Chicha restaurant! Gaston is the internationally famous chef who put Peruvian food on the map; it now rivals the cuisine of anywhere in the world. The next day, we’ll fly to Iquitos (connecting in Lima) to begin the Herpetology and Photography Tour.

Cuzco cathedral

Cathedral on Plaza de Armas, Cuzco

Machu Pichu and Cuzco TOUR COST: $1250  DISCOUNT PRICE NOW $999
INCLUDED: All accommodations, 4 nights in comfortable hotels (double rooms), two round-trip flights (LIM-CUZ-LIM), all meals and all soft drinks/water during meals (except two lunches), all Cuzco transportation by van or taxi, Cuzco airport arrival and departure transport, large luggage storage while we are at Machu Picchu, transportation to train station, Machu Picchu round-trip train tickets, Machu Picchu shuttle bus tickets, two days’ entrance tickets to the site, professional guides at Machu Picchu (one for active hikers and one for less active), Spanish-speaking American trip coordinator (Cynthia Samake) to accompany group. See itinerary for details.

Not included: Alcoholic beverages and optional activities (such as museum entrances) in Cuzco, and Machu Picchu guide tips. Single room supplement: $185    Sign up here.

Tour Leader for Machu Picchu and Cuzco pre-tour:
Cynthia Samake has traveled to the Andean countries, especially Peru, for the past thirty-five years. She conducted field research on indigenous clothing in Peru and Bolivia, and those studies resulted in her book “Andean Folk Knitting: Traditions and Techniques from Peru and Bolivia.”  She has actually lost count of how many times she has been to the Andes – at least forty times!

She’s a specialist in Andean culture, festival costume and traditional textiles, and enthusiastically shares her expertise during the trips she now leads. For many years, she taught “World Textiles” in the Design Department at the University of California, Davis. Contact Cynthia at info@btsadventures.com for detailed itinerary and questions. Sign up here.

Click for information about the Herpetology and Photography Tour, by MT Amazon, the ONLY tour company in the Peruvian Amazon that dedicates 100% of its resources toward the preservation and welfare of the Amazon Rainforest and its people.

Tour leaders for herpetology and photography tour:
Dendropsophus+leucophyllatus_20080710_5Mike Pingleton:
(Expedition Leader/Photographer/Herp & Bird Expert)  For more than forty years, Mike  has been pursuing amphibians and reptiles in the field. Along with covering much of the United States, Mike has also pursued herps in Mexico, Panama, Belize, Peru, and most recently, Thailand.

Mike has written extensively about field herping, including articles for Herp Nation and the International Reptile Conservation Foundation.  Mike is also the author of a how-to manual on Redfoot Tortoises; he has written several children’s e-books about herps, and is currently working on two books related to field herping.

Matt Cage: (Expedition Leader/Herpetology Tours/Photographer).  Matt has extensive experience guiding trips and traveling to the American tropics.  Matt has been a trip leader for MT Amazon Expeditions since 2010. Matt has traveled extensively and photographed wildlife in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America. You can see Matt’s photos in many published books and papers (and the boa and frog here). Matt is a Wildlife Biology major from Colorado State University and currently lives in the Denver metro area.