Textiles & Crafts: Morocco

September 20 – October 4, 2018

Arrive in Casablanca on September 20; depart for home from Tangiers on October 5.

dreamstime_xs_19087188Highlights: This custom-designed textile tour to exotic Morocco emphasizes art, architecture, culture, and cuisine in addition to the textiles. Travelers are very welcome here; the country is peaceful, and no visa is necessary for most visitors! We’ll meet you at the Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca (CMN) on September 20, and you’ll fly home from Tangier on October 5.
This trip takes you behind-the-scenes to share an authentic experience of Moroccan hospitality with a small group of friendly people. And we’ll take in five UNESCO World Heritage sites.

We’ll go south to charming Marrakesh and then north to the ocean at Tangier. Along the way, we’ll visit Fes and beyond, to meet many artisans: felt makers, metal workers, ceramic artists and more!. We’ll see the mellow blue town of Chefchaouen, famous for its stunning old city that is painted in watery blues, left. 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 the narrow, labyrinthine lanes of the old town. The far north of Morocco is not so often visited by tourists and with the help of our wonderful guide we will explore the northern regions. Exotic Tangier awaits our discovery too, and we’ll wend our way through the medinas to see mosques and madrasas, and find the most interesting textiles, jewelry. pottery and artwork.

Charming little hotels called riads will be our home bases. In a mid-morning workshop, we’ll learn how to knot the complex silk buttons, with a group of 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 in to our hotel, and get a good night’s rest. Next day we’ll see the fabulous Hasan II mosque at seaside Casablanca, then we’ll head south to fabled and friendly Marrakech.

In Neolithic times, the region was primarily agricultural, and it wasn’t until 1062 that the town of Marrakesh was founded. The red walls of the city, built in 1122–1123, and various buildings constructed in reddish sandstone during this period, have given the city the nickname of the “Pink City.”

Marrakesh 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. The Marrakech medina is a densely packed, walled medieval city with labyrinthine alleys where little market shops offer a treasure of traditional textiles, baskets, felted slippers, pottery and jewelry. Here we can meet master artisans at work, and wander the narrow, cobblestone streets of the market.  In Marrakesh we will stay in a beautiful and comfortable riad, as always decorated with traditional Moroccan furniture, rugs, mosaics, and accessories.

Feltmaker of Fes; felted boots in foreground. 

One morning we will have a professional cooking class, then eat our delicious creations for lunch! We will also see the stunning Majorelle Gardens begun by French painter Jacques Majorelle, and the excellent Museum of authentic Berber jewelry, clothing and textiles. Lunch that day will be in the  garden patio of the museum.

In the bustling open-air square called Place Djemaa el Fna, snake charmers vie for space between barbeque stands, musicians, and water sellers. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001, this central square of Marrakech is chaotic and thrilling at the same time. Shopping nearby is also good. Next we’ll drive north to Fes which has over a million inhabitants, but it’s primarily known for its ancient sprawling, medina or walled city, the best-preserved in the Arab world – and another UNESCO World Heritage site. Fez was founded in the 9th century and reached its apogee as the capital of the Marinid Dynasty in the 13th and 14th centuries, from which its urban fabric and major monuments date. It also hosts the world’s oldest university, University of Al Quaraouiyine. We’ll spend several days in Fes, sleeping in a charming riad in the old medina area, and we’ll explore the mosques, madrasas and souks with their highly decorated mosaic walls. This medina is much calmer  than the one in Marrakech. Craftsmen still work and sell their products here, and like others, this medina is divided into areas by trade—the leather crafters, ceramicists and so forth.Wander in the medina to find the perfect carpet or pair of earrings.

Columns of Volubilis.

We’ll tour a large ceramics factory where the craftspeople still hand-paint plates and vases. Other workers there paint tiles and cut the intricate tile pieces for zellij – complex mosaics composed of tiny geometric shapes – used to decorate walls, fountains and floors of mosques, madrasas (Koranic schools) and villas. (Photo below.)

Just outside of Fes we will meet our button-maker friends, and have a button-knotting lesson and lunch with these charming and welcoming women. On the route north, we’ll try to search out the mysterious and famous ‘laine de Habba’ or the natural white sheep’s wool yarn somehow hand-spun with tiny pill balls added in. It is used to add interesting texture to high quality djellabas for men, and we simply must discover HOW it is made because it defies the usual spinning methods!

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.

Calico in a couscous platter, in a shop.

World Heritage symbol

The UNESCO website declares: “Covering an area of 42 hectares, Volubilis is of outstanding importance demonstrating urban development and Romanization at the frontiers of the Roman Empire.” After seeing the detailed floor mosaics and buildings at Volubilis, we’ll drive north to the famous blue city of Chefchaouen, noted for being one of Morocco’s most picturesque towns. This is a holy city with some 20 mosques and sanctuaries, where thousands of the faithful participate in an annual pilgrimage. For other visitors though, Chefchaouen’s chief appeal is in its incredibly photogenic streets with the white-and-blue-washed houses. Then just a 40-mile drive brings us to Tetouan. The medina here has an authentic Andalusian soul, making Tetouan the most Hispano-Moorish-influenced of all Moroccan cities.

This is a thoroughly atmospheric place to explore, and architectural historians regard it as the country’s finest preserved medina.  Every twist and turn down an alleyway brings you to a new picture-perfect scene with lovely, slightly crumbling buildings lining the narrow lanes. The medina’s souk/market district is a fun place to barter for goods, snack to your heart’s content from the many stalls, and get involved in the bustling local action. El Fouki Market is where Tetouan locals go to buy their bread.

Pierced brass lamps in the medina.

You’ll find loaves of all shapes and sizes fresh from the oven on sale here, including the traditional flat, round loaves. Inside the walls of Sultan Moulay Abderrahman’ ancient fortress lies a treasure – Tetouan’s Ethnography Museum, established here in 1948 to showcase local customs and crafts. The ground floor displays traditional arts originally brought from Andalusia, and the second floor exhibits explore the daily life of women, including a wedding ceremony. Tetouani embroidery, considered one of the most original in Morocco, is a main focus of this section.

The museum is housed inside the gate of the ramparts, and you can climb up to the roof for photos of the town after you’ve viewed the exhibits. If we have time before continuing north, we’ll have a look at the Tetouan Center for Modern Art with its five exhibitions rooms of modern painting and sculpture. The museum building was the old train station of Tetouan, designed by the architect Julio Rodriguez Roda in 1918.

Next we’ll drive a short distance to the city of Tangier. We’ll explore this city and visit St Andrew’s Church, one of Tangier’s most interesting sites. Completed in 1905 as a gift from King Hassan I of Morocco, the church is a fusion of different architectures and religions, reflecting Morocco’s multicultural population. Although the church is a focal point for Christians in Tangier, it also exhibits Quranic inscriptions on its Moorish interior and marks the direction of Muslim prayer to Mecca. A visit to this religious holy site gives a new meaning to the interfaith experience. “If only we could all just get along….!”

Kathy and Sue relax at the leather shoe souk.

After lunch, enjoy an afternoon break of mint tea and a panoramic view at the Cafe Hafa. A Tangier icon, the almost-century-old cafe is made up of tiers of whitewashed balconies that cascade down a steep hillside toward the Mediterranean, opening panoramic views of the sea and, beyond, Spain. One day we’ll see the Great Moque and explore the Kasbah, where the sultan once lived. The gate opens onto a large courtyard, which leads to the 17th century Dar el-Makhzem Palace and the modern-day Kasbah Museum. This Museum brings together an amazing number of exhibits from Morocco’s history and there is also a large section devoted to Moroccan arts, with silks and illustrated manuscripts as well as centuries-old ceramics decorated from golden yellow to the famous Fes blue.

The Dar el-Makhzem Palace was enlarged by each successive Sultan. The carved wooden ceilings and marble courtyard showcase the intricacies of talented Moroccan craft-work. Also in the Kasbah is the infamous Cafe Detroit, once a haunt for the visiting and expat writers, artists and hangers-on in the 1960s.
On our last included night of hotel (October 4) at the Farewell Dinner, we’ll take leave of old friends and new, and pack our bags, ready for flights home from Tangiers the next morning/day of October 5. Arrange your plane tickets to arrive on September 20 and to fly out of Tangiers on October 5, 2018. After the trip, you’ll receive a photo journal book to remember your trip!

Tour Price:  $4850
Single Supplement:  $985

Vegetal silk made from Agave fiber, dyed and ready for weaving.

Includes the following:

  • 15 nights hotel accommodations (Sept. 20 through Oct. 4), (double occupancy), in charmingly decorated riads (small private villas with central courtyards), and excellent modern hotel in Casablanca)
  • All meals and non-alcoholic beverages–except 1-2 lunches* and 2 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.
  • English- and French/Arabic-speaking easy-going but professional guide to accompany the whole tour.
  • French- and English-speaking textile expert Cynthia Samake also to accompany itinerary.
  • A cooking class in Marrakesh to learn gourmet cuisine for your lunch.
  • 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!

Not included: Personal items such as internet fees [our hotels have free/not-very-fast 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, 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:

© Boggy: Shoes in souk

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 was a huge success!)

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 head west to the famous textile and art producing states of Gujarat and Rajasthan. There we will visit many textile artists in their work places and homes and will stamp or dye our own creations in three workshops. 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 twenty-four hours on a beautiful houseboat in the tropical lagoons of Kerala. Cynthia LeCount Samake and specialized local guides 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, and  indigo-dyeing! 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 pulled 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 local women who do intricate shisha mirror embroidery, in northern Gujarat. We will visit many ancient temples and other architecturally fascinating sites such as the famous Adalaj and Rani Ki Vav stepwells. These ancient 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 we’ll see traditional Kathakali dances. Then we’ll head to the gorgeous backwater lagoons and spend twenty-four hours floating on luxurious, private wood and wicker houseboats with our own chefs!

Cynthia dips her stamped piece in indigo dyebath.

Cynthia dips her stamped piece in indigo dyebath.

Deepak.BaghruBird 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 return to our modern hotel on the water,  for the Farewell Dinner. Next day, we fly home from Mumbai -on September 18th. Plan your flights to depart BOM anytime after 9:30 pm.

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.

There will be a post-tour of the Taj Mahal and SOS Bear  Rescue Center in Agra for those interested, at a modest extra cost. Info to come after you’ve signed up.

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 guides, with an Indian textile expert in the Gujarat region; and American Cynthia Samaké to accompany entire itinerary– plus WOW! a custom travelogue photo book sent to you after the trip. Lunch only 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.)

Knitting and Culinary Adventure in Argentina and Uruguay
Knitting & Dyeing Retreat
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 retreat/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.

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 fun to choose some interesting places near the hotel.

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.

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: $4350.
(Single supplement available for $725.)
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, new unpublished knitting pattern by Joji, just for us.

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.

Laos, Cambodia & Thailand

Textiles, Temples and Festivals

June 15- July 3, 2018  (Revised dates)

The best SE Asian Textile Tour! You’ll be met in Bangkok on June 15 at the airport, and we’ll all fly home from Siem Reap (REP) on July 4.  More flight info later.

Go 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 in both silk and cotton. 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.

Weaving with a complex system of pattern-keeping.

TRIP DETAILS: We’ll first go to the Phi Ta Khon Festival, in a little Thai village known for its raucous  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 cavort with  phallus-shaped swords, related to the fertility emphasis of the festival.

Dyeing with natural indigo.

Afterwards we’ll drive to Vientaine, Laos, then fly into Luang Prabang to see the ancient royal capital, now designated a UNESCO Heritage site. We will visit important Buddhist temples, and you’ll be able  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 make natural dyes and dye silk scarves, and also watch talented silk weavers.  Dinner by the Mekong; see if you are brave enough to try the spicy fermented water buffalo skin condiment! The fried river moss is delicious.

The local market is interesting, and nearby there is an excellent new textile museum and shop. You can try shopping at the Night Market with all its handicrafts and art; although it is getting rather commercialized, there are still some interesting things to be found. 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—Luang Prabang is a delightful place to relax and learn about Lao culture.

Then we fly south to the pleasant riverside capital of Laos – Vientiane – where we’ll visit the enormous textile/fabric market, and meet the weavers in a nearby weaving village with a Laotian friend. We’ll also tour an innovative silk weaving studio, and see the the famous Wat Si Saket with its 10,000 Buddhas.

Angkor Temple-ROOTS

One of many overgrown temples at Angkor.

After Laos, we’ll drive south to Udon Thani, Thailand. Udon and our next few destinations are in Isaan or the northeastern part of Thailand. One article says, ‘Here is part of Thailand with all of the acclaimed Thai hospitality, culture, and food but none of the backpackers! Just south of the border with Laos, lies this entire region that has been little-visited  by outsiders. The area is rural Thailand at its best: farmland meets sleepy villages (and lots of textiles!). It’s proof that Thailand isn’t completely trodden with tourists.’

In Udon Thani we’ll visit delightful friends who dye natural cotton with natural indigo and use fermented fruits in the dye bath. We’ll see the entire process from tying and dyeing the weft, to weaving the cloth. Continuing south, we’ll visit the important ikat (mud-mee) silk weaving town of Chonnabot and marvel at the hundreds of  intricate, historical resist-dyed silk  in the Silk Museum there.

Cambodian silk weaver.

Next stop is the riverside town of Ubon Ratchathani, known for the fabulous Wax Candle Festival or Khao Phansa. We’ll visit friends who will show us the incredible wax floats they are preparing for the event next month; you can even make Buddhist merit by cutting around some of the wax shapes to decorate the floats! Then we head south by van, into Cambodia, to Siem Reap and the fabulous 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 program to safeguard this symbolic site and its surroundings.” (UNESCO site info)

Cambodia also has some of the most intricate silk weaving anywhere in the world. We’ll go out of town to visit the premier silkworm breeding and silk reeling facility, then watch the weavers here to see how different their techniques are from the Thai and Lao silk mat-mi artisans.

We’ll stay 5 nights in this lovely hotel in Siem Reap, with refreshing pool (above) and have an optional hands-on cooking class to learn the subtleties of delicious Cambodian cuisine (similar to Thai). We’ll also visit a fascinating, large, commercial but relaxed silkworm breeding and reeling facility, and watch the weavers work. Our Farewell Dinner will be followed by a performance of Phare, the renowned Cambodian youth circus – no animals – but great acrobatics!

Supplementary weft piece of silk weaving, Laos.

TOUR COST: $4395   Single Supplement: $775
Minimum 6, maximum 12 travelers.

Includes 19 nights in comfortable A/C hotels in double/twin rooms (a couple of the hotels have a pool), all meals except three lunches and two dinners in Siem Reap and Luang Prabang on days when the group is scattered (we will suggest possible places to eat), all soft drinks and bottled water with meals, round-trip flights from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, all in-country travel by private van with professional driver, three days of entrance fees at Angkor Wat, all transportation in the Park, entrance to the archaeological and museum sites on the itinerary, a Cambodian cooking class at an excellent restaurant in Siem Reap, the Phare Circus show and dinner, and an 8″ x 11″ photo book documenting your trip!

Fly into Bangkok, and home from Siem Reap.

Cambodian Cooking class in Sim Reap.

Cambodian Cooking class in Siem Reap.

Not included: International airfare, airport departure transportation, alcoholic beverages, several meals as indicated on itinerary, personal items such as laundry charges, luggage porter tips and between-meal snacks and drinks. A generous tip per person for the Angkor guide and the van driver(s) has already been added to the trip cost, so you don’t have to worry about tipping!

Stack of wax decorations ready to adorn float figures.

Anyone who helps transport your bag should be tipped the local equivalent of about $1 per bag.

Textiles & Machu Picchu

 APRIL 8 – 18, 2019

Knitting, Weaving, Machu Picchu, and Lord of the Earthquakes Procession in Cuzco

(Arrive on April 8, fly home late on April 18 or early AM April 19)

El Senõr de los Temblores LOW

Christ statue carried in procession by villagers.

This exciting textile tour 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
Either Cynthia, or her assistant, or the hotel driver if after 10 pm, will meet you at the Lima airport upon arrival, on April 8. 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.

Cynthia at Machu Picchu

After lunch, we’ll go to the recently revamped Amano Museum which has one of the world’s best Andean 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.

Machu Picchu LOW

Machu Picchu from the back left side.

Next day 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 or you can climb to the ruins here. 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.

LosMarqueses CUZCO-low

Patio of our heritage hotel in Cuzco.

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.

Peru - Bolivia

Weaver picking up warp patterns with llama bone.

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, above, to sleep).

Sacred Valley of the Inkas with terraced hillsides.

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 a village with the  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/dye as much yarn or as little as you want.) 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. These sweet and original souvenirs are for sale at his studio.

Causa, typical yellow potato cold dish with crab, peppers, avocado.

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.

Feeding some very hairy creatures!

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. We’ll have our Farewell Dinner in Cuzco the last night, then next morning (April 18; 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.

Typical Chinchero hand-knit cap.

Price:  $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 (April 8-17) in beautiful, small boutique or heritage hotels, all locally-owned, safe, and friendly. Private bath, double or twin occupancy.
  • Day Room on April 18 until you depart for the airport which may be in the wee hours of April 19.
  • 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.
  • 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 visit.
  • 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 and a Spanish-English-speaking assistant to lead tour and accompany entire itinerary.

Cynthia and Claudia in a kiwicha field, Chinchero highlands.

Claudia dyes alpaca yarn with rock lichen. Chinchero.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GHANA Crafts & Culture

NEW DATES FOR 2019 soon–check back here!

Barou Samake, trip leader, in Ghana.

Includes three informal workshops of traditional crafts, plus weaver birds and the biggest fabric market in West Africa!

Ghana 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. Ghana is safe and politically stable; best of all, 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.

Led by Malian Barou Samake this adventure includes the very best of Ghana! This is not only a textile tour, but also an arts and culture tour that explores the best of Ghanaian arts and crafts as well as the historical and ecological aspects. Barou is an upbeat leader with a positive, can-do attitude to ensure that your travel experience enchants and enriches you.  Our friend and Master weaver Jeff Ahiagble will accompany the tour in the kente cloth weaving centers and arrange a typical music performance. Professional English-speaking local guides at historical sites will add depth to your knowledge by explaining the historical context and background of the sites. Expert Ghanaian artist-friends lead the three exciting workshops: batik stamped cloth, adinkra-printed fabric, and glass bead-making. There will also be time to  make a necklace or bracelets with your beads. You can also try your hand at weaving on a double-heddle kente strip-cloth loom if you like.

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 licensed 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.

Hanouvi and Denise buy beads in a local bead 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.

The 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.

Cynthia stamps a pattern of wax, protecting the orange color.

Cynthia stamps a second pattern of wax, protecting the orange.

We’ll try our hand at some traditional crafts in several half-day workshops mentioned above: batik yardage, adinkra cloth and glass beads. We’ll use hand-carved adinkra motifs made from sections of dried gourd to print cloth (photo at bottom), stamp hot wax on cotton yardage for a gorgeous batik (left), and make our own recycled glass beads. At the weekly Bead Market, dozens of stalls hold an amazing variety of handmade beads, available for great prices. Later we’ll create  necklaces and bracelets from our own glass beads and newly acquired ones.

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 over-sized 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. We’ll see the coffin construction and carving process and different models.

Male Weaver Bird with grass to build nest.

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.

Fabric enthusiasts, bring an empty suitcase to hold all the amazing roller-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!

Mercy shows off her beautiful batik yardage; dresses and shirts made to order too!

 

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’ll 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; this is really a heart-warming experience!!  See the BTSA Helping page here.

Price: $4150 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, shopping 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.
Single supplement: $685   (Last minute special offer $550)

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 your choice of cloth for Adinkra printing. Batik cotton included.

Fabric section of Kumasi market, Ghana.

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!

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.

Jeff, master kente weaver with warp threads.

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, heath and cultural info, maps, etc.

See the Ghana Image Gallery here. 

Ashanti Kente cloth in progress on strip loom.

Kente strip loom, showing the foot pedals which raise and lower heddles; Ghana.

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

Herpetology of Amazon

Herpetology and Photography Tour of the Peruvian Amazon
January 30 – February 9, 2019  (Organized by MT Amazon Tours.)

The amphibians and reptiles of the Amazon range from the stunningly ugly to the bizarrely beautiful. And there are lots of them!  This ten-day expedition includes stays at two field stations where we routinely turn up more than 100 species of frogs, toads, caecilians, salamanders, lizards, snakes, turtles and crocodilians. Some species we encounter almost every trip while others are so rarely encountered that even jaded “veteran” herpers get excited. Of course, there is no such thing as “jaded” when it comes to these fascinating and diverse animals!

We’ll all fly to Iquitos, Peru, by way of Lima to meet and enjoy a Welcome Dinner. Then early next day, we’ll travel to the first site by motorboat while our luggage is handled by hired porters.

Our expeditions are land-based at biology research  stations operated by Project Amazonas. Splitting time between the  stations lets us take advantage of the unique specialties of each site. We also have an open skiff for exploring aquatic habitats, and one station has some kayaks for paddling (and maybe fishing?) in the river. Our use of the field stations helps fund and protect these special sites, and we are also adding substantially to knowledge of the herpetofauna of the region. Having a “home base” allows us to explore the rain forest by day and night. Each field site has its own specialties.

The first site where we’ll stay is the Madre Selva Biological Station. The area is excellent for a large number of hylid frogs that favor aquatic emergent vegetation. Atelopus spumarius, the Amazon harlequin toad is fairly commonly found, and with some effort, a floodplain lake with a population of black caimans (one of three species of caiman on the preserve) can be sometimes accessed by kayak or dugout canoe.

The second site where we will spend the rest of our time is the Santa Cruz Forest Reserve, the site of Peruvian records for several frogs and caecilians. It has also become the “go-to” place for finding the legendary Lachesis muta, or South American bushmaster.

While at the two remote stations, we’ll sleep in comfortable “tambos” (a Quechua word meaning ‘wayside stopping place’) or little screened buildings on legs, see photo. Inside each tambo are two single beds with sheets, foam mattresses and of course pillows, all encased in mosquito netting. There are ‘Western’ toilets and air-temp showers in the bath block, so while you are experiencing a remote environment, you will be still be comfortable! We’ll eat three delicious ‘buffet-style’ meals a day in the dining hall, just off the kitchen. The Peruvian cook and his assistants who travel with us make an excellent variety of dishes daily, often utilizing local fruits and vegetables such as yuca and cocona.

An amazing diversity of creatures will be encountered on this fabulous trip! In 2018, we found interesting birds, weird insects,  and tropical flowers as well as 100 kinds of herps! The organizing company, MT Amazon is 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. Click here for more info about this MT Amazon tour.

Tour leaders for herpetology and photography tour:
Mike 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/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 horned frog here). Matt is a Wildlife Biology major from Colorado State University and currently lives in the Denver metro area.