BTSA School Projects

As we travel the world with Behind the Scenes travelers, we all make wonderful friends everywhere! We are welcomed into homes, studios, offices, markets, shops, and schools, and the local people show all of us generosity and goodwill that is very touching.

Girls have come to school during summer vacation to see the new bathrooms! August 2014

Girls have come to school during summer vacation to see the new bathrooms! August 2014

The West African school visits can warm your heart, and break it too—classrooms are crowded beyond belief, and students often lack basics such as books and chalkboards. Sometimes students must sit on the floor or the ground because there are not enough chairs, or desks. Or there is no bathroom, as you will see below.

BTSA travelers have taken up the call, and on every trip, they bring school supplies that the group delivers to one of three schools we have adopted in West Africa. One is in Mali, one in Ghana and the most recent in Senegal. Naturally we are aware that these efforts are the proverbial ‘drop in a bucket,’ but donations have been received with heartfelt gratitude by the teachers and principals, and with joy by the students.

Students say thanks!

Students say thanks!

SOUTHEASTERN SENEGAL:  This past January 2014, Behind the Scenes travelers brought several duffle bags of school supplies to give out to some special school. Our nice driver, Idrissa (for whom education is very important), knew of a school that needed supplies, so one morning we stopped and met the Principal, Mr. Sy, at a school along our route.  He showed us his small office and two bare-walled classrooms, plus a third temporary bamboo-walled space where students were working on French grammar on the blackboard.

We gave Mr. Sy the many pens, pencils, notebooks, and so forth that people had brought to donate, and he was very happy, and very touched by their generosity. He impressed us all with his sincerity and devotion to his students.
4 Then we went around back, where a 5 foot length of light bamboo fencing had been propped up in a semi-circle, as a shelter for the girls “bathroom.” Mr. Sy confided that what they really needed was a decent bathroom for the girls so they could have privacy and not be surprised or teased by boys walking by. As we walked back to the van, we all felt a bit stunned at the conditions, but Ruth Altman declared that she was going to do something about the lack of a bathroom for the girls!

So over the next few months, many email and phone conversations resulted in Ruth’s sending money in two installments for the project — two bathrooms each for girls and boys. Barou kept in close contact with Mr. Sy, as a “project manager” from afar, and Ruth had frequent updates about the progress of the project — until yesterday when we received these photos of finished bathrooms! Bravo Ruth!

Barou talks to 3rd and 4th graders about the importance of doing well in school--in French and Bambara!

Barou talks to 3rd and 4th graders about the importance of doing well in school – in French, then repeated in their first language, Bambara.

SEGOU, MALI: Another school we visit is Barou’s old elementary school in his hometown of Ségou. The situation there has changed drastically from when he actually learned the 3 Rs; he was shocked to find that his 8-year old nephew has 168 other students in his chaotic classroom, with one teacher and her assistant. At this school, the last two groups to see Mali with us donated big bags of pens and pencils, chalk, erasers and composition books. We are anxious to return to Mali as soon as it becomes more peaceful…

Director in Segou receives BTSA travelers' donations to the school.

Director in Segou receives BTSA travelers’ donations to the school. Our niece Katya holds on tight to new-found friend, Anne Duffey.

Staff of Segou school and BTSA travelers pose next to the classrooms in the bare schoolyard.

Staff of Ségou elementary school and BTSA travelers pose next to the classrooms. There is no play equipment whatsoever in the yard.

We make a point of not handing out pens and pencils to kids in the street or on the playground, according to travel expert Jeff Greenwald’s “Ethical Traveler” guidelines— because this can create a wild scramble, with fistfights among the would-be recipients. Donated school supplies are always handed directly to the school director or teacher in charge, because they know how to distribute the items fairly. Teachers sometimes save special sets of pens or fancy pencils for class prizes.

Barou, with Augustine who is receiving BTSA donations for students.

Barou, with Augustine, the principal, who is receiving the BTSA donations for her students.

Students with BTSA travelers and BTSA driver, Robert, second from left.

Students with BTSA travelers, Hanouvi, Erica and Denise, and BTSA driver Robert, second from left.

VOLTA REGION, GHANA:  In Ghana, there is another little school that we have become very attached to, in the southeastern area called Volta Region, close to the Togolese border. It’s also a primary (elementary) school with a fanatically devoted principal named Augustine. Classrooms are not as crowded here as in the Malian schools, but they have equally bare walls. The children here wear uniforms and have shining faces because Augustine has good communication and rapport with the parents and she insists that the students come to school with clean faces and clean uniforms. Over the past few years, many BTSA group members have brought rulers, colored chalk, paper pads, and so forth, even children’s books because English is spoken in Ghana. Tedi Siminowsky even cajoled her Berkeley, CA, book club into donating a whole duffle bag of supplies for this school!

Tedi, standing in center, and BTSA group, being thanked by Augustine and other teachers.

Tedi, standing at right-center, and BTSA group, being thanked by Augustine and other teachers.

Tedi also brought a large bag of medical supplies for the Bandiagara Hospital Clinic when she traveled to Mali with us a few years earlier. I called a physician friend in Bamako to be sure the items would be useful in a dusty, rural hospital before she departed with them; nothing needed high-tech connections to be used properly…  Barou was nervous about the supplies being sold by one of the hospital staff, so he called in the City Mayor and a local newspaper reporter to witness the hand-off of thousands of dollars of pediatric medical supplies, making sure everyone knew the items were being DONATED and were to be distributed free when needed. Apparently BTSA was in the local paper, but we didn’t get a copy of the news.
Behind the Scenes Adventures has asked travelers to consider bringing things to give away for over two decades — and they have all been so generous!

Claudia Avila, overjoyed at all the goodies donated for the remote Andean villages; Beverly's socks are in the foreground.

Claudia Avila, overjoyed at all the goodies donated for the remote Andean villages; Beverly’s socks are in the foreground.

Knitters traveling to Peru and Bolivia bring extra yarn and needles in addition to the little hotel bottles of shampoo and soaps so prized by the women living in the Andean highlands. Beverly Johnson is the “Champion of Andean Giving;” one year she knit 27 colorful sweaters for toddlers in the mountain villages, and later she knit 36 pairs of warm socks for village kids in the Cuzco area. My old friend in Cuzco, Peru, Nilda Callañaupa who travels to the knitting villages with us, had to devise a lottery system for the sweaters and socks because everyone wanted them!

We hope that if you decide to travel with Behind the Scenes Adventures, you’ll consider bringing items to donate; ask what is appropriate and most needed in specific areas. Every little bit can help, and you have been most generous so far!

HIGHLIGHTS OF SENEGAL

  Arts, Nature & Culture

Thatched roofs of houses around Kedougou, SenegalSenegal is a peaceful West African country that is not often visited, but it makes a wonderful destination because of the remote indigenous villages, bustling markets full of textiles and folk art, unusual birds and wildlife, interesting archeological sites, pretty colonial architecture, and the fishing villages along the river.

This trip will be led by Malian Barou Samake who speaks English, French, and Bambara, a language common in both Mali and Senegal. Baoru will be accompanied by Idrissa (guide/driver/friend from Senegal), and local guides speaking local languages for village visits and wildlife forays. Senegal is not big, but there are many interesting places to see, and this trip covers as much as possible in 2 weeks – while still offering enough time to relax, visit market places, look for birds, buy some art, meet the villagers, float in a pirogue, take great photos, hug a baobab, or read a book. The 14-night itinerary is summarized below. Note however that this is Africa, and especially in the remote areas, the best-laid plans sometimes develop a glitch or two. The itinerary should be considered “flexible!”Wooden Mask; Senegal

You’ll go from the pulsing, modern scene of the capital city of Dakar with its folk art markets and great restaurants, to a north coast bird sanctuary and the pretty colonial era town of Saint Louis. Then you’ll head south through the big Niokolo-Koba National Park, with its plentiful bird and monkey life, to the most remote corner of southeastern Senegal. Over the next three days, with a local guide, you’ll venture into hamlets and meet some of the Bedik and Bassari people who live in circular houses with neatly trimmed thatch roofs (photo at top). We’ll also see one small village’s busy weekly market, where people from many remote villages come together to exchange goods and gossip. Abyssinian Roller Bird

The photo below shows the round hotel bungalows (with private bath and fan or AC) you’ll stay in when we’re in the more remote areas. In cities and towns, we stay in good, comfortable hotels with private bathrooms and A/C.  For starters, these are the Hotel Djoloff in Dakar and Hotel de la Poste in Saint Louis. You should plan to arrive in Dakar (direct flights from Wash. DC and JFK) on January 18 and depart for home on February 1. January 31 is the last included night of hotel.UNESCO World Heritage logo

Join us and you will also see SIX UNESCO World Heritage sites! •    Island of Goree -off coast of Dakar •    Saint Louis Island – historical town •    Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary •    Niokolo Koba National Park •    Bassari Country: Bassari, Fula and Bedik villages •    Saloum Delta-Shell tumuli in mangrove landscape

senegal

TOUR PRICE:  $4195 Cost is for double occupancy for 14 nights hotel. If you want a single room, there is a single supplement fee of $660.

Price includes: 14 nights Accommodation in good, comfortable or best available hotels with private bathroom, all meals and soft drinks/water with meals (B, L, D) except one lunch and one dinner on free days; airport transportation for arrival on group arrival day, all in-country transportation by private van,  pirogue ride in the mangrove estuaries, entrances to all sites and museums on itinerary, local guides in several areas, English- and French-speaking tour leader accompanying entire trip, and bottled water in the van on road trip days. Senegalese Chameleon

Not included: International air transportation, airport departure transportation, tips to local guides, internet usage, laundry, alcoholic beverages, between-meal snacks/drinks/water; and personal interest events/excursions not on itinerary, such as a birdwatching or fishing tour.

Flights home on February 1.

Turkey: Hike and Sail

Walk, Cruise and Explore: Turkey
(We would love to return to Turkey when the situation is calmer….Check back for future dates.)

NO CURRENT DATES

Behind the Scenes’ expert guide Zeynep (Zee) Parlak (below), and Cynthia LeCount Samake, will lead this exciting trip that combines traditional Turkish culture and textile viewing/shopping with hiking and sailing. Zee is a Turkish native, speaks excellent English and is a licensed, experienced, professional guide who consistently receives rave reviews. Combining knowledge of her country’s traditions and history with her personal anecdotes, she is a delight to travel with! Zee will be joined by a specialist nature/adventure guide who has been walking the Mediterranean coastal trails for decades; he will explain the historical Roman archeological sites we encounter. He also knows first-aid for hikers.

Happy Zeynep, guide in Cappadocia, Turkey. Photo: Steve Chun

Happy Zeynep, guide in Cappadocia, Turkey.
Photo: Steve Chun

Istanbul cafe with chicken doner, or vertical grill--yum!

Istanbul cafe with chicken doner, on vertical grill–yum!

We start and end in Istanbul, visiting the most renowned monuments and the wonderful bazaar with its array of new and old textiles, ceramics and other crafts. (If you’ve been here before, you may want to find other things to visit or re-visit.)

Eroded formations in Cappadocia; note tiny cyclists passing by.

Eroded formations in Cappadocia; note tiny cyclists below.

Then we fly to Cappadocia with its amazing eroded landscape, a World Heritage designated area. It also features unusual Byzantine-era cave churches with beautiful frescoes, a cooking class/demo of delicious country cuisine with local village friends, our wonderful, atmospheric cave hotel, a visit to a carpet weaving workshop, and an optional hot-air balloon ride—a fabulous experience for the adventurous. We’ll have a free day here, so you can begin your hiking trip in Turkey by exploring the village paths near our beautiful hotel—or you can relax, read, or soak in the pool.

Looking down on our Cappadocia hotel at night, and the pool, below.

Looking down on our Cappadocia hotel at night, and the pool, below.

Cappadocia Hotel.pool LOW

One of the unique rooms at Cappadocia Cave Hotel

One of the unique rooms at Cappadocia Cave Hotel

A short flight takes us to Antalya, where we’ll have lunch in the historical part of the city with its cobblestone streets. Next, we drive to Cirali and begin walking the Lycian Way, a waymarked foot-path linking ancient pathways, mule and caravan trails, and back country roads.  You’ll carry only a day pack with water, sunscreen and camera; the van will meet us each afternoon at the hotel, with our luggage.

DT.Lycian path.trees7856332

The Lycian Way takes its name from the civilization that once ruled the area from the 15th to 6th centuries BC. The section we will traverse passes through typical villages, mountain hamlets, and ancient Lycian and Roman sites, as we wend through pine, juniper and cedar forests. In many places, the trail offers panoramic views of the bright blue sea and the picturesque harbors and islands.

The trail is well-maintained and the walk is listed as one of the Ten Best Walks in the World. The route is graded “medium;” it is not level walking, but has many ascents and descents as it approaches and veers away from the sea. We’ll hike a section that is not too strenuous, and we will take the time to explore some of the numerous archaeological sites along the way—many of which can be accessed only by the footpaths.

Harbor of Oludeniz, Turkish Mediterranean.

Harbor of Oludeniz, Turkish Mediterranean.

Then we’ll leave land behind and board the TAYAZA, our pretty wooden yacht or gulet, to cruise the Mediterranean. We’ll travel by sail when time and weather permit, stopping in little bays to give you time to swim in the crystal clear water.We will also dock in many places and go onto shore to experience more of Turkish village life. An expert Turkish chef will prepare our meals on board with fresh and healthy ingredients; he might even let you help to layer a bourek or roll a grape-leaf sarma—staples of the delicious Turkish cuisine!

Wooden yacht called Tayaza.

Wooden yacht called Tayaza.

In Byzantine times, the gulet was developed for transport and fishing in Mediterranean waters; it has a sharp bow, a broad beam and a rounded aft. Modern gulets are 2-masted yachts, and still traditionally handcrafted of mahoghany, pine and teak. They are fitted with sails and motor, and modern conveniences, designed for leisurely travel along Turkey’s stunning southern coastline.

Lounge on the Gulet Tayaza.

Lounge – on the Gulet Tayaza.

After our sailing, we’ll drive to the Dalaman Airport for the flight back to Istanbul. The rest of that day, and the next are free days in Istanbul. Cynthia will be happy to help you find the sights that you’d like to see: For instance, the Topkapi Palace, the Chora Church, the Museum of Archeology, the Museum of Islamic Arts (just totally renovated), the Spice Bazaar, etc. There are so many things to do that are easy to find, in proximity of our hotel, that you will find that you quickly feel comfortable in Istanbul!

Flights home on October 16; note the arrival and departure dates carefully when buying tickets. If you would like to spend a few more days in Istanbul after the trip, when you know how things work–or even before the tour–let us know and we will give you the hotel contact info and arrange for the hotel’s taxi to pick you up at the airport.

TOUR PRICE: $6250 USD in double room or cabin
(SINGLE ROOM or CABIN:  $900 USD)

Includes the following:

  • 18 nights “Boutique” Hotel* or Pension and Gulet (yacht) accommodations–in double rooms/cabins with private bathroom*
  • 4 nights Istanbul; 3 nights Cappadocia; 5 nights along Lycian Route; 6 nights floating peacefully on gulet
  • Optional day-trips on land, from boat. Swimming while we are anchored is a treat in clear blue sea…
  • All meals, all soft drinks and water with meals, except 2 lunches and 1 dinner during free days.
  • (* This will change if the group is fewer than 8.)
  • International Arrival airport transfers to IST hotel (on group arrival dates)
  • Local transportation with modern, A/C high-top vehicle and professional driver.
  • Three Domestic flights (Istanbul to Nevsehir; Nevsehir to Antalya; Dalaman back to Istanbul)
  • English-speaking, professional, Turkish native Guide
  • Trip Photo Book – Your fabulous experience in living color; a paper book and link to e-book!
  • Entrance fees for all natural and historical sites, as on itinerary
  • Group Transfers for domestic flights from airports of Istanbul, Nevsehir and Antalya
  • On the Lycian trail, lunches are mostly picnic-style bag lunches.

Tlos-tombs, Turkey

EXCLUDES:

  • International Flights
  • Travel insurance –*Required*  (Suggested companies info later.)
  • Airport Departure transfer from Istanbul. Hotel Kybele desk will arrange transportation for you with the hotel van driver.
  • Between-meal snacks and drinks, ie. trail snacks and gulet snacks (I will bring some.)
  • Alcoholic drinks, and 2 lunches and 1 dinner on free days.
  • Personal expenses such as internet and laundry– and optional activities such as the balloon ride.
  • Tips for guide and driver. Budget about $100-150 total per person for guide and about $75 total per person for the driver. Naturally tip amounts are up to your discretion – and your appreciation of the services.

NOTE: Behind the Scenes Adventures and Cappadocia Tours reserve the right to change the itinerary or accommodations when necessary or desirable, to ensure the group’s comfort or safety.  In case of poor weather and/or sea conditions, the cruise program is subject to change without notice.

 Necessary Equipment for hiking: (More info to come when you sign up.)

  • Comfortable trekking Shoes– (Vibram soles) and water-repellent (Gore-Tex)
  • Walking clothes (WindBreaker, water-repellent)
  • Day Pack with water bottle to re-fill
  • Walking Sticks/poles if you like to use them.
  • Sunscreen, Sun Hat
  • Sun Glasses, flashlight
  • Swimsuit and water shoes optional

Far Northeast India

No dates for 2018. May be repeated in 2019

Six-hundred year old Tawang monastery built when this region was part of Tibet.

Six-hundred year old Tawang monastery built when this region was part of Tibet.

Buddhist Festival, Apatani and Monpa Village Visits, Silk Weaving, Kaziranga National Wildlife Park
Limited to 11 people.

Northeastern India remains the least-visited and least-populated region of the country — and the most traditional. In the seven northeastern states, over 200 ethnic groups speak as many dialects; this diversity is reflected in the clothing, architecture, and traditional arts and crafts.

Torgya dancer birdHighlights of this 20-night adventure include an exciting three-day Buddhist festival at the huge Tawang monastery; spectacular mountain and jungle scenery, silk weavers in Dirang and Biswanath Ghat, several superb Hindu temple experiences, and visits to friends’ families of Apatani people in Ziro Valley. After being on land for almost two weeks, we’ll board a fine new riverboat as transportation for the remaining days: to visit Kaziranga National Park, Majuli Island, and the mask makers there;  tea plantations, and silk weaving villages. We will be traveling in the states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, location map below. This area is very different from the rest of India!  Photo gallery with more images here.

IMG_0733

Cynthia at SeLa Pass with prayer flags.

Details: We’ll start out in Delhi, check into the hotel any time after 12 noon, for the night. Then we’ll see a bit of Delhi before we fly to Dibrugarh on the banks of the Brahmaputra River (state of Assam), meet our wonderful guide and the three drivers, and visit the local market. Cross the Brahmaputra River on a ferry, then visit a Nyishi village. Our English-speaking expert guide and one driver are from the Nyishi ethnic group so these village visits are full of fun and photo ops!
Hong wedding PRINTContinuing on, with special ‘Inner Line Permits’ in hand, we cross into Arunchal Pradesh and drive north to to the beautiful Ziro Valley, home of fascinating indigenous cultures who worship the Sun and the Moon –a religion called Donyi-Polo. We know many families here and we’ll be welcomed to village homes, meeting mothers and grandmothers with the nose plugs typical of the Apatani people. Traditional dinner with the guide’s family.

Next we drive to Nameri National Park and spend the night in comfortable tents at an Eco-Camp, surrounded by tropical plants and birds. Then we’ll continue to Dirang where Monpa silk weavers make red jackets patterned with colorful cotton supplementary weft.

Our wonderful guide is a serious bird-watcher and he loves to photograph them whenever possible. There will be an (optional) early morning bird-watching foray to see Black-Necked Cranes in the valley here. Our route progresses from lowland agricultural valleys to pine forest highlands, then we arrive at starkly beautiful Sela Pass at 13,700 feet. After the pass, we descend on the winding mountain road to Tawang situated at almost 10,000 feet in the Himalayan foothills, site of the huge and impressive monastery — and venue for the festival.

IMG_1886_2To fully experience the festival and this lively and spiritual town, we will spend several nights in Tawang, taking time also to visit the big monastery with its enormous Buddha, a nearby nunnery which welcomes visitors, another incredible monastery with intricate mural-painted walls, and the Tawang town market. The guide speaks several indigenous languages, and can relay questions to the people we meet. Tawang is about twenty miles from the Tibetan and Bhutanese borders, in forested foothills of the Himalayas.
After the festival, we return to Dirang over winding roads following the tropical hills and valleys. Banana trees, rice fields, and tropical foliage are common along this stunning route. In Dirang, we can visit the National Yak Research Center’s fascinating farm/ranch and meet the first test-tube yak, among her friends!

IMG_1426From Dirang, we’ll head southwest through Bomdilla (market scene here) then into Assam, admiring dramatic scenery with bright chartreuse vistas of rice fields and darker green tea plantations. We’ll board our flat-bottomed riverboat, the MV. Mahabaahu, for a relaxing journey along the mighty Brahmaputra River. An expert naturalist will be on board with us, offering informal Powerpoint presentations about the culture, fauna and the River environment.
The riverboat has an open sundeck, swimming pool (although January may be a bit cold for swimming), excellent cuisine, and pleasant air-conditioned cabins. The staff of chef, cooks, and others is delightful, and the food is delicious. The chef will do a cooking demo if you are interested, and you can visit the engine room of this 4-year old ecologically smart, modern boat.

My Cabin Mahabaahu

Cynthia’s cabin on the MV Mahabaahu

Internet is almost non-existent while we are on the boat, except when we sail by a town and there is slow connection. Each day we moor the boat and go ashore (if you like) in the shuttleboat, to whatever the area has to offer! In Kaziranga National Park where we will take jeep safaris with the naturalist and our guide to see some of the rare One-horned Rhinos and other creatures in the wild. Birds, deer and perhaps some elephants complete the wildlife safari experience. Otherwise, the boat trip is a time to relax, read a book, participate in the early morning yoga class, sketch a rhino, or just dream the day away.

Finally we arrive in Guwahati, visit Peacock Island with the famous and rare Golden Langur population, perhaps shop a bit at
FabIndia, and then in the afternoon of Feb. 5, fly back to New Delhi to depart that night (typical departures are around midnight or very early next am. of Feb. 6.)

SMALL GROUP: LIMITED TO 11 PEOPLE

(Ask about the Extension to the Taj Mahal and Bear Rescue Sanctuary for 2 nights/2 days before the trip. Both places are thrilling, if you haven’t been there!!)

MAP. arunachal-pradeshTRIP PRICE:  $6725
Includes 20 nights accommodation (double rooms with private bath) in good modern hotels in cities, and clean local hotels in remote areas. On the riverboat, the luxurious modern cabins are double share (singles subject to availability).
All local transportation by 3 excellent, comfortable SUVs with professional, good-natured drivers; luggage stored on top of vehicles, and protected with plastic tarps.
Also included are TWO interior flights Delhi to Dibrugarh round-trip (return from Guwahati), comfortable, modern riverboat sojourn down the Brahmaputra, all meals and tea breaks, water/tea/coffee and soft drinks with meals; bottled water on road trips and boat; all village visits and museum entrances as on itinerary; all temple/monastery/nunnery site visits, yak farm visit with yak geneticist guide, land excursions, as on itinerary; airport arrival and departure transport (on group arrival and departure days), Inner Line Permit fee for travel in restricted area of Arunachal Pradesh; professional English-speaking guide from Arunachal Pradesh, and American Cynthia Samaké to accompany entire itinerary– and WOW! a custom travelogue photo book of your trip. Lunch and dinner included on February 5, departure night.

Red silk and cotton jacket on loom, Dirang.

Red silk and cotton jacket on loom, Dirang.

Not included: International airfare, visa for India (get by applying online from Travisa.com before departure); travel insurance (required, usually available inexpensively when you buy your airline ticket online); alcoholic beverages, personal expenses such as guide and driver *tips and luggage porter tips, laundry, between-meal snacks; internet charges, and camera/video fees if required.

Tipping guidelines will be sent with trip information.

Book Now

TURKEY: Highlights

turkey_tnMay 24 – June 7, 2015. Fly home June 8.

This exciting 15-night trip begins in Istanbul, continues east to Tokat, south into Cappadocia, then circles west to the carpet-making area of Konya, the ancient sites of Çatalhuyuk and Pergamon, and north to Bursa, before returning to Istanbul. Along the way, we’ll see ancient UNESCO Heritage archeological and architectural sites, eat wonderful Turkish typical foods, traditional textiles — in museums and private collections. We’ll also meet the Turkish people in their homes, markets and workshops. We’ll watch carpet knotters, needlework flower makers, and block printers, and we will learn about the complex and fascinating ancient history of Turkey.

TRIP DETAILS: Our pretty Istanbul hotel is in the heart of Sultanahmet, the old historical part of Istanbul – and within two blocks of world-famous treasures: the exquisite Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace of the Sultans, and the enormous Santa Sophia–once a church, then a mosque, now an amazing museum.

Blue mosque.Turkey We’ll stroll the Grand Bazaar, and see the best of Istanbul’s sights before heading into the Turkish countryside.

We fly east to the traditional town of Tokat where we’ll visit the brand new museum, and the artisan market–and have our private block printing workshop. The master printer will show us how to stamp cotton scarves (provided, and shown below), called yazma–using your choice of the hand-carved wood-blocks traditional to the area. Later we’ll go through the new Tokat Archaeology and Ethnology Museum, in a wonderful old brick bedestan or bazaar-workshop building. We’ll savor the local foods, including a famous and delicious regional pasta dish called manti.

Hand-block printed scarves crated by 2011 group.Continuing south, we head to the stunning and fascinating Cappadocia area. There we’ll sleep peacefully near Urgup, in our cozy rooms at our unique and delightful cave hotel. In our cooking class in a village home, we will learn to make delicious traditional dishes, perhaps bouerek or dolma, with fresh local, organic ingredients.

Another wonderful experience in Cappadocia is the optional hot air balloon ride* over sensational, eroded tufa stone landscapes. The balloons float safely and silently over the area, offering the passengers unparalleled views of the “fairy chimney” volcanic formations. Contrary to expectations, the early morning ride is not freezing cold; passengers are kept toasty warm by the balloon heaters. (Anyone not ballooning may sleep in, as the balloon crew leaves at 6am and returns for breakfast around 9am.)

From Cappadocia, we’ll drive west and visit remains of the fascinating ancient city of Çatalhuyuk, believed to be the oldest city in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage site:  “The taller eastern mound contains eighteen levels of Neolithic occupation between 7400 BC and 6200 BC, including wall paintings, reliefs, sculptures and other symbolic and artistic features. Together they testify to the evolution of social organization and cultural practices as humans adapted to a sedentary life. Çatalhöyük provides important evidence of the transition from settled villages to urban agglomeration, which was maintained in the same location for over 2,000 years. It features a unique street-less settlement of houses clustered back to back with roof access into the buildings.”

Happy Cappadocia travelers!

Cappadocia travelers!

And we’ll visit Konya, famous for beautiful flat-weave (discontinuous weft, or tapestry technique) rugs, and as being the home of famous Sufi poet Rumi.

From Konya, we will fly north to the ancient Greek and Roman historical site of Pergamon (282-129 BC) (present-day Bergama) and visit the Temple of Trajan and other spectacular monuments and theatres, as well as the excellent Pergamon Museum.

Next day we’ll drive to Bursa to see the old silk market called Koza Han. You’ll meet the best antique textile dealers who will show us the incredible embroidery and needle lace in their collections. We will also marvel at the traditional costumes of the Ullumay Museum of Ottoman Folk Costumes.

Turkey-Cappadocia

Eroded structures called “Fairy Chimneys!”

Then we’ll drive back to Istanbul to see more of that charming city. For our final and free day in Istanbul you can see something new in the city, or return to a favorite place.

Visit the excellent Archeology Museum (near our hotel) or try the hamam for a sudsy scrubdown, or see the Blue Mosque again, shop for final souvenirs, go back to the Grand Bazaar – your choice! Lunch on your own this day. Pack up and organize for flights home. (Last included night of hotel.)
Farewell Dinner with group.

Fly HOME: June 8.    Be sure you check out the Photo Gallery of TURKEY here.

Tour Price:  $ 4295  6 people minimum; 12 people maximum.

Includes the following:

  • 15 nights accommodations, (double occupancy, in charming boutique class hotels, or good modern ones when necessary)
  • All meals and non-alcoholic beverages–except lunch and dinner on 2 free days when group is scattered.
  • TWO interior flights: to Tokat and to Bergama
  • All ground transportation by private, high-top Sprinter 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 Turkish native guide
  • Cooking class and lunch in private home
  • Entrance to all historical sights on the itinerary
  • Private Tokat scarf printing workshop with your creations to take home.
  • Photo book of your adventure!

Not included: Personal items such as phone calls, internet fees [most of our hotels have free wi-fi or a computer you can use]; laundry; overweight luggage; Turkish visa fee [$20 for U.S.]; airport transportation for airport departure; sites or activities not on the itinerary, between-meal snacks and bottled water when not in the van.
Artfully arranged salad in Tokat.For more information, E-mail Cynthia: info@btsadventures.com
or call 510-275-3662.
Single Supplement: $775

*OPTIONAL hot air ballon ride: Around $200 (to be paid directly to balloon tour company in Urgup).

Glorious Guatemala

October 23 – November 4, 2018  (Fly home on November 5)

Textiles, Tikal National Park (UNESCO site), All Saints’ Day festivities, and amazing Giant Kite Festival!

Barilette KITETrip Highlights: This glorious trip includes colorful textiles, ancient Maya archaeology, village visits to meet the people and watch them making textiles, an exciting annual festival and cemetery remembrances for All Saints’ Day or Day of the Dead, gourmet cuisine and beautiful hotels!

We’ll meet you upon arrival, with the hotel van driver, at La Aurora International Airport (GUA), in Guatemala City and spend the first night in a restful and beautiful modern hotel. Next day we visit the exquisite collection of traditional handmade dress in the Ixchel Museum, and the nearby Popol Vuh Museum with collections of Maya ceramics and stonework. Then we head for the peaceful and charming town of Antigua, and our pretty garden courtyard hotel. Next we’ll join local friends for day trips to the exciting All Saints’ Day (Day of the Dead) festivities, and the Giant Kite Festival activities in a nearby town.

TIKAL DoD Newsletter

The fabulous Tikal archeological UNESCO site.

From the central and convenient town of Antigua, we’ll visit local rural villages, and meet weavers and embroiderers. Antigua boasts gourmet restaurants, interesting architecture, a Handicrafts Market, and a small Textile Museum. One day we will have a delicious traditional lunch prepared by a local family, who will also demonstrate their weaving techniques for us.

Friends in the ikat or Jaspé weaving center of Xela will show us the techniques of dyeing and weaving the stunning and colorful cloth famous there.

Finally we fly north to the town of Flores, jumping off point for our visit to the superb Tikal National Park. The Park contains some of the most fascinating archaeological remains of the ancient Maya civilization.

Hand-woven huipil from Chajul.

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Hand-woven and embroidered huipil (blouse) from Nebaj.

Tikal was the capital of a conquest state that became one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya. Though monumental architecture at the site dates back as far as the 4th century BC, Tikal reached its apogee around 200 to 900 AD. During this time, the city dominated much of the enormous Maya region politically, economically, and militarily.

With a professional English-speaking guide, we first visit the ruins, then we’ll have free time to explore the area on our own the next day; the trip includes two nights at Tikal in a comfortable hotel right in the park, so no time is spent driving back and forth. Tikal is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We’ll fly from Tikal directly to the International airport to connect with our flights home. Carefully plan your return flight schedule on the 12th and check with us before buying your return ticket. Flights back to Guatemala City (GUA) from Flores-Tikal arrive around 9am, so plan a homeward-bound connecting flight that leaves around noon or later on November 5. Contact us if you need ticket help from the BTSA travel agent, Nancy Smart.

Transportation is by private van with professional, local driver. Plenty of free time allows you to explore and shop on your own, or relax and enjoy the Guatemalan pace of life.

(Arrive on October 23 and fly home on November 4.)

Hotel in Panajachel

Our lovely hotel in Panajachel with tropical gardens.

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Hand-embroidered huipil from Patzun.

COST:  $ 3650 Minimum 6 people, maximum 12
Includes 13 nights hotel accommodation in small, charming boutique hotels with private bath; round-trip flights for Tikal, all interior transportation, expert local English-speaking guide at Tikal, local textile expert on village visits, airport arrival transportation, porter tips for luggage, all meals except the few as noted on itinerary.
SINGLE SUPPLEMENT:  $440
Arrive on October 23 and fly home on November 5.

To sign up for this tour, email first to info@btsadventures.com
to be sure there is space on the trip.

Then download the two documents below, print and fill out, then send with your $500 deposit as a personal check to:
Behind the Scenes Adventures
900 Roanoke Drive, #111
Martinez, CA 94553
(All the sign-up info is also on the page called Sign me Up! linked at top right of Home page.)

BTSA-Info-2017-form

BTSA Contract 2016-2017

PERU and BOLIVIA

November 2013 2 Trips!

PERU AND BOLIVIA TEXTILE & CULTURE TOURS

TWO TOURS:
PERU – Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Highland Villages: November 4-16  (13 days)
BOLIVIA – Lake Titicaca, Sucre, Potosi , Highland Villages:  November 17-26 (10 days)

Cyn& Roberto

These two exciting tours are led by me, Cynthia LeCount Samake, and Claudia Avila [below, dyeing wool], who is Behind the Scenes’ South America expert.
I’m an expert on Andean culture and indigenous textiles, and the author of “Andean Folk Knitting: Techniques and Traditions of Peru and Bolivia.” I have been to Peru and Bolivia about 42 times in the past 35 years, and every trip is magical!

Claudia is an experienced and organized trip leader, with excellent Spanish, a ready smile and a positive attitude. Her main specialty is world cuisine, and on these two trips, we will eat in some of the best restaurants in Peru and Bolivia. She will show us local markets with unusual traditional ingredients which you may want to try–such as purple potatoes or roasted Guinea pig!

Claudia dyes hotBehind the Scenes cultural and textile tours are for learning, exploration, expanding our worlds–and having a good time! Everyone is welcome!  We will visit highland villages where the people make all their own clothes, and we will explore Inka sites such as Machu Picchu and the huge ceremonial site of Sacsa-huayman.  In Bolivia, we stay at the edge of Lake Titicaca and visit friends on the Urus Islands in the lake; we also visit a working mine in Potosi and sleep in a historic hacienda.

TWO TOURS for Fall 2013:
PERU – Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Highland Villages: November 4-16  (13 days)
BOLIVIA – Lake Titicaca, Sucre, Potosi , Highland Villages:  November 17-26 (10 days)

SOAR ad maybeYou can sign up for either trip or both together.

The PERU trip includes the possibility of attending the optional weaving conference called TINKUY, the Weavers’ Gathering, sponsored by the Center for Traditional Textiles in Cuzco (CTTC). The Center helps highland villages to market their textiles and has had a very positive economic impact on many remote areas.

If you don’t plan to attend the conference, Claudia and I have planned some fabulous activities, see itinerary below, including visiting villages. Textile Center Director, Nilda Callanaupa and I have coordinated the dates of the PERU TOUR so that Tinkuy falls at the end it, then the BOLIVIA TOUR begins. A tax-deductible donation of $250 to CTTC is included in the tour price for the Peru portion.

DATES AND ACTIVITIES for PERU TRIP
Note that 3 meals a day are included except in a few places where a lunch or dinner is ‘on your own.’ Breakfast is always included, in our hotels.

Nov. 4  Arrive in LIMA today, usually in the evening. No visa necessary; they will stamp our passports at Immigration in the airport. You will be met at the airport by Claudia and/or Cynthia and taken to our charming Miraflores neighborhood hotel for a good night’s sleep. (If you arrive after 10 pm, the hotel will send the hotel taxi driver with a Behind the Scenes Adventures sign to pick you up.)

Nov. 5  A wonderful day in the temperate seaside city of LIMA! Two great museums: Larco Herrera for some textiles but especially Moche period portrait pots and other vessels such as bats, snakes, llamas, crabs, potatoes, even corn pots; and Amano Museum for fabulous pre-Hispanic textiles, especially Chimu cotton gauze weave shrouds. We’ll have lunch and dinner at some of Lima’s great restaurants. Each day during the trip, Claudia will take us to lunch and dinner at special places where she loves to eat!Pitumarka WVR.PPT

Nov. 6   Fly over the Andes to CUZCO, 1 hour flight. Check in to our centrally-located and heritage building hotel. Eat lunch then stroll around city to acclimate.
Visit the excellent Museum at Center for Traditional Textiles of Cuzco, CTTC. Buy white alpaca yarn from the Michell alpaca shop, around the corner from the hotel, for dyeing on Friday–white, and maybe some of the gorgeous colors!

Nov. 7  Textile village visit–Visit the Andean village of Pitumarca to meet our old friends here who are amazing knitters and weavers. You will be able to see the contemporary knitting and weaving of this Quechua-speaking community and buy some of their beautiful work. Picnic lunch in the weaving compound.
Visit the famous little Andahuaylilas church; meet male knitters from Sallac who employ the cleverest techniques for their complex, multicolored caps.

Nov. 8  Drive about an  hour, over beautiful rolling hills of quinua and potato fields, to Chinchero (Nilda Callanaupa’s village). We will have a half-day natural dye workshop with the ladies here. Color your white alpaca yarn with cochineal, one of their favorite dyes, or another choice from their supply of flowers, leaves and lichen that make their rich colors. Picnic lunch. Rest of afternoon free in Cuzco.

Nov. 9  Train to Machu Picchu National Park (UNESCO Cultural Heritage site), visit the magical place with professional guide, then free time in the ruins; overnight in Machu Picchu Village at Terrazas del Inka.

Ocongate-KARI

Nov. 10   Visit MP National Park again in the morning. The first shuttle bus departs for the site around 5:30 am. People talk of the ‘sunrise’ at MP, but in reality, it is most often clouded over. Maybe you’ll be lucky!
In any case, if you arrive early, you can climb Huayna Picchu, the peak at the far end of Machu Picchu. The climb is much easier than it looks, because there are steps the whole way, and even a firmly attached chain to hang onto, on the steepest part. I have climbed it 3-4 times, and the view is absolutely spectacular from the top! Return to Cuzco on afternoon train.

Nov. 11  Stroll through Cuzco town, peek into the Cathedral, continue across the Plaza de Armas, to the street of the 12-angled stone, one fabulous stone in a whole foundation of amazing stonework walls. Continue to Plaza San Blas, visit the Pre-Hispanic Museum, have tea or a drink at the beautiful old convent hotel. Walk back down and have lunch at Jack’s, just in case anyone is feeling homesick! After lunch, walk down Triunfo Street, visiting favorite jewelers, and the suede/textile bootmaker.

Nov. 12  FREE morning. Lunch then drive up to Sacsahuayman, spectacular Inka fortress /ceremonial site above Cuzco. Sacsahuayman is known for amazingly huge stones fitted into zigzag walls, set around a grassy central area. Continue to the Inka fountains/’baths’ at Tambomachay and admire the fabulous stone carving. We will also visit the Inka Museum, near the Plaza de Armas, above, right. 

OPTION: TINKUY event begins late this afternoon.

Cuzco cathedral

Nov. 13  Ascend to a remote village and meet many of my old friends: knitters, weavers and 7-year old Little Cynthia, my namesake! below, with her mom, Andrea. (Lil Cynthia’s father, Roberto, is in the photo above, with me also.)  This high, barren village is the least prosperous of the Textile Center’s project villages; you might bring school supplies that we can donate to the teacher here. These people will be working on their textiles.
You can feel 
comfortable here and in other CTTC project villages, watching interesting techniques and taking pictures. The weavers and knitters may have some intricately patterned textiles that you can purchase directly from the maker; items you buy greatly help to improve their standard of living; see weaver working on a complex pattern at right. Dinner on your own.Andrea + Little Cynthia-low

OPTION: TINKUY activities during the day.

Nov. 14  In the  morning, we’ll head out of Cuzco by van to see two fascinating sites. First Moray, the circular Inka agricultural terraces: note in photo below, right, the dots on different levels at 12 o’clock are people! Then we’ll view Maras, the huge site of salt evaporation pits, built into a hillside.

Visually Maras is also spectacular, white basins ringed with brown earth. When we return, we’ll have lunch in town then free time in the afternoon. (Cynthia can show you favorite little stores and artisans’ workshops if you want to buy something special.)    OPTION: TINKUY activities during the day.

Nov. 15  Morning visit to TicaTica, the women’s knitting cooperative that friend Hilda organizes, to see their work. These women design and make beautifully patterned alpaca sweaters, by hand and on basic knitting machines. There will be some of their colorful sweaters available here to buy. Lunch with the ladies.

After lunch, we’ll visit a ceramic studio where they make vessels but also buttons and beads. In late afternoon, free time. I will teach a mini-workshop on Andean decorative techniques to anyone interested. I can show you the little scalloped edging found on many knitted caps (chullos), and the bobbly finger-crocheted yarn made in several villages and incorporated into the knitting. Dinner on your own.   OPTION: TINKUY activities during the day.

Alpacas-cropNov. 16    FREE DAY in Cuzco. (Depart for home tomorrow, November 17 OR continue to Bolivia on the 17th.)

For the BOLIVIA TEXTILE TOUR travelers, this is your last day in Cuzco before we depart tomorrow for Lake Titicaca and Bolivia. By now you will know Cuzco well, and will probably want to return to some shops for final purchases, or museums for some more time with the ancient pieces. You might just hang out at the Starbucks above the plaza and people-watch all day! Lunch on your own. Andean Folk music show with Farewell Dinner.

PRICES:

PERU TEXTILE TOUR: $3705 plus $395 Tinkuy conference registration fee payable to CTTC
PERU TEXTILE TOUR: $3795 without conference

Both prices include a tax-deductible $250 donation to Textile Center of Cuzco.

Single Supplement  $550

INCLUDED:
• 13 nights accommodation in boutique or heritage hotels
• All meals, soft drinks and water with meals (except a few meals on your own, as noted)
• Bottled water in the van on day trips
• LIMA – CUZCO round-trip flight – (or one-way if you continue into Bolivia)
• All transportation within Peru by private van
• All group airport arrival and departure transport on designated arrival day
• All entrance fees to the museums, archaeological sites and group events on the itinerary
• Natural dye workshop in village (you buy the white alpaca yarn)
• 2 Spanish- and English-speaking tour leaders/textile expert to accompany the tour
• Private professional, licensed guide at Machu Picchu.

To combine the PERU and BOLIVIA tours, American has good prices on Muli-City fares, for combining the itineraries.  FLY into LIMA [code LIM] and FLY HOME from LA PAZ [code LPB]

DATES AND ACTIVITIES for BOLIVIA TRIP

Altiplano.AlpacaNov. 17  Visit Pisac Market on our way out of Cuzco. Drive to Puno, over the high altiplano, seeing herds of specially bred white alpacas along the way. Stop to photograph them and the snowy peaks in the distance. Cross the La Raya pass at almost 15,000 feet, get out and feel the altitude take your breath away! Arrive in Puno for the night, at the edge of Lake Titicaca.

Nov. 18  Early next morning, we’ll board a motorboat to cross a small part of Lake Titicaca to visit the Urus Islands, home of my young god -daughter, Anita, above right. Her parents and family will show us island life and their traditions, then we head back to Puno. Pick up our bags from the hotel, and drive in the van to the border with Bolivia. Cross the border (we can get visas upon arrival–at a steep $135) and continue over the high plains dotted with small villages near the lake. Overnight in Copacabana at the edge of Lake Titicaca in a beautiful eco-hotel, where every room has a lake view, excellent restaurant here.

Nov. 19  Explore the little town of Copacabana this morning. There is an impressive Moorish-influenced Cathedral on the small plaza; check out the beautiful hand-carved doors with images of Lake Titicaca myths. Also there is a Poncho Museum that may be open. The super-energetic can climb up the hill of the Seven Stations of the Cross, for amazing 360 degree views out over Lake Titicaca.  Bus for LaPaz (same good company as hotel) leaves around 1pm, after we have lunch of delicious pink lake trout or other dish.  Arrive La Paz in a few hours and check in to hotel. Walk around the neighborhood which is in the interesting “Indian Market” area. We will have more time to explore La Paz when we return. You may also leave bags at the hotel when we head south to Sucre. Overnight La Paz.Potolo-Bolivia

Nov. 20   Up early for morning flight from LaPaz to Sucre, 1 hour flight. Check into our lovely hotel, in an 18th C mansion, with wonderful view terraces full of flowers. Lunch, then visit ASUR Textile Museum (Museo de Atre Indigena), in a 17th C colonial home. This small museum shows excellent traditional textiles from the towns surrounding Sucre—Ravelo, Potolo, Tarabuco, Candelaria, etc. Watch weavers at work in the courtyard, using different techniques and oblique looms (which we did not see before on our visits to weaving villages in Peru). Visit University Anthropology Museum, with good folklore and ethnography exhibits, if time/energy allow.

Relax on the hotel’s rooftop terraces or walk around Sucre’s pretty central plaza, only three blocks from our Hotel. Dinner near the hotel. (Since we will be coming back to this hotel, you may leave extra bags here in safe storage while we are on the road.) Overnight Sucre.

Nov. 21 Potosi
Drive in van to Potosi (3 hours with interesting stops along the way), considered the world’s highest city and known for the riches and tragedies of its mining history.  The founding of the city and the discovery of fabulously rich silver veins went hand in hand, in the mid-1500s. By the end of the 18th C, Potosi had grown into the largest and wealthiest city in all of Latin America, and many beautiful colonial churches and building still hint at this former splendor.

Lunch, then to the HACIENDA in afternoon. The Hacienda is a peaceful retreat in the valley near Potosi, and it dates from colonial times when the opulent mansion was owned by the Viceroy of Toledo. The hacienda remains a working farm, producing vegetables and dairy products for the city. Staying there is like relaxing in a comfortable home with a gracious friend—where antiques abound, and the library, private chapel and museum are fascinating. The focal point of the living room is a cozy fireplace. Family-style dinner at Hacienda, at long, antique table in historical dining room. Overnight POTOSI hacienda, below.

Hacienda PotosiNov. 22  Return to Potosi for a fascinating visit to a Cooperative Mine in “Cerro Rico” or rich hill. (Mine Tour is optional. Anyone claustrophobic can stroll around town.) Silver originally mined here is all gone; now they search for lead and other minerals. You will be outfitted with hard hats, slickers, boots and miners’ lamps. Be prepared for walking over muddy gravel through low tunnels for “an unforgettable look at debilitating working conditions of men doing the job from Hell, that should have gone out with the Middle Ages,” says Lonely Planet. Some mines are larger and have larger tunnels, better to visit. If you don’t want to visit the mine, you could visit the handicraft market, or the Royal Mint (Casa de la Moneda). Colonial coins were produced on a variety of interesting equipment, and the building also now includes a museum of colonial treasures. Lunch.

If time, visit the Carmelite Santa Teresa convent with its amazing art and artifacts, then stroll the Handicraft Market, before returning to Sucre for the night. Overnight Sucre.

DSCF2513Nov. 23  Drive out to weaving villages, 52 km. to Potolo. There’s an easy 2 to 4 hour walk through the countryside — possible for anyone interested. The villages of Potolo and Ravelo are indigenous towns where local women weave the well-known Jalq’a red and black textiles, above right, on loom. We will be privileged to visit local homes and see how the people live. 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.Possible to walk in this area, over age-old trails. Overnight SUCRE

Nov. 24  Buffet breakfast, then early morning van (2 hours) to Sunday Tarabuco Market. People living in this area maintain their traditional culture, evident intheir 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 different hats, and adolescents wear yet another type of hat, a tightly crocheted, rigid, black version called a “tadpole” hat because of the tail down the back.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

At the colorful, bustling market, villagers from nearby communities converge to purchase or barter for food and supplies. The market is quite touristic, but interesting nevertheless, and they sell some marvelous textiles in nearby stalls/shops. After lunch, we’ll continue back to Sucre. Free afternoon in Sucre. Overnight Sucre.

Nov. 25  Flight back to La Paz. Check back into our hotel, walk down Sacarnaga Street for lunch then spend the rest of the day exploring La Paz on your own. Overnight La Paz.

Nov. 26. Free day in La Paz. Or you could take an optional day trip to the archeological site of Tiawanaku. Our hotel’s tour department has convenient and good Tiawanaku 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. (Fine hand-knitted cap from North Potosi Department, below.) Lunch on your own.  Farewell Dinner. Overnight La Paz.

No_PotosiNov. 27 FLY HOME FROM LA PAZ, BOLIVIA. Breakfast only included today. Transportation to airport included this day Please note that we do not make airline reservations, but will be happy to give you the contact info for our good travel agent.

To combine the PERU and BOLIVIA tours, American has good prices on Muli-City fares, for combining the itineraries. FLY into LIMA [code LIM] and FLY home from LA PAZ [code LPB.

BOLIVIA TEXTILE TOUR:  $2750
Single Supplement $400

If you want to join the Bolivia tour but not the Peru tour, you’ll fly into Lima, and then fly home from La Paz, so that you experience the altiplano and Lake Titicaca.

This route is done most easily on American Airlines, at around $1050 now from San Francisco–and the flight one-way to Cuzco is only $144 in November on LAN.

OR call about meeting the group in LaPaz, Bolivia. This possibility will cut 2 days off the itinerary, and the price will be different.

INCLUDED:
• 10 nights accommodation in boutique hotels, historical buildings or private hacienda
• All meals, soft drinks and water with meals (except a few meals on your own, as noted)
• LA PAZ to SUCRE round-trip flights
• All transportation by private van to villages
• All entrance fees to the museums, archaeological sites and group events on the itinerary
• Visits to textile-producing villages near Sucre and Potosi
• 2 Spanish- and English-speaking tour leaders/textile expert to accompany the tour
• Specialized local guide for village tours

Be sure to call Cynthia if you have any questions about these itineraries.

Perhaps you have another idea about combining routes!   1-510-275-3662

OAXACA, MEXICO

Ladies going to Mass in Tehuantepec August 9-22 2013
ARTS, CRAFTS AND FESTIVALS OF OAXACA, MEXICO

Travel with the Experts!
Join Chloe Sayer, expert in Mexican culture and textiles, and Cynthia LeCount Samaké, expert in indigenous world textiles, on this 14-day discovery tour to the beautiful and tranquil state of Oaxaca, Mexico.

A comfortable hotel in Oaxaca City will be the base for day-trips to villages, local arts and crafts markets, magnificent colonial churches, superb museums and fascinating archaeological sites.  We will also visit many renowned artists in their studios; these are artist friends that Chloe has known for decades and has interviewed for her textile and costume books.

Woman attending vela, lady.2013

Then we travel south to the Isthmus region to attend the lively Festivals of the Assumption, meeting the Zapotec women who are world-famous for their spirit, beauty, and gala attire! We will also visit the skilled embroiderers who create the festival clothing.Isaac Vasquez.Chloe

As you see here, we love to dress in typical gala style for the fiesta; we’ll show you an entire market full of the beautiful embroidered huipiles for you to buy, or even rent so you can join the festivities!

Later we return to Oaxaca City for free time to enjoy the charms of the shady plazas, the superb restaurants and the fascinating markets and shops.

Arrive on August 9, depart for home on August 23.

Adventure in Turkey

Installment #1: Adventure in Turkey with the Muchachas–‘The Girls’ from Philly
I landed in Istanbul, one of my favorite places in the world, on a sunny morning in May. The “Muchachas,” a group of friends from Pennsylvania, had asked me to lead a private textile tour of Turkey and I had arrived a few days early. Although I hadn’t yet met the ladies, they’d been delightful in all correspondence thus far, and I was looking forward to the adventure with them.

 

At the Kybele Hotel, the friendly owners welcomed me back. Vefa stood smiling at the desk, under colorful hanging lamps, just a few of the thousand glowing lamps that give the Kybele its cozy ambiance. The brilliant turquoise paint job outside only hints at the Bohemian atmosphere of the establishment!
The hotel is named after the Phrygian Mother Goddess or Earth Goddess, Kybele (Cybele to the Greeks). Pretty cool name for a hotel owned by three brothers!
The Kybele Hotel is full of rich colors and beautiful Ottoman-period antiques. A strong kid sprinted up the winding marble staircase with my bulging suitcase, up two floors to my room. The suitcase must weigh about a ton–with all those chocolate bars I bought in Geneva on my way to Turkey–dark chocolate with creme brulé, dark with quinoa, milk with caramel crispies, dark with nougat crunch–all easy decisions in the block-long chocolate aisle. The Swiss have as many chocolate choices as we have cereal.
I headed up Yerebatan Cadessi [Street]. Along the pedestrian street, past numerous ATMs, cafes, fancy jewelry stores, and a Starbucks…in 6 minutes I was at old stone arch leading to the Nuruosmaniye Mosque, next to the Grand Bazaar. The mosque was undergoing repairs and restorations, and a serious heavy-gauge iron-roofed structure covered the walkway, protecting the faithful and the bazaar shoppers from any ancient chunks that might fall from above. Each tall, thin minaret was in a scaffolding cage and workmen tiptoed around the uppermost levels, scraping and patching.
I walked on through the huge arch, into shopper’s paradise. Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with over 4,000 shops.  Construction on the bazaar began in 1455! The whole complex now also contains two mosques, two hamams [Turkish baths], four fountains, and multiple restaurants and cafes. It’s also a textile collectors’ heaven. And the carpet sellers, who used to drag shoppers in by the sleeve, seem to have been re-trained to realize that tourists are more likely to buy a rug when not harangued into entering the shop and being force-fed little glasses of tea!
I was starving, after 15 hours of tiny airplane meals. I walked past long rows of shops, not pausing once to check out the sequined belly-dance outfits, hand-painted ceramic tiles, sleek leather jackets, pirated Prada bags, or the Evil Eye protector key chains. There it was! my favorite restaurant called Pedeliza, in a little courtyard, with tables all set up for lunch. Like many restaurants in Turkey, here the food is already prepared, which works perfectly for this kind of cuisine, often served at room temperature.
I looked over the selection of savory mixtures, and pointed to my lunch–a stuffed eggplant dish called “The Imam Fainted,” from pleasure I presume, since it is absolutely delicious. Another theory is that the thrifty Imam fainted when he found out how much expensive olive oil is used in the preparation… In the US, we don’t eat much eggplant and I think it’s because we don’t cook it enough; here eggplant dishes are baked in olive oil, into perfect tenderness, with tomatoes, cumin, chile and green peppers. Other eggplant dishes include cubes of lamb or ground beef, and are equally popular. The Pedeliza Restaurant is only open from noon to 3, and by that time the delicious food is GONE!

As I ate, I watched the chef at the outside corner of the restaurant, slicing thin pieces off a tower of meat, called döner kebab, literally ‘rotating roast.’ Traditionally made of lamb, döner kebab is cooked on a vertical spit and sliced off to order. A chicken version has become popular recently, and chefs sometimes layer carrots with the meat, so that the tower of succulent white meat is decorated with orange circles. I devoured my lunch more quickly than is polite, drank water from the little clear plastic container at my place, and paid the bill. Then I hurried off to find the textile stalls.

PERU: Cuisine, Textiles and Machu Picchu

 

March 10 – 23, 2016 (Arrive March 10; depart for home March 24)

El Senõr de los Temblores LOWThis trip includes the Cuzco Festival of ‘Lord of the Earthquakes,’ textile villages, exquisite cuisine, and Inca architecture at Machu Picchu.

Trip Highlights:
•  See the spectacular ‘Lord of the Earthquakes’ festival in Cuzco.
•  Visit textile villages to meet the knitters and weavers, dyers and spinners.
•  Dine in Peru’s most celebrated restaurants.
•  Thrill to Machu Picchu’s Inca engineering marvels.
•  Learn to prepare Lima’s specialties with a renowned Chef.
•  Savor a traditional village lunch with a local family.
•  Toss good luck red flowers onto the Christ statue in the procession.
•  Remember this once-in-a-lifetime experience with a custom Recipe
and Photo BOOK documenting your trip.

 

Vero and CynThis exciting new trip focuses on experiencing cuisine in Peru from a wide variety of cultures, influences, and climates –  from Lima’s haute cuisine spots to a typical savory soup enjoyed with Andean highland villagers. In between we’ll eat at neighborhood warikés (small out-of-the-way places) known locally for their superb food.

We will sample foods from the jungle to the highlands, and from the desert to the coast. Cuisine differs markedly from Trujillo in the north, to Arequipa in the south, and from dry coastal Lima to the verdant Amazon region– with many fusion elements in between.

MercadoOCTOPUSThis trip is organized and led by Cynthia LeCount Samaké (with 30 years travel experience in Peru)  and Peruvian Veronica Samanez, above.  We will see traditional Andean foods growing in the fields, such as red amaranth, quinua and quiwicha, native potato varieties, fava and lupine beans, and we’ll try various dishes incorporating them.

You will be able to decide what dishes to order. Adventurous meat eaters can try new and surprisingly delicious dishes such as herb-stuffed guinea pigs and grilled alpaca, or old favorites like Pollo a la Brasa. In a village high above Cuzco, we will watch the knitters and weavers, then share a traditional lunch of soup and boiled corn with indigenous Quechua speaking friends living there, photo below.

gastroSeafood lovers flock to Lima for the tender lime-drenched ceviche, paired with a savory yellow potato causa layered with a mixture of crab or tuna and other ingredients; right. The list is endless! Peru has a lively restaurant scene and we will dine in some of the oldest and most famous, as well as some of the newest and hippest places.

TRIP COST:  $4250

Single Supplement  $395

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INCLUDED:
• 14 nights accommodation in boutique or heritage hotels
• All meals, soft drinks and water with meals (except 3 meals on your own in Cuzco)
• Bottled water in the van on day trips
• LIMA – CUZCO round-trip flights
• All transportation within Peru by private van
• All group airport arrival and departure transport on designated arrival day
• All entrance fees to the museums, archaeological sites and group events on the itinerary
• Natural dye workshop in village (you purchase the white alpaca yarn)
• Spanish- and English-speaking tour leaders/textile expert to accompany the tour
• Private professional, licensed guide at Machu Picchu.
• Cooking class and demo in Lima
• Photo and recipe book documenting your journey!

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Peru: Textiles & Festival

March 10 – 23, 2016 (Arrive March 10; depart for home March 24)

El Senõr de los Temblores LOWThis trip includes the Cuzco Festival of ‘Lord of the Earthquakes,’ Andean highland textile villages, exquisite cuisine, Machu Picchu, and beautiful, colonial Cuzco.

Trip Highlights:
•  See the spectacular ‘Lord of the Earthquakes’ festival in Cuzco.
•  Visit textile villages to meet the knitters and weavers, dyers and spinners.
•  Dine in some of Peru’s most celebrated restaurants.
•  Cooking class and Pisco-tasting in a private home in Miraflores.
•  Thrill to Machu Picchu’s Inca engineering marvels.
•  Savor a traditional village lunch with a local family.
•  Learn about ancient Peru at excellent museums.
•  Remember your fabulous experience with a custom Recipe
and Photo BOOK documenting the trip.

This adventure is organized and led by Cynthia LeCount Samaké (Andean knitting/textile expert with over 30 years travel experience in Peru) and Peruvian, Veronica Samanez from Miraflores, Lima.

Andrea + Little Cynthia-low

Andrea and Little Cynthia!

TRIP DETAILS:
Cynthia (or the hotel driver if after 10 pm.) will meet you at the Lima airport, upon arrival, on March 10. 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, we’ll all meet at breakfast in the hotel’s downstairs breakfast room. 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-LIMALima has world-class museums, flowery parks, and interesting architecture. We’ll spend a very full first day in Lima, seeing the wonderful ceramic and textile collections of the fabulous Rafael Larco Herrera Museum, housed in a beautiful old mansion with flowery gardens. It has been renovated recently, and the presentations are superb, but we still love the old storage section with the floor to ceiling glass shelves of 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 private Amano Museum which has some of the world’s best textile collections–drawers and drawers of amazing pieces. Our Welcome Dinner will be tonight at one of Lima’s many excellent restaurants.

Vero and Cyn

Cynthia and Veronica toast over a plate of causa.

Scallops.Lima.JPG

Next few days in Lima we’ll see the fascinating adobe pre-Inca ruins south of town called Pachacamac, and the huge pyramid right in downtown called Huaca Pucllana. We’ll visit overflowing local produce and food markets where  Limeños shop for everything from purple potatoes and cocoa pods to exotic cheeses and meats.

_DSC3061In Lima, we’ll have a Pisco-tasting and cooking class at a private home in Miraflores. And in our restaurant forays, you will be able to decide what dishes to order. Adventurous meat eaters can try new and surprisingly delicious dishes such as herb-stuffed guinea pig or grilled alpaca, or old favorites like Pollo a la Brasa, grilled chicken.

Peru has a lively restaurant scene with internationally known chefs. In both Lima and Cuzco, we will dine in some of the oldest and most famous, as well as some of the newest and hippest places. Seafood lovers flock to Lima for the tender lime-drenched ceviche, paired with a savory yellow potato causa layered with a mixture of crab or tuna; below. The list is endless! Cuisine differs markedly from Trujillo in the north, to Arequipa in the south, and from dry coastal Lima to the verdant Amazon region– with many fusion elements in between. We’ll sample foods from the jungle to the highlands, and from the desert to the coast.

Best Causa LOW useNext we will fly over the Andes to beautiful Cuzco, 1 hour flight. Then we will drive directly down to the Sacred Valley at lower altitude which will help us to acclimate. Relax at the hotel and the next day we’ll board the train for a ride through beautiful scenery to Machu Picchu National Park (UNESCO Cultural Heritage site). We’ll visit the magical place with a professional English-speaking guide, then have free time in the ruins; overnight in Machu Picchu Village.

Time next morning to visit Machu Picchu site again. The first shuttle bus departs for the site around 5:30 am. People talk of the ‘sunrise’ at MP, but in reality, it is most often clouded over. Maybe you’ll be lucky! Note that you now need a separate ticket to climb Huayna Picchu (the peak in back of MP with a fabulous view of the site) and they are limited. (If you are interested, let me know as soon as possible; so I can get the details to you.)

Hotel Marqueses in Cuzco

Hotel Los Marqueses in Cuzco

The climb to Huayna Picchu is easier than it looks, because there are steps the whole way, and even a firmly attached chain to hang onto, on the steepest part. I have climbed it 3-4 times, and the view is absolutely spectacular from the top! Climbing up to the Gate of the Sun gives a similar breathtaking view. Take the VistaDome train back to Cuzco in the afternoon and check in to our centrally-located and heritage building hotel, right. Eat lunch then stroll around city to acclimate. We’ll stroll downhill to visit Nilda Callanaupa’s excellent Museum at Center for Traditional Textiles of Cuzco, CTTC. Buy white alpaca yarn from the Michell alpaca shop, around the corner from the hotel, for dyeing later in our workshop.

Ocongate-KARIIn the next few days we will drive through beautiful rolling hills of quinua and potato fields, into the highlands to several Andean villages to meet good friends who are amazing knitters and weavers. Picnic lunch in the Pitumarka weaving compound one day, and visit the famous little Andahuaylilas church with its ornate painted ceiling and altar from the 16th C.

In another village high above Cuzco, we will watch other knitters and weavers (every village uses different techniques and motifs for their textiles), then share a traditional lunch of soup and boiled corn with indigenous Quechua speaking friends living there. We will also see traditional Andean foods growing in the fields, such as red amaranth, quinua and quiwicha, native potato varieties, fava and lupine beans, and we’ll try various dishes incorporating them at our village lunch.

We will have a half-day natural dye workshop with the ladies in one village. Color your white alpaca yarn with cochineal, one of their favorite dyes, or another choice from their supply of flowers, leaves and lichen that make their rich colors.

Cuzco cathedralIn Cuzco we’ll peek into the Cathedral to see the famous ‘Last Supper with Guinea Pig’ tableau, continue across the Plaza de Armas, to the street of the 12-angled stone, one fabulous stone in a whole foundation of amazing stonework walls. Walk back down and have American food for lunch at Jack’s, just in case anyone is feeling homesick! Later, walk down Triunfo Street, visiting favorite jewelers, and the suede/textile bootmaker.

Before the festival, there will be time to see Sacsahuayman, the spectacular Inka fortress /ceremonial site above Cuzco. Sacsahuayman is known for amazingly huge stones fitted into zigzag walls, set around a grassy central area. We eat lunch in a restaurant (a friendly place where we go annually) overlooking the main Plaza de Armas, where the statue passes below, and we will have a basket of the traditional red flowers to toss down from the balconies onto the passing statue in the procession–for good luck! You can get some amazing photos by shooting from the restaurant vantage point on the balcony. Once the statue passes below the restaurant, the procession continues to 3 or 4 other churches where the statue’s loincloth is changed in each. The festival is very exciting because of the large numbers of people participating, and the huge and very heavy black Christ statue being carried by over 40 men, who change off every 1/2 block or so to allow another group the honor. The Lord of the Earthquakes is an important religious event for the people of Cuzco.

At the end of the trip, we fly back to Lima and connect with flights for home.  Details on suggested flights to come.

Llama+babyTRIP COST:  $3850
Single Supplement  $450

INCLUDED:
• 14 nights accommodation in boutique or heritage hotels
• All meals, soft drinks and water with meals (except 3 meals on your own in Cuzco/Machu Picchu)
• LIMA – CUZCO round-trip flights
• All transportation within Peru by private van
• All group airport arrival and departure transport on designated arrival day
• All entrance fees to the museums, archaeological sites and group events on the itinerary
• Visits to Andean highland textile villages to meet knitters and weavers
• Natural dye workshop in village (you purchase the white alpaca yarn)
• Spanish- and English-speaking tour leaders/textile expert to accompany the tour
• Private professional, licensed guide at Machu Picchu.
• Pisco-tasting and cooking class in private home in Miraflores.
• Photo and recipe book documenting your cooking class and journey!

NOT INCLUDED:

International airfare, alcoholic beverages, personal items such as laundry and internet costs (most hotels now have free wi-fi), second day entrance and shuttle to Machu Picchu, entrance fee to climb Huayna Picchu.

 

 

 

 

Guatemala Highlights

February 13 – 27, 2016  • Arrive Feb. 13, depart Feb. 28.

GUATEMALA: From Highlands to Jungle!

_DSC8485On this trip you’ll experience the best of this diverse and complex country: highland communities and markets where you’ll meet the people and admire their handmade textiles and distinctive clothing, verdant lowland coffee and macadamia plantations, elegant colonial architecture – and the dense green jungle where ancient Maya temples await discovery and brilliant birds glide overhead.

Trip Details:
We land in Guatemala City, usually in the evening. You’ll be met at the airport, and driven to the hotel to check in for a good night’s sleep. Next day after breakfast and a brief orientation/greeting/meeting, we’ll visit the the Popol Vuh Museum, home to one of the world’s major collections of Maya art. The museum is located on the campus of Universidad Francisco Marroquin. After lunch, we’ll continue next door to the Ixchel Museum, which houses a superb collection of mostly contemporary, traditional handmade costume, clothing and textiles. We’ll return to the same pleasant hotel for the night.

A short drive the next day brings us to the charming city of Antigua; with its cobbled streets, graceful plazas and tranquil ambiance, it’s so different from the capital that you’ll think you’ve been dropped in yet another country! Check into our pretty hotel, have lunch and take the rest of the day to stroll around town and get your bearings. Free afternoon to explore our neighborhood.
Antigua was founded in the early 16th century, and is one the earliest and outstanding examples of city planning in Latin America in which the basic grid plan, dating from 1543, has been maintained – so it’s hard to get lost!

image001Much of the town was destroyed in the late 1700s by earthquakes. Most of the surviving civil, religious, and civic buildings date from the 17th and 18th centuries and constitute magnificent examples of colonial architecture in the Americas. These buildings reflect a regional stylistic variation known as Barroco antigueño, and re-building has continued the typical building style, so that today the town retains the charm and beauty of its architectural unity. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

During the next few days we’ll visit villages near Antigua, including Santiago Atitlan on the shore of Lake Atitlan. Women in Santiago Atitlan have embroidered amazingly intricate birds on their huipiles for many years (purple blouse, above); we will meet some of these talented people, and observe them at work.

_DSC8704We’ll spend one night in Panajachel, and one night near Santiago Atitlan, and then drive to Chichicastenango to see the market with its hundreds of handicraft stalls. To make travel easier, we will take just an overnight bag with us on this foray, and leave the bulk of our luggage at our Antigua hotel.

Then we’ll leave the lake area, and return to Antigua for a night, then take an early morning flight (included) from Guatemala City to the town of Peten, jumping off point for our visit to the superb Tikal National Park, another UNESCO World Heritage site.
UNESCO website: “In the heart of the rain forest, surrounded by lush vegetation, lies one of the major sites of Mayan civilization. Tikal was the capital of a conquest state that became one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya.There are over 3,000 separate buildings dating from 600 BC to AD 900.

At its height, AD 700-800, the city supported a population of 90,000 Mayan people. During this time, the city dominated much of the Maya region politically, economically, and militarily. The ceremonial center at Tikal contains superb temples and palaces, and public squares which constitute some of the most fascinating archaeological remains of the ancient Maya civilization.

Toucans at Tikal. © Hugoht. Dreamstime.

Toucans at Tikal.   © Hugoht. Dreamstime.

The reserve contains the largest area of tropical rainforest in Guatemala and Central America, with a wide range of unspoilt natural habitats. Tikal protects 54,600 acres of rainforest. Over 2,000 plant species have been identified here, and fifty-four species of mammal occur, including mantled howler monkey, giant anteater, three-toed sloth, nine-banded armadillo, kinkajou, puma, margay, ocelot, jaguarundi, and jaguar. The avifauna comprises 333 species, representing 63 of the 74 families in Guatemala.”

With a professional guide, we first visit the Maya temple ruins with one of the many excellent guides in the park.
The second day at Tikal, there will be an optional private, Sunrise guided bird-watching tour, then you’ll have free time to explore the area, return to the site, read a book, take a hike, or just relax. Lunch on your own today.

Patzun embroid-hiAfter we return to Antigua, we’ll also visit several local markets and a macadamia nut farm near Antigua where we will have breakfast –of macadamia nut pancakes! There will also be free time at the end to shop and/or see anything you missed the first time.
Finally we fly back home on February 28. You might want to bring an empty duffle  in your suitcase, to take home all your gorgeous textiles and other folk art!

COST:  $ 3795  (Minimum 8 people, max 12)
Includes 15 nights hotel accommodation in small, charming hotels with private bath; round-trip flights for Tikal, all interior transportation by private van, a professional, local English-speaking guide at Tikal for one Maya Culture Tour and one Birdwatching Tour; airport transportation, porter tips for luggage (one bag limit), all meals except two dinners and two lunches, Cynthia and bi-lingual assistant to accompany entire itinerary.
SINGLE SUPPLEMENT:  $675
Arrive on February 13 and fly home on February 28.