Two Who Trek let the wool get pulled over their eyes
One day at school Two Who Trek and their teachers were talking with other teachers and students when an idea started to take place. Why not play hockey for a day? Because there are no ice rinks in Cuenca, we all decided to play hookey instead, head to a neighboring town, and take a tour of place where artisans make woolen products by hand. We picked a date and decided to rely on public transportation to get there rather than take taxis.
Riding on the public bus system is an event all its own. Travel light and have lots of change. For less than $1, you can be transported from the center of old town Cuenca to the outlying towns. See vendors boarding the bus, selling everything from chocolate bars at 3 for $1, to an organic panacea of uncertain origin for curing most physical maladies. The vendors give you a sample of their wares as they walk through the bus aisle and give their speech. If you choose not to buy, politely and firmly return the merchandise when they are at the end of the presentation.
Apart from the small businessmen on the bus, the road from Cuenca to Gualaceo is a lovely way to see the Ecuadorean Sierra. Amidst the lush vegetation, a large wooden structure with a small sign beckons the observant traveler: Tecnica Ikat Macana. This is not a factory, but a taller or shop of artisans.
Gualaceo is world-famous for making apparel and household items using the Ikat Technique. The name on the sign says it all. Ikat means tying and Macana is a local word for Gualaceo cloth.
Skilled artisans make articles from cloth by following ancestral designs and techniques. Tools are simple and usually made by the artisans themselves.
Cloth dyes are made from plants and insects. The various steps in dyeing and weaving cloth from yarn takes at least two weeks.
Sitting on the floor and working the loom is uncomfortable and time-consuming.
The result is worth it! Gualaceo cloth edges are tied into knots, typically fringed, and are a unique addition for self or home. Here are some examples of finished products:
Here’s a view of the artwork around the property:
Finally, if you speak Spanish, here is a tour of the place that we found on YouTube. (This was not created or filmed by Two Who Trek):
Finally, after a delightful couple hours, we decided to grab a local taxi so that our teachers would be back by the end of their shift. In Gualaceo, the taxis are four-door pickup trucks because many roads go up mountains and are little more than two-track lanes. The fee for the four of us to ride back to Cuenca was $20, much more than the $3.40 the return bus trip would cost. However, the taxi shaved over an hour off the return trip and was much more comfortable. Plus no one tried to sell us anything!