Yesterday, hiking the rim of a volcano crater in the highlands of Ecuador, I peered down into breath-taking Cuicocha Lake, which means, really, that I was hiking around the Lake of Guinea Pigs --though pumping it at 10,500 feet felt a little more significant than that.  Here the indigenous Otavalos dive into cold water caves for a ritual bath and rebirth on the summer solstice, as they have for centuries.  Here, quinoa has been planted for as long, and guinea pigs enjoyed for dinner.  Here, fibers from the cabuya cactus have been knotted into beautiful bags called shigras, made by women for women for 1000 years. 

 
 

Saturday at the Otovalo market, I was thrilled to sniff out handmade shigras hiding under table skirts.  Dyed in luscious natural colors, shigras were tied to a woman’s body as she planted quinoa in the fields.  They held seeds and plants, functioned as measuring cups to go to market, and handily fold back to become baskets for your guinea pigs.

That was just the beginning of my ibu luck.  These are coming home, along with more treasure, I assure you.

 
 

The beauty of the landscape - it’s towering volcanoes, its flouncy bougainvillea and long-stem roses exported the world over, it’s luscious passion fruits and cool breezy days -  all of this is surpassed, I'm finding, by the beauty of the people and their unhindered imaginations.  I’m captured by it all.

So, toasting ibu women everywhere and their bags - from the rim of the crater ~  

where beauty brims over. . .

All the best,
Susan Hull Walker