Testimonial - Laura Tonks- UK - natural paper, ceramics and chocolate workshops and culture museum in Chazuta.

One of the highlights of my trip, was to experience the artisan culture of Peru, world renowned for its crafts of incredible quality. These crafts are still continuing today and still integrated into everyday life.

The town of Chazuta comprises of a number of communities that spread out along the Huallaga river, the highway that connects them together. The views even getting to Chazuta are spectacular! The road runs alongside a deep gorge, carved out by the rivers, the mountains are vast and blue. Daniel our guide is very knowledgeable of the area and it's a great adventure being with him.

Our first stop in Chazuta was at the ecological paper makers where there were a small group of ladies making paper in the traditional way. Apparently many artists around Peru and now the world are buying their paper. These ladies are very kind, funny and very passionate about what they do. The pride taken in the process makes this incredibly fine quality paper.

The next stop was to the artisans of traditional ceramics, where we found a group of women in their outdoor workshop, who instructed us in the making of traditional ceramic bowls using the coil method.
I don't speak much Spanish and no Quechua (the indigenous language of many parts of Peru) but we had a good laugh anyway. The heat of the day meant we could finish the bowls quite quickly. But we did have to wait a little to put a tradition pre-firing glaze, so we went to visit an artisan chocolate makers.

So we knocked on the door of Mishki Cacao and a little smiley face poked their head through the door. The room has a rich fragrance of rich, dark chocolate. Mishki Cacao is run by a group of women that are some of the most passionate people I have ever met. The cacao is organic and some of the finest out there. They use as much of the cacao fruit as possible in their products. There is a nectar like substance that they make into a honey and what they call the placenta, that is the centre of the plant and is made into a marmalade. There is also a nut called majambo that is a cousin of the cacao plant that they make into a butter and mix with the chocolate. So as they were explaining the process of making chocolate from the fruit of the cacao we were tasting. Raw chocolate is renowned for how much energy it gives you plus all the other health benefits. So with marmalade, the honey, the high cacao content chocolate we were all chatting and laughing. Truth be told, I have never had chocolate until that point. It's not bitter like high percentage chocolate I had had in the past and was delicious. If you are a chocolate lover put the experience on your book it list! They even sang us a song at the end about their business and their product. They were beautiful people who made a beautiful product.

Full of chocolate we finished our bowls and had a tour of the museum and the collection of fine Chazuta pottery. They have a fascinating collection of burial urns on display. They were dug up during an excavation some years before in the centre of the town that is now the plaza. In fact the excavation sites have never been covered over and
are now little museums in their own rite. The urns were used as coffins to contain the dead who where then buried in the property of the family.

Their pottery is known internationally for its quality and cultural significance. It is also very beautiful. The guide showing us around the museum is a talented potter himself. He demonstrated throwing a pot on a traditional manual Flintstone style foot power pottery wheel. He made it look so easy. After seeing and hearing my excitement he let me have a go. I have thrown before but only with an electric wheel so foot on the pedal and off you go. But his was harder to get any speed along with getting a pot into shape.

All in all I had a wonderful experience and would recomend Chazuta as the highlight of anyones trip to Peru.