Luisa, Chilean Textile Artisan – Travel Short
Before my epic meeting with flamingos, we stopped in the small colonial town of Toconao on the way to Salar de Atacama – one of seven sections of the Los Flamencos National Reserve. The locals rely heavily on tourism to support their livelihood, so you’ll most likely stop in town if you hire a guide.
You’ll discover charming paths lined with pomegranate trees, you’ll discover adobe buildings with color-poppin’ doors. You can’t miss the town church built in 1744 (with cactus-wood doors bound by llama leather). But the best discovery?
Luisa. A sweet lady who runs a tourist shop out of her home, selling the usual suspects – magnets and mini-statues – along with handmade rugs and other goods made by her and her family from alpaca wool.
Luisa sat by the door greeting everyone while knitting llama dolls with super-crazy-long cactus needles. I purchased one. I regret not buying a dozen. I walked through the shop to the backyard to see her llamas – but not before stopping to watch her daughter work the loom.
That evening when I returned to my room, I discovered that the hotel staff left me a small birthday gift. A llama doll similar to the one I purchased from Luisa! How did they know the one I scored needed a BFF?
The llamas definitely needed names. One I named Fabiola – after my badass guide who led me through Salar de Atacama – and the other? Luisa, of course.