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Sigsig- the real place for toquilla hats

Yesterday afternoon after we got back to Vanna a young couple and their son from France had moved in. They brought over their motorhome from France to Uruguay and are now on a year tour - SA and going north to Canada.

He was saying that the roads and infrastructure in Ecuador are so much ahead of Peru.  He said especially the roads. So I guess we better enjoy these roads while we can!  I had heard earlier from someone that the Peruvian government spends all its money in the Machu Piccu area and the rest of the country gets nothing.

Today we need to get some propane since Dwayne drained the 20lb tank into the fixed tank on Vanna. No use trying to get the fixed tank filled here.  So we stopped at a place close to where we parked, but here we would have to leave the tank for 3 hours and come back and pick it up. So we decided to drive to the plant instead which is 18kms away.  We found the plant and they took our tank and were back with it within 20 mins! Wow I thought for sure we would be waiting for an hour. So now we have enough propane to last until Peru where it is supposedly easier to get filled. I guess we will see.

I was sitting on the fence about going to 3 towns about an hour away from Cuenca - one is know for jewelry making and the other for hats. But it is cloudy out day and I'm not sure how high we have to drive on a road that looks narrow on the map! Really don't want to drive into the clouds again if we don't have to!  But it did clear up some and the towns sound interesting and since the road we are on actually goes to these towns we headed out.

As it turns out the road was good and the scenery is beautiful. But again like we find so often there is more hype about the place than we find to be true! I usually read sites like Viator for ideas of things to see from their tours. Or blogs. So we get to Chordeleg - a well known place where artisans make jewelry. I was hoping to find some new toe rings.  We drive to the central park, walk around for awhile and all we see is store after store of jewelry, but not the supposed artisans themselves! I like to see where and who makes the jewelry. We couldn't even find any toe rings - bummer!  I guess there must be SOME place here where we could see jewelry being made, but we couldn't find it. And this is not a big town!  So we head out and go to Sigsig - where hats are made.

Found the sign but no real jewelry shops

Sigsig is a little behind in the Christmas spirit - just putting the tree up now
Sigsig is the same size of town.  We did see the mercado and I did read that they have hornado (roast pork) that we both like.  So once we got parked we headed over there. Hoping to see woman making hats. We had a great lunch but didn't see any woman weaving anywhere. So I asked the lady we bought lunch from where the ladies weave hats and she pointed the direction and its about 3 blocks.  Great! So we head out.

Lady serving us our hornado :) 
 We did find one little shop where a girl was weaving and she had a few hats for sale.  Oh course we know that most of the hats that are weaved by local women are sold to middle men who then sell to hat makers in Cuenca.  But from pictures it seems there would be lots for sale here and alot cheaper.  The weavers and hat makers want to try and change the name from Panama hat - since it has nothing to do with Panama and change it to the correct name Toquilla hats. But this will probably take a very long time or not happen at all. They want to give more credit to Ecuador

The start of a hat
One of the weavers carrying her project with her

Anyways we walk around some more but still find nothing. So decide to stay in this area by the river for the night. It's a nice sunny afternoon to enjoy sitting outside relaxing and do some reading.

When we get to the area we can park, we see some kids are out goofing around on the beach, but not in the water. We also see a few women actually doing their laundry in the river and we can hear them smacking the clothes on the rocks! Having seen this at all so far in Ecuador or Colombia.

Trying out a new fruit called tomata del arbol - tree tomato

Once cut open scoop out the fruit and it tastes similar to a kiwi and mango mixed. Really tasty
We get to sit outside for awhile but it clouds over and we go in. After awhile it starts to rain, and I actually got Dwayne to play a couple of games of crib :)

Supper tonight will just be sandwiches since we had a big lunch and didn't do enough walking I guess to make us hungry.  I did find some more info on a place to see hats in Sigsig so tomorrow we'll head to the shop and check it out.

So our trip back into Sigsig was successful and we found the hat store. It was close to where we were the day before but we went one block too far.  So we tried on a bunch of different hats and then watched a few girls at work. This shop has been around since 1990 when 167 women got together to weave, form, finish and distribute to other countries. I now one hat I tried on was actually one that is shipped to England. We did each buy a hat for a total of $45. Now we have nice 'Goin' to town Hats' and our cheap once for walking around and sweating' LOL!!!!

Different dyed ripped palm leaves for the hats

Lots on display and if they dont have what you like they can make it within a couple of days

Hats waiting to be trimmed

More hats hanging outside
Women doing the trimming of the hats

Then this girl puts in the machine to shape 

And 2 of the finished products 😎

We even get a fancy hat bag to carry them in

This was near where we camped - guess the centre support gave way

Now this one has replaced it - made with a solid steel beam.

Entrance to Sigsig
Then we headed back on a different road to Cuenca because we have to get back on the Panamerican highway going south. And it was quicker to go back on these roads then to head southwest to get to it thru the mountains on dubious roads! Since it has been raining not sure how good the "little" roads are that we would have to use.

Once back in Cuenca we get a few groceries and head south. Our final stop in Ecuador is at Vilcabamba where a friend of ours from Edmonton/Honduras stays for a few months every winter.  Its a small gringo town. The last place we stayed at in Cuenco said 'Oh Gringobamba' LOL!! Guess there are some holdover hippies from the 60's still living there. Will be interesting to see the small town. It's only 4 hours away but since Annette is volunteering at the local school everyday, we'll take our time getting there since we're not meeting until after 4 on Friday.

The drive is nice, no rain while driving, but did have to drive thru the clouds but only for a short while. Lots of rock and dirt on the road from small slides because of the rain we've been having at night. The rivers and streams are also muddy now.  Then by 4 we start looking for a place to spend the night. Found a nice gravel "pit" along the highway that we could drive up into and park behind some mounds of gravel so we had a nice hidden spot for the night. It did start to rain again at night but our spot is good because of the gravel that we shouldn't have any issues in the morning.  Also this will be our FIRST night that we don't hear any dogs, roosters or noisy cars! Great spot!!

A lot of mud to be cleaned up

And the water is still rushing down the muddy hill

Another area where the rocks slid down

Tried something different today - roasted salted corn kernels- not bad, a bit dry. Tastes like leftover popcorn kernels but way softer!

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