On the way back from, visiting the Chulpas, we stopped to visit the house of a man named Venizio who has a farm near Sullustani. This gave us an excellent insight into the life of the local people who scratch out a living on the Alto Planos (high plain).
The farm houses here are constructed within a mud brick compound and are occupied by the extended family. Venizio’s family consisted of his 72 year old mother, Venzio (47 years) and his wife, his married daughter, son in law and two grand children as well as Venizio’s own two younger sons.
Venizio, like other people in this area does not speak Spanish, but rather the local Indian language of Eastern Bolivia. He was a great actor with a good sense of humour and it wasn’t hard at all to get his meaning as he mimed and demonstrated life around the house and on his farm.
The house has no water supply – water has too be obtained from the local town, about 5km away.-I’m not sure how- often the trip for water is made, but is usually done by Alpaca which can each carry around 25 kilograms.
The farmhouse was only about 3 metres by 5 metres.In this single room was a bed (in which 6 people slept) a table and –a loom on which Venizio and his son in law along with a neighbour wove rugs from Alpaca Wool. Weaving is a man’s job here. The women spin Alpaca wool and knit scarves, jumpers etc which they sell to tourists.
The house has no heating or electricity and the only form of light is a small lantern burning animal fat which is lit for only a few minutes before the family goes to bed. Venizio demonstrated how they put their shoes in a niche under the bed and the went to sleep fully clothed.
Outside, was a small cooking area in which clay cooking pots were heated on a stove heated by burning animal dung. There are no trees on the high plain, so dung is the standard fuel. It is only used for cooking and is too scarce for heating. On really cold days, the family all huddle- in the nearby small kitchen hut which, with it’s stove, is a bit warmer.
Another single mud brick hut provided accommodation to Venizio’s daughter and grandchildren. The most modern convenience of all was the hut in which there was a toilet with a septic tank.
Farming here consists of managing livestock and growing potatoes. This household had 7 llamas, 2 alpacas and about 9 chickens. Venezio demonstrated how he dug up the land with his spade type of implement, using a jumping action to drive the blade deep into the soil. The handle and blade of the spade were tied to the main shaft with alpaca intestines
About a dozen guinea pigs in a special enclosure by the gate provided a source of meet for special celebrations and as an offering that the Shaman (Witch Doctor) would use when anyone was ill.
Our hour at this house was really interesting. It showed just how ingenious and self reliant these people really are.