Carved gourds (mates burilados) are an art form from pre-Inca times that continues to thrive in Cochas Grande and Cochas Chico, a pair of towns tucked behind the hills a half hour east of Huancayo .
These gourds are carved in mind-boggling detail and usually tell a story about country life. Common stories include courtship, marriage, and childbirth; planting, harvest, and celebration; or the process of building a home. Some even include current political commentary, and gourds carved during the 1980s are rife with images of the Shining Path.
Delia Poma (Huancayo 797, Cochas Grande, tel. 064/993-7722, deliapoma58 [at] latinmail [dot] com) is a national champion and one of Cocha’s most talented carvers. Her gourds are considered collectors’ pieces and range in price US$25–100, though less expensive ones are made by her husband.
Alejandro Hurtado and Victoria Janampa, another award-winning couple, operate Artesania Hurtado (Loreto 326, Cochas Chico, tel. 064/24-5045). They have a series of fine gourds but also less expensive Christmas ornaments, boxes, and bowls. This is an excellent place to learn about the various engraving techniques, and to watch Alejandro and Victoria at work.
Teodosio Poma (Huancayo 504, tel. 064/993-0170) specializes in large gourds, ranging in price US$80–500.
To reach Cochas, take a bus from the corner of Giráldez and Huancas in Huancayo  (US$0.50, 30 minutes).