Our Adventure to Peru
Well these opportunities don’t present themselves everyday!! A phone call from good friends Clayton and Linda Schultz, SunKeya Farm, Oliver B.C. had Don and I scrambling to make a quick decision. Could we get away the end of February (Don’s busy season at the office) to take a trip to Peru with a group of alpaca breeders??? So much to get in place…..so little time!!
A little less than two month later we were on a flight to Huston to meet the Schultz’s and make a connecting flight to Lima Peru!! In Lima we met Wade Gease, Kevin our very capable tour guides from Londenderry Alpaca Farm Wisconsin USA. The rest of our group were Ontario alpaca breeders- Susan Schumacher (SanGrall), Margie MacDonald (Blood Moon Alpacas), Dee and Adria Graham (DL Farms Alpaca) Carolyn and George, Elaine and Helen. Clayton and Linda from British Columbia and Don and I from Saskatchewan expanded Wade’s 10th Tour to Peru to a total of fourteen people who met as strangers, travelled as companions and parted as friends.
In a nutshell, we landed in Lima late Feb. 27, met most of our tour group at the airport and bused to our hotel. Excited and exhausted we checked out our very unique hotel, then crashed!!
Day 2 We had a walking tour of MiraFlora the next morning and caught a van to the airport for our short flight to Ariquippa. There we wasted no time before starting to explore (shop) in the many quaint and wonderful little alpaca shops that lined every street for blocks around our hotel. Wade’s amigos were treated royally with “discounts just for you” at many of these shops.
A great little Pizza place for supper, a cerveso (beer) a walk around the square and into some more shops, then we called the day a wrap!! Our hotel was quaint and so ….Peru! Here ends day 2.
There are two main alpaca processing mills in Peru. We were treated to tours of both. Mitchells employs ___ people and runs two shifts per day for 6 to 7 days per week depending on the season. Here fibre is processed from the raw state were women sort it into 6 grades, length, and color. It is then put through a picking machine to open it up before washing. The washing process takes 40 minutes until the fibre is dried and then the whole process is repeated.
Day 3 began with a short, but challenging (apparently pedestrians are just dodged, NEVER given right of way) walk to Mundo Alpaca, a very beautifully kept ecocenter promoting the value of South American camelids to visitors and around the world. Vicuna, the smallest of the SA camelids provides the finest fibre in the world, and one of the most rare and valuable fibres. Vicunas are the wild ancestors of the alpaca. Alpacas are domesticated (never wild) come in 2 species, suri and the more common huacaya. They are slightly larger than the vicuna and provide the most abundant fibre harvest in the largest range of colors of all SA Camelids. The wild Guanaco, provides the 2nd most rare (valuable) fibre of the SA camelid. They are the genetic ancestors of the domesticated llama and are substantially larger than the alpacas. Llamas the largest of the SA Camelids and have evolved into two distinct breeds- the Quara the more muscled beast of burdan and the Charu, the more heavily fibred llama. These camelid cousins have been a mainstay in their native jurisdictions for thousands of years.
There are two main alpaca processing mills in Peru. We were treated to tours of both.
Mitchells employs ___ people and runs two shifts per day for 6 to 7 days per week depending on the season. Here fibre is processed from the raw state were women sort it into 6 grades, length, and color. It is then put through a picking machine to open it up before washing. The washing process takes 40 minutes until the fibre is dried and then the whole process is repeated. We witnessed MOUNTAINS of alpaca fibre being processed.
We were extremely impressed by the cleanliness of the mill. Giant automated machines card and comb the fibre into rovings and tops for sale around the world. Some is dyed, some left in it’s natural color. In the color room I noted they had at least 14 lots of white for buyers to choose from-all natural!!
The second mill we visited was Grupo Inca where we watched yarn spun, washed and woven to create rolls of wonderfully soft fabric. Of particular interest here was the vicuna production. Women sit and pick the impurities out of the vicuna coats with meticulous efficiency. Vicuna is so valuable that only one set of hands work on a garment from start to finish. The modern mechanics of alpaca production is always finished with the touch of the human hands- quality checking, steaming, and sewing on lables. We watched a pile of garments have the LaCosta labels sewn on quite likely to end up in New York or Paris Boutiques!! Very impressive tours. Together these two mills contribute over 50 million dollars annually to the Peruvian economy through their fully integrated business models- alpaca to fashion.
Day 4, our 18 hour day trip from Ariquipa to Alianza ending in Cusco late that night was a very difficult day, but a definite trip highlight! We traveled far outside of the tourist areas to a height of 4528 metres (14716 ft) to visit one of the largest alpaca ranches in Peru (the world) and to meet a world renown alpaca expert and researcher, Dr Julio Sumar. He spoke to us at the Alianza ranch about the research and work he has been involved in for the passed 49 years. Dr Sumar is a wealth of cutting edge knowledge…and fun to interact with!! To get our hands on some of those AMAZING alpacas was a real honor and treat!! We visited the Suri alpaca and the Huacaya alpaca ranches. This day was an experience we as alpaca producers will never forget!! …Well it could be because of the flowing rivers
we had to drive through, the rocky roads or should I say trails and hair raising hair pin turns we traveled on, the bathroom breaks (NO bathrooms to be seen), the incredibly captivating scenery and small towns we passed, the hillsides covered with hundreds of alpacas and their traditionally dressed keepers, the wild vicunas we were so very fortunate to video (honestly I felt like a child spotting Santa Claus racing through the night sky on Christmas Eve when we saw that those vicunas) or the altitude sickness that got some of us!!
Yep, that was a day filled with adventure over hill and high water, in sickness and good health! It was a great day, but we were all VERY glad to finally get out of the van in Cusco… after the driver finally found our hotel!! (just another adventure : ))
The clouds opened up for us to gasp in the beauty of the city built of MASSIVE rocks and terraced down the top of the mountain. It was mystical! The beauty and awe of this place is spiritual. There really isn’t a way to describe it justly.
It was here that Don and I experienced our greatest adventure of the trip, maybe of our lifetime. As two prairie loving flatlanders we let ourselves be persuaded by our mountain loving B.C. friends Clayton and Linda to climb Huaynu Pichu, the mountain that stands guard a thousand feet overlooking Machu Pichu and fourteen thousand feet above the raging Urubamba river and the valley below. A guard house is built of carved rock near the top!! Literally breathtaking!! I just can’t describe it without pictures.
The story of Machu Pichu is a mystery. There are many speculations, but few facts. What is known is that it was a very important center of the Inca tribe- physically, spiritually, and intellectually. There is evidence that it was a complete social center with commerce, religion, family and agriculture here. The Andean trilogy – Condor, Puma and Snake are all represented in the mountains that surround this special place. It was built in less than 80 years with precision architecture using the stars, sun and moon. 30 to 40 thousand workers built this city in less than 80 years, rock solid, complete with irrigation/water control system and specialized crops for varying levels of elevation. The Spanish never did find this place when they conquered the Incas, one the largest empires in the world. Why did the Incas suddenly leave their mountain masterpiece?
The bus ride down the mountain provided a few photo opportunities that are simply unexplainable. We spent a wonderful relaxing evening leisurely, (and somewhat painfully after all that climbing) enjoying the sights, sounds, and cuisine of Peru in Agua Caliente.
Posted by: Lynn
There are simply too many stories and adventures to tell. That is why we have decided to share a fuller presentation complete with slideshow, music and alpaca goods at a later date in Strasbourg to anyone interested in seeing more of our Peruvian experience.
We know that we have a lifelong connection to this fascinating country, and a deep appreciation for the creative forward thinking of the ancient native tribes that built it.
We are grateful to have lived our alpaca experience to the fullest by witnessing first hand the people, the land, and the history that created our alpacas!!
I’ve been invited to relive our experience a couple times in Strasbourg with great reviews. If anyone is interested in having me share our experience at a local function in a neighboring town, we would be honored to do so. Well until our next adventure – The End.