Mar 13, 2012

We are off 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… 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.

Touring Fibre Mills in Peru!

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 trek to Alianza and back

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 : ))


We were treated to a much needed “day off” the next day. Cusco is a beautiful city constructed with magnificent ancient stonework. We enjoyed a very scenic bus tour through the city and surrounding area. Cusco is built with  stone and stairways. The way the rocks were carved together so that not even a piece of paper can pass between them is truly fascinating. More shopping!!

Road to Macchu Picchu

After a couple days in Cusco, we again boarded our van for another “very interesting” drive through the Peruvian countryside to a small town of Ollantaytambo to catch the train to Agua Caliente at the base of Machu Pichu. We witnessed rugged hills, and lush green valleys. We stopped to stretch and take in the beauty of the Sacred Valley, a valuable source of food for the ancient Incas.Ollantaytambo is a rustic small town filled with rock/adobe style buildings and beautiful flowers filling the town square and lining the river that rages through town. Vendors lined the streets and square with their pottery and woven goods for sale. The humorous nature of the Peruvian crafters was very evident in their goods. Over looking this picturesque town from part way up the mountain are terraced ruins of an ancient Incan religious and military citadel. We followed the river to the train station. This was going to be Don and my first train ride and we were very excited. The train was modern with large overhead windows. We boarded Car #1 with large windows at the front of the train!! With a whistle we were off running along side that raging Vilcanota river- sometimes it appeared we were right overtop of it!!! Its angry swirling, foaming waters fascinated us as did the stunningly beautiful rugged country with lush vegitation lining the river and green mountains rising straight up behind it. We were also fascinated by the very rustic looking tracks and large rocks right beside them!After a very short and enjoyable 2 hour train ride we reached the “tourist capital” of Peru – Agua Caliente. What was so striking about this city was the humidity and Amazonian vegitation as two large rivers ROARED through it’s center. The city is built at the base, going up the mountain so we had some climbing to reach our hotel. That evening we were treated to a soak in the natural hot springs. What a treat, as the sun set and the rain drizzled down. Early to bed as we were getting up at 4 am the next morning to catch one of the first busses up the road to Machu Pichu. (Google that!!)

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.

Top of the world?

I was more than a little worried after seeing those pictures and it was raining so the road would be wet!! However the travel experiences to date had steeled our nerves sufficiently to attempt that road!We arrived at the bus station at 5:30 am and stood in a long line already qued. Four large busses filled and drove away, we boarded the fifth with many more behind us. Machu Pichu is the most popular tourist attraction in Peru and being one of the seven wonders of the world, thousands of people visit every day, many hike there, most take a bus up that switchback road. It was dark, I kept my eyes closed until we got close to the top- about 20 minutes after leaving the town below. It was not as scary as I anticipated, but as I said our nerves were steeled by this time. The scenery was breathtaking and the adventure too compelling to miss. We arrived at Machu Pichu, a city in the clouds, built of rock.

Posted by: Lynn Nov 16, 2012

Bus Trains, Planes and Automobiles

The next morning had a very early start with the dogs barking and the rooster crowing, to roust us for our day of train, plane and automobile back home. Our little alpaca group met as strangers, toured as companions and parted as friends. Our tour guide, Wade Gease promised an adventure of a lifetime…..we were not disappointed!

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.