About an hour and half from Cusco, in the town of Urubamba, the Llama Pack Project is a fledgling effort to help the locals understand the value of llamas as a way to make money, teaches sustainability, breeding to reinstate pure llamas as many have mated with alpacas, etc. To raise funds to educate them llama treks are offered from half days to four days. We chose a full day to Incan ruins and then on to a local village which is largely unused. I later found out that cross between an alpaca and a llama is a pacallama.
The llamas that belong to the project were up at the their grazing grounds. The ones who portered our picnic lunch belong to Luis from the village where we were headed. After a briefing on the project we were given snacks of cookies, granola bar, tangerine, and energy drink which we had to carry ourselves. We began at 2700m and slowly made our way to 3700m. Not much oxygen! Fortunately we stopped several times to catch our breath and snack whenever we wished.
Luis and his daughter and four-year old grandson, Jhon, led the way while we were at the back of the llama pack to help keep them together. After about 3k we switched places with Luis and his family. I noticed that whenever I turned around to check the llamas the leader would only get so close. I had hoped they would be friendlier, as we have experienced in the past, but not these. The red yarn earrings is in place of branding the animals. To pierce the ear a nail is pounded through it! No ice for them!
Incan ruins remain from a resting spot as they moved amongst the mountains. They didn’t take time to make them nearly as well as their standard buildings since they were only used occasionally.
After a total of 5k and 1000m of elevation we reached Luis’s village of maybe fifteen houses. They are rarely used as the youth prefer the life found in larger less isolated communities, a common theme. Our guide is a rare find as he was born and raised in Lima but found the mountainous small community life more to his liking. Luis and his daughter set out a picnic for us of coca tea, three kinds of sandwiches, puffed corn, cake, fruit salad, and coca cookies. It was all tasty!
The views were wonderful!
The llamas cooled their hooves in the mountain steam, had their own picnic, and rested.
After two hours of relaxation we headed back down the mountain. Just before we reached the end a huge tourist Van slowly made its way up the road. It turned out they were journalists who were there to help promote the project. When they saw the llamas right behind us they jumped off that bus and started snapping pictures. They were so excited! They returned to the llama destination where the project’s own llamas had been brought so together with Luis’s there was quite a crowd! Photo opportunities abounded!
This is the pure llama stud bought from a llama breeding station where DNA testing was done to determine purity. His job is to mate with the best females. It will take about five years to purify the offspring. I think he smelled something of interest!
Suddenly a TV crew appears wanting to interview us! He asked Bill something in Spanish. As Bill deferred to me the interviewer switched to broken English. He asked me about our trek and how we like Cusco. I will likely end up on the cutting room floor, but it was still cool to be interviewed for Peruvian television!