Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Peru 1: Fiber Animals

My recent trip to Peru was a life highlight, and I plan on sharing several posts worth of pictures and experiences throughout the next few days. Since this is "usually" a knitting blog, my first post is dedicated to all the wooly creatures whose fibers I adore knitting with. Most pictures will be of the 10-day trek through the Cordillera Blanca in the Ancash province of northern Peru.

 Our first camelid sighting was on our way to the Chavin Ruins . This guy was simply tethered to a rope  wrapped around his hind leg at the edge of a beautiful glacier-fed lake. When we drove past again in the late afternoon, he had been moved to a new patch of grass. Many animals we encountered were tethered in this simple manner to keep them from running away.

Lots of sheep inhabit the valleys in the high Peruvian Andes as well. These sheep had a shepherd and a few horses to keep them company, but there were times when we saw herds without a shepherd as well.

I have done my share of spinning using a drop spindle (and made all sorts of lumpy yarns), but NEVER while hiking, or even walking. This elderly lady had some perfectly smooth yarn on that spindle and was walking very fast while spinning. Just about the most amazing thing I have seen! Check out her outfit too: the layered skirts, the carrying cloth, the hat. Most people we saw in villages and on the trail dressed like this. The men were immaculate in heavy duty dress slacks, button-down shirt, nice sweater. And these people make most of their livings farming something or other. I especially loved the variety in the hats. Each village or area had a different style, and the colored cloth or ribbon tied around it has different meanings. Very neat custom.

Here was a lone alpaca amidst a flock of sheep and some donkeys. 

Until our campground at Huilca, we just saw a smattering of alpacas. Huilca was also a micro village / farm collective that raised massive amounts of alpacas and sheep. Here are a few alpacas wandering through our camp site.

Peru is currently in the middle of its dry season, and I was amazed that this barren land could support so many animals. 

 You can see the sheep sprinkled in with the alpacas. Note that most of the alpacas are white or a very light fawn color. Let's just say that the dark ones get sold to restaurants... The white ones are prized fiber animals. (White alpacas have finer fiber, their fiber goes faster, and their hairs are usually closer together on their skin. Additionally, dying white fiber would be a lot easier than a darker color. At Shady Grove Alpacas, the Farmer and I raise mostly dark animals so that we can have a variety of natural colors that do not require dying. Do not expect an alpaca dinner at our house....)


While raising alpacas in the flat lands of the USA is a fun hobby, nothing quite beats seeing alpacas in their high-altitude home in the Andes mountains...

Near the end of our trek, we got passed (and nearly run over) by this giant herd of sheep and goats. They just careened down the hill to the stream and flatter valley area. 

Bonus question: Is this animal below a squirrel or a rabbit? Stay tuned for more adventures tomorrow!

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