Everyone – but especially kids – want to see llamas while in Peru! Taking a trek with The Llama Pack Project is an excellent chance to do just that, while at the same time supporting an eco-friendly enterprise.
The Chance to Trek with Llamas is great option for a family outing while you are staying in the Sacred Valley.
My family – which in this instance was Nanna aged 71, myself and the kids at age 5 and 22 months – opted for the half-day trip, which was basically a short, steep hike up a hill, accompanied by a herd of llamas. Miss M loved the hike: she casually took the hand of one of the herders and off she went! The climb was quite hard for Nana, who is fit, but the hill was rather steep.
This was a fantastic chance to get up close and personal with llamas, and understand a little more about them. Remember – these are just not any llamas – these are purebred llamas, large, robust, and handsome. Miss M became friends with two cute females, Chincha and Aceituna. A point of warning – we were cautioned not to let her get too close, as these are still animals from a herd. (i.e., they are friendly, but not super tame. this is not a petting zoo!)
We loved hearing about the work of the Llama Pack Project. Like the non-profit project, of which i am a founder Threads of Peru, this NGO is dedicated to the revitalizing of ancient traditions in Peru -in this case the use of llamas as pack animals.
The llama, a species of the camelid family, was first bred by ancient Peruvians for carrying loads in the Andes. Much larger than the other domesticated camelid, the alpaca, they have certain attributes that make them gentler on the environment than mules and horses. For starters, they are easier on foliage: mules and horses cut grasses and plants close to the ground when grazing, rather than nibbling the green leaves off as camelids do. Most importantly, camelids have soft padded feet that don’t cause erosion like the hooves of horses.
Over the past few centuries, since the time of the Spanish conquest, the llama has fallen into disuse as a pack animal. Its relative, the alpaca, has always been valued for its fine fleece, but the cargo-carrying ability of the llama was perceived as much less valuable. Llamas were also seen as less useful than Spanish mules or horses, which can carry up to 20% of their weight. Since their weight is greater than that of a llama, they can be given heavier loads. A 1200 lb. (545 kg.) horse can carry up to 240 lbs.(109 kg.) ; in contrast, a 400 lb. (182 kg.) llama can carry 80 lbs., (36 kg.) at the most.
Contributing to the devaluation of the llama was the fact that the local people allowed llamas and alpacas to breed together, creating a smaller llama with inferior wool as compared to a pure alpaca.
Enter the Llama Pack Project, aiming to improve the breeding genetics of the llama, and by doing so have the llama re-valued (and therefore used more), thus creating another source of income for high Andean communities. They started out four years ago with breeding sire “Guapo” (handsome in Spanish), a purebred llama who is capable of carrying a large load. As a stud sire, he is rotated among 9 communities in the Sacred Valley and Lares region, and is improving the genetics and animal husbandry in those areas.
In addition, the folks at Llama Pack Project have been educating the local people on the value of using llamas for transporting goods and carrying equipment on tourist trips.
Want to Trek with Llamas while in Peru?
consider asking a travel agent for help for some of the logistics. Apus Peru Adventure Travel Specialists have plenty of experience in offering treks with young people!
This post was originally published on the Apus Peru Blog, and has been adapted by the author, Ariana Svenson, coincidentally a CoFounder of Apus Peru!