Last October I wrote a blog about our first ‘alpaca specific’ trip to Peru in 2011 and, running out of space, mentioned that I should perhaps follow up with an account of a further visit five years later….. here it goes!
During a second trip invited to colour check, alongside Jude Anderson, at the Kansas Futurity Show, we were invited to join the 2016 ‘Education with a Destination’ Peru Tour which included a keen group of breeders and judges from the American Owner’s Association.
Such trip was organised and joined by none-other than Mike Safley (Synthesis of a Miracle), alongside Judges and Quechua Benefit Directors Amanda VandenBosch (Flying Dutchmand Alpacas), Jude Anderson (Pucara International), Dale Cantwell (Xanadu) and Cheryl Gehly (The Art & Science of Alpaca Judging), all of whom were actively involved with the Casa Chapi project in Peru. We also enjoyed the company of some of the very top US breeders, including Jeff and Lorrie Williamson (Liberty Alpacas) and Christine Brown (Flying Iron Ranch).
Having met in Lima shortly after arrival, we flew to Arequipa where we visited the impressive Grupo Inca wholesale store followed by Grupo Michell’s sorting sheds, factory and store. Michell and Inca are without doubt the highest end processors of alpaca fibre, supplying the likes of Loro Piana and other fashion groups. After the factory visits, we were delighted to visit Casa Chapi, followed by a drive along the stunning Colca Valley ending at the amazing Colca Lodge and, at ‘crack of dawn’, a visit to Condor Cross to marvel at the majestic condors rising in the early morning.
Puno was next on the itinerary. We stayed at the picturesque Sonesta hotel on the shores of Lake Titicaca (highest navigable lake in the World) and enjoyed trips out to the floating reed islands. We then departed to visit the Sillustani ruins and arrived at the Michell Hacienda at Mallkini – this is the largest privately funded alpaca breeding ranch in Peru. We were able to view and discuss with manager Moises their world-famous breeding programme, how they effectively use estimated breeding values, and their AI and embryo transfer work – my Spanish did come handy!!!
The next day was without doubt the highlight of the trip, as we had been invited to join the World’s largest vicuna chaccu at Picotani. It exceeded all expectations, as locals from nearby villages could be seen on all the adjoining hills, herding the vicunas to the main square and fenced areas to be checked up, shorn and attended to, before being released back into the wild for another year.
The following day we had been invited to help judge the Andean Alpaca fiesta in Ocuviri. Fabulous alpacas, Suris with three year old fleeces flowing in the wind – a quite unique and lovely day.
We were not expecting to be able to top that, but – following a night in Ayaviri, we set off to the main Fiesta in Nunoa. What an amazing get together of incredible alpacas and llamas – some we had never seen before, such as suri-llamas with amazing fleeces. I was in charge of translating the oral reasonings of Mike and Amanda, and would occasionally take some liberties, such as adding that it would help if they trim the nails!!! That night we ended up in Macusani, visited the legendary Estancia Accoyo and headed off on the winding road back to Arequipa.
A quite extraordinary once in a lifetime trip.