Everyone wants to see llamas while in Peru, and 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.
We heartily recommend this trek as a great option for a family outing while you are staying in the Sacred Valley. Additionally, farmers, animal lovers, or those with an interest in animal husbandry would find this to be a satisfying activity!
My family and I 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, at 71, is fit, but the hill was rather steep.
This was a fantastic chance to get up close and personal with llamas – and 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 – though 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)
We loved hearing about the work of the Llama Pack Project. Like our non-profit project, 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 one thing, 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 perceived 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.
This is where travel agencies like Apus Peru come in. We can play a significant role in generating a groundswell of support for the idea of re-introducing llamas to common use in the mountains.
If you would like Apus Peru to organize a llama trip for you and your family or companions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org