Thursday, March 27, 2014

Alpaca country- Conduriri

Conduriri: March 20-21

I was very pleased to finally be visiting the heart of alpaca country to stay overnight with Olga and her husband. They had just recently moved their flock/herd of 200 alpacas and 100 sheep from higher grazing lands to this area. They actually have three areas at different altitudes. Olga's husband uses their dog and an honda to help with the move. The honda is a rope sling which is used to hurl stones. Olga demonstrated and was very accurate in her throw. The idea is not to hit the alpacas, but just to hit the ground close enough to scare them in the right direction. 

Olga was in Puno for a meeting, so we travelled together from Puno to Conduriri. First one combi on the main road and then another combi inland and up on a very rough dirt road for about two and a half hours. The scenery was gorgeous -vast spaces with layers of hills in the background, and at times following a river. We passed a spectacular natural rock formation, called Ciudad Encantada (Hidden City). I found it hard to believe that it wasn't the ruins of an ancient Inca site. I am surprised that this isn't a major tourist attraction. I would love to have spent a day just walking around exploring the area. 

The driver wouldn't stop for photos or let me open the window due to the incredible amount of dust, so most of these are from a bouncing vehicle through the glass.

Conduriri was a small "wild west" looking village, but very quiet.
alpaca fleeces for sale in Conduriri
We walked from the main plaza out to the wide open lands beyond the village. Here the women of the Conduriri branch of the alpaca cooperative have a building where they meet to do their textile work. They have a big floor loom there and other smaller looms. 

There were instruments hanging on the wall, which belong to the husbands. I checked them out, and they were the focus of a photo shoot.

About ten of the women met us there. Another 6-8 women were still up in the higher grazing lands with their alpacas. They were a vibrant bunch of young women, much younger than the group I had met previously. They were all busy with various projects- spinning, knitting and weaving. Communication with them was  also easier than previously, mostly because they spoke slowly and clearly for my benefit. 

We had the usual blanket lunch of potatoes and roast alpaca, followed by Inka Cola. After lunch, Olga's husband came to pick us up in his combi. He dropped the women in town and then continued with Olga and I to their home -a collection of adobe buildings. They had given me the best room, which had two beds, a table, electric light and, what!? a tv! I didn't turn it on, because it just seemed so out of place.

We went out to the field to check the alpacas and sheep. I enjoyed just sitting there, taking in the tranquility and views. The alpacas were fun to watch too. They really are very cute animals.They were very curious when I arrived, and would all turn to look. Some approached me until the got close enough to realize that I was a gringa. 

Late in the afternoon the animals were herded into a safe area near the house. Apparently they have zorros, large foxes, which are vicious enough to kill an alpaca or sheep. The dog helps protect them.

Olga made a delicious soup for dinner, and then I went to sleep at about 8 because there was nothing else to do, and it was quite cold. I slept well except I had to pee. The outhouse was at some distance, and there was a protective dog out there guarding the alpacas. I waited til morning. There was a heavy frost in the morning.

Olga made a kind of fritter to start breakfast, which were very tasty. Then she served a main dish of rice, potatoes, and salad. We shared my black tea. After breakfast, we took the animals back out to pasture. Olga had to feed this poor little orphan lamb.

In the meantime, Olga had managed to get some river trout (they magically appeared) which she fried up for am early lunch. Olga accompanied me again for the trip back to Puno, because there was to be another 10th anniversary celebration the next day. 

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