Camelids and High Desert in the Southern Peruvian Andes

I spent the weekend in the high Andes in southern Peru. I took a tour, which is something I normally avoid, but there was no other way to get to the places I wanted to see, and it cost, including lodging, $35 US. It was a great choice, and we had a splendid tour guide.I went with Carlos Zirate Adventures. as they come highly recommended, for good reason. The best part was the extremely knowledgeable tour guide, Laura.

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Our tour began with the Reserva National Salinas y Aguarda Blanca. This wildlife reserve sits at 4000 to 5000 meters (13000 to 16000 Feet) in altitude, and gets relatively few visitors. Wildlife and wild rock formations and volcanoes abound. The 5000 meter part takes a toll on some visitors, especially if they haven´t taken the time to acclimate. Two of our 18 person group got vomitingly ill and there were many headaches. The high Andes is one place where slow travel is really the only way. One of the sick was a young woman from Lima, up from sea level for the weekend.  The wildlife was incredible as well as the lunar landscapes.

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We first spotted the vicuña. There are only 200,000 left in the world, their world being the high Andes of Peru, Chilé, Bolivia and Argentina, at over 3200 meters. Their lovely wool is the major reason they are endangered. The Incans simply caught them and cut their hair, but hunting has decimated their numbers in modern times.

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Plenty of llamas and alpacas still populate the altaplano, as they have been domesticated. This means lots of close up hands on contact with the furry camelids.

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The alpaca has a flatter face and shorter legs.

Our sharp-eyed guide spotted one lone rabbit for us. They have adapted with great coats, long ears and long tails, and Maybelline eyelashes.

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The landscape at 3000-5000 meters (up to 16,000 feet) at this latitude isn´t as polar as it is in more northern climes, but it is cold, and the coveted furs of the wildlife are adaptations to this cold desert climate. Rocky and almost barren, tonality and form gives the landscape a striking beauty.

Colca Canyon ice

Water flows through the rocks, and in the winter, now, it freezes in place.

Colca Canyon volcano

A sleeping volcano

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This year round source of water is home to the wild vicuña, as well as wild geese, ducks and other fowl.

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colca canyon rocks 1

Stacks of rocks are a way of communication among the herders.

Colca Canyon scape

Vicuña can achieve speeds of 45 K per hour across this landscape. We saw them do this, lithely kicking up no dust, but, of course, no pictures.

I´ll post later about the rest of the trip, the highlight of which was soaring condors.

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