A few years ago I traveled through Peru, a country that fascinated and excited me. It is a country of stunning scenery, mystical ruins, and intriguing cultures. But what I loved the most were the llamas.
The llama is to Peru what the kangaroo is to Australia. Llamas are a national icon, and can be found throughout the country. I was utterly excited to get up close and personal with these handsome and comical animals. This cousin to the camel has lived in South America for 2 million years and I was pumped to get to see them in their motherland.
I saw llamas all over the country. They were often being walked through town, or kept in their owner’s yards. I couldn’t get over the variety of sizes and colours. Each fuzzy face had huge gentle eyes surrounded by long thick eyelashes. Although I was excited at the chance to see so many llamas so close, I was disappointed to find that the life for these beauties isn’t exactly natural. In Peru, llamas are kept and bred for their wool, skin, meat, milk, used for transportation and sacrifice. Sadly, the days of these animals roaming freely in the Andes appeared to be long gone.
With a heavy heart watched these incredible animals live under the complete control of man. Although I am aware that this is the existence of most animals on our planet, it never stops to sadden me. Still I considered myself lucky to have spent some time with a few of these unique characters.
One day I was on a bus, heading far from civilization. Where I was going or why, I can no longer remember but what I experienced that very special day I will never forget.
The bus was jammed with locals all sitting on each other and on me, as the bus rattled around hair pin corners. The scenery had changed to a spectacular landscape of rocky desert with mountains as a backdrop. Although the traveling conditions were far from comfortable, it was impossible not to be distracted by the beauty out the window. For hours I listened to the music coming from my headphones, while peacefully watching the gorgeous wide-open space ago.
Suddenly something caught my eye in the distance. Dots, hundreds of dots. My heartbeat began to quicken as I noticed that the dots were alive. I almost jumped out of my seat when I realized that they just had to be llamas! Llamas free in the Andes. Free to live their lives in their natural environment, as they please. I could hardly contain myself from screaming for the driver to stop the bus! Instead I decided on a better plan.
After another hour of driving we reached a town large enough to contain a restaurant and a rundown pension. I decided to postpone wherever it was that I was heading and spend the night there.
First thing the next morning I jumped on the bus heading back in the direction that I came from. When those dots appeared again I asked to be let off. The driver thought that I must be crazy to be getting out in the middle of nowhere. But I was prepared with food and water, and couldn’t think of a place in the world that I would rather be. I slowly made my way across the massive chunk of land that separated me and hundreds of free roaming llamas! Of course they were weary of me and kept moving further away as I got closer. But I had a lot of patience and persistence. Before I knew it I could no longer see the road from where I came.
I was overwhelmed with the feeling of peace and love. I sat a short distance away, quietly taking photos and nibbling at my packed lunch. There was one striking llama that I just couldn’t stop watching. She was whiter and fluffier than the rest. She had two teenaged babes that refused to leave her side. Once in a while she would give a belch or two. I started to think that she looked uncomfortable, and wondered if something might be wrong. I was getting worried. After what seemed like an hour of watching and photographing this angelic animal I almost jumped out of my skin with excitement! I suddenly realized why this beautiful mama appeared out of sorts. She was in labor!
She was cool, collected and standing up right, but hardly moving. I could see two tiny feet protruding out of her back-end. I forgot about my lunch and pretty much the rest of the world. I sat back and witnessed the miracle of the birth of a baby llama on the plains of Peru. It was a gift that I will never forget and will cherish for the rest of my days. It was magic!
As the sun began to drop I realized that I had to get myself back to that road and flag down the same daily bus that I came in on the day before. Overwhelmed with emotions, I slowly walked away from the llamas who had so graciously welcomed me into their family for a few hours. To the mama and her divine baby, I will be eternally grateful.
On my return to town, I learned through some investigation that these packs of llamas are officially “owned”. They are rounded up a couple of times a year, shaved of their fur, and eventually all are eaten by humans. This news definitely took some of the wind out of my sails, but it is nice to know that there is a tiny population of llamas living almost as they are meant to be.SHARE