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We traveled to Peru on several occasions; twice we went as alpaca breeders, attending International Camelid Conferences. There were rare opportunities for side trips to the Colca valley, several fabric mills, and to participate in the chaccu, a ritual vicuña herding and shearing ceremony that happens once every 3 years in the Peruvian high plain (Altiplano).


Most of the vicuña photos were taken at the first conference we attended, which was also the first time a group of novice outsiders were allowed to participate in the chaccu. It was a surreal experience, partly because of oxygen deprivation at 15,000 feet, but also because of the event itself. It was truly an indigenous fertility ritual, with Q'ero shamans assembling despachos (ritual medicine bundles) and drawing drops of blood from a female vicuña. And because of the political realities there, we there were always armed Peruvian troops with AK-47s hanging around. Quite a juxtaposition.


When we went back again several years alter, there was a chaccu, but it was a staged event (it wasn't the third year), and it had a commercialized festival atmosphere with vendors and nonstop performers and such. Didn't get many photos that time. On another occasion, we traveled with a group of American shamans, visiting sacred sites from Cusco to Arequipa, attending rituals with the local shamans, and generally getting a huge dose of Q'ero culture.


We have a great fondness for this place.


Images of Peru by Mark Dodge

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