Awana Kancha – The Palace of the Weaver ((Part I – The Camelids))

 Awana Kancha is a living museum that we went with the purpose of seeing a wide variety of South American Camelids… you know… Llamas, Alpacas, even Vicunas and if reallllllllly lucky a Guanaco will show itself.. but they are very shy.  Camelids are such a fun thing to discuss!   They are even more fun to see!  I wish you all could come and visit them.  They are simply sweet as can be!

A few little details before the visit… The highlands of Peru as you know are in the Andes mountains.   There are two major languages in Peru.  Spanish is the one that most people think of, but there is actually a far older language passed down by the Andean people, the descendants of the Incas.  This language is called Quechua.  There are regional dialects spoken in many places in South America.  Lots to learn!  Awana Kancha is actual a Quechua name.  Kancha means ‘Palace’.  Awana means ‘weaver’.  Even though those are two simple words the sense of them translated means you are in the palace of the weaver!  And what could a weaver ask for… fiber to spin and weave!  There was also a great dye area you will see later.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a few camelids in my time.  I can’t find my photos of the Alpacas I played with.. they were sooooo much fun and so cuddly… I’ll see if I can find some old photos… 😉  But I do have some other entertaining photos. 🙂

Image   Once upon a time at Soar, My friend Charlene organized a field trip where she snapped this photo of 

me having a little conversation with this friendly Llama.  ((by the way in the United States we tend to say LAMA for Llama… however, the correct pronounciation is ‘Yama’, because the two LL’s together may a ‘Ye’ sound… So effectively there are Lama’s in Tibet (monks) and LLama’s ‘Yama’s’ in Peru)).  ((Spanish is a great language.  It is one of several on my list to learn.  I picked up a bit while I was there.  It was wonderful!  I can’t wait to learn more!!!))

.ImageThis handsome Bactrian Camel is Mongo.  He lives at the San Diego Zoo, where he is quite a polite and sweet camelid.  This is the first time I actually got to pet a camel of any kind!   I was on a behind the scenes tour (It pays off to chaperone!).  He really was the sweetest guy ever…   ((I apparently have no control over the size a photo appears.. I apologize.. I have some more computer learning to do!

However, Back in Peru  … I was about to meet some lovely Peruvian Cousins of Mongo at Awana Kancha.

ImageThese wonderfully carved stones were outside the entrance to Awana Kancha.  They depict textile activiites.  It is a very familiar theme and so many things are textile oriented here.

ImageThis was a great sign just inside the gates, that explains in great detail the camelid family of South America.  Not as simple one thinks!  I am not a biologist so I cannot say if this is correct, but it separates the Camelids into three groups, ‘Camelus’ – Dromedary (one hump) & Bactrian (two hump) – listed here in Spanish as ‘Camello’; Vicuna (pronounced ‘Vi-coon-ya) family comprised of the Vicugna Vicugna (wild not domesticated), and the Vicugna Pacos: Suri Alpacas and the Huacayo Alpacas; Lastly there is the  Lama family comprised of the Lama Guanaco (Wild/not domesticated) and the Lama Glama comprised of the Lama Q’ ara and Lama Ch ‘aku. (using the Latin nor vernacular the spelling is a little different).

Image Here is the revered Vicuna, one of two wild camelids in South America.  Very very very soft fiber.  Although it looks like she is domesticated… she is actually on the wild wandering side of the fence with a lovely big hilly area to wander in.  I was lucky and she was close by.. and I had a telephoto lens too. 🙂   There fiber is some of the most expensive in the world costing $250 an ounce for unspun fiber. A man’s coat for example might cost as much as $20,000.   The Vicuna were in danger of becoming extinct and their fiber and fabric made from it was illegal until about five-eight yrs ago to import into the United States..   The Incas protected them by law and only Royalty was permitted to wear clothing made from this fiber.  In order to gather their fiber, Vicuna’s were rounded up every few years and shorn or combed.  When the Spanish conquistadores came they hunted the Vicuna instead of gathering them up.  The practice of hunting them and more modernly poaching them occurred into modern times substantially reducing their numbers.  After much hard work with the Government  Vicuna’s (Peru’s national animal) is now more properly used as a valued resource and managed appropriately.  Vicuna numbers have increased and much of the profitability goes to the villagers in the high Andes.  They are still on a watch list and poaching still exists, but not in the way it once did. Neither Vicuna nor Guanaco are able to be domesticated like their other camelid cousins the Llama and the Alpaca.  Although, the Guanaco does live at this living museum.. like the Vicuna it is wild and so it can choose when it shows up… we did not see any. (and we would have been VERY surprised if we had).

ImageHere is a close up for you of its head.  Yes, it was Vicuna tea time!



Image Huacayo Alpaca (or what most people think of when they hear ‘Alpaca’. 

ImageNot a great photo, but a closeup of the fuzzy soft sweet Alpaca face.  We were fairly rushed to get through here since we also had another stop that day.  I didn’t get the time I needed to take photos.

Image The keepers had grass to give us to feed and encourage the llamas and alpaca to come play.  We were not allowed near the Vicuna… a good thing.  This Alpaca was fairly smart and wanted to steal the grass from me.  Eventually, he succeeded in sneaking up and grabbing it from my hand… lol.. His color was fabulous.  I love love love the deep black of alpaca, unequaled for natural black fiber.  It positively glistens!

ImageA lovely side view of a Suri Alpaca.. Lovely long soft locks.  Beautiful Color, very good at stealing grass to eat!

Image A little close up of the Suri Alpaca.  He was truly beautiful!  I loved them all though.  It was great fun visiting them.  Livestock like these don’t live in the lowlands here.  They live in the high mountains of the Andes so even when we visited villages most of the livestock was up in the mountains taking advantage of summer grazing and we really didn’t see them.  The Vicunas at least have a larger heart and process oxygen more efficiently so they live fairly high up.  One day we visited a village at 13,500 feet.. and their Alpaca were not at home.. they were UP in the higher altitudes eating and getting fat.  Most likely this tougher kind of living is what produces such lovely soft and warm fleece!  The animals that one might see lower are sheep, and farm animals like oxen and pigs and dogs.

ImageOk, tell me these guys do not remind you of big teddy bears… they are such soft wonderful animals!







Here is a view of part of the hills behind the area for the Llamas and Alpacas that is wild and reserved for the Vicuna and the Guanaco.  Can you see the vicuna eating lunch?  Awana Kancha is a great place providing a guaranteed opportunity to see all these animals in one place!


This post is part one of the first half of our visit to Awana Kancha.  I will post the second half which were resident weavers, spinners, and a complete natural dye set up display.  While you can walk through fairly quickly, taking a little time enables you to see and take in so much more.  It is my hope that taking more time to post photos and give some commentary will give you the best chance of seeing more through my eyes.  


Make friends when you meet someone new!  It doesn’t matter if they have four legs or two or whether or not they have fur or fiber! 🙂  They are an entity, an individual and at least for me often you can communicate somehow.

Address for:  Awana Kancha:  Very rough estimate.. 1.5-2 hrs outside Cusco:  Km 23, Carretera a Pisac, Taray  Free, 8-5  No Phone. There is parking near the exit. (You should tip the keepers for their work and the other demonstrators.  There are two tip boxes along the path.  One or two solas a person won’t hurt any and it will benefit the people who work there enormously.) There is a shop there with some fine deals (if you have time to shop) and there is a bathroom, although I didn’t use it so I don’t know what it was like.  Always always take your own toilet paper!).


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