RSIS: Day 2+: CUSCO & Lamas & ¡Potatoes!

Thursday July 19th we all flew to Cusco where we had a lunch and heard our first of many versions of the song “Pacha Mama”  (Earth Mother).

After lunch we headed off in the bus and stopped off to learn about llamas…….  (pronounced yamas!)

I knew nothing about them and had no idea how fascinating they are!  Firstly, despite their lack of a hump or two, they are related to camels and are in fact in the same family (Camildae). Just like camels, they are even-toed ungulates which means they have bumps on the soles of their feet.

Before you start telling me I have mispelt the title on the video below by leaving out an “L”, let me explain that the llama and the alpaca are two different species that have been in and out of the same genus.  Firstly they were classified in the Camelus genus, then later the genus called “Lama”  – so one may be forgiven for calling them all llamas! However consensus in South America is that there are 4 species under two genera:

Genus Lama = species llama & guanaco

Genus Vicugna = species alpaca & vicuña

Vicuñas and guanacos are timid and not usually domesticated.

Llamas and alpacas have been domesticated for over 1000 years, llamas being used for meat and as pack animals and alpacas more for their wool, which is lanolin free.  All of them come in a range of colours, as you will note in the photos. Llamas range from 5 – 6ft and can weigh up to 200kg, whereas alpacas are smaller. Llamas are social creatures that live in herds and can reach a ripe old age of 30.
¡One rather interesting fact about llamas is that they mate lying down and for an extended period of time, ranging from 20 – 45 minutes! Females mature much earlier than males (not so unusual) and ovulation is stimulated by mating (very unusual!).  Baby llamas are born weighing between 9 – 14 kg and their gestation period is 11 1/2 months!  Babies are born in the mornings so as to avoid both predators and the cold.

Enjoy the photos………. (and the silly Llama song)

Peruvians love their potatoes and corn!  I have never seen so many different varieties of corn and potatoes!  There are over 55 different varieties of corn – different sizes and colours!

Potatoes are even more interesting!  There are apparently over 5ooo different varieties of potatoes in the world and 3ooo of these can be found in Peru!  The potato, as part of the human diet, can be traced back to over 8ooo years ago in the high Andes of Peru. The humble spud fed the Incan armies, and the Spanish conquistadors introducted them to Europe.


Filed under RSIS: Round Square International Service Project (Peru), Service Projects

2 responses to “RSIS: Day 2+: CUSCO & Lamas & ¡Potatoes!

  1. Judy Williams

    No corn for me, but I sure love the potatoes llamas and the inspirational happy people. So glad to see you having a wonderful time.

  2. renne de waard

    Hi Karen, so good to read your stories and see the photos. Keep them coming. We missed you but Uli was an excellent host and Tanneke and I enjoyed our time in Singapore very much. Thank you too for your hospitality. Have a great time, share your adventure with us. Much love, Tanneke and Renne.


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