National Geographic : 1946 May
Camels of the Clouds BY W. H. HODGE HIGH-DWELLING companions of the puffy white clouds that float about the heads of the Andes are the lamoids, that group of South American camels which includes the llamas, alpacas, guanacos, and vicufias. The thinner the air the better they like it, and the favorite home of these so-called "sheep" of the old Inca civilization is the highest land in our hemisphere, the bleak, barren wastes of the lofty Andes.* True, guanacos can be found at home close to sea level, but the remaining lamoids apparently cannot adapt themselves for any great length of time below their normal range, except occasionally in zoos. Thus, llamas generally range from upwards of 7,500 feet; alpacas are seldom seen at elevations below 12,000; while the dainty vi cufia is encountered in the less accessible areas above 10,000. In Bolivia and Peru their home is known as the puna or altiplano (high plateau). More than any other Andean country, Peru is the home of this quartet and especially of the llama (Lama glama), the only native beast of burden domesticated by the peoples of the New World. All-purpose Animal of the Andes Today, as in the pre-Inca civilization, the llama remains the most important all-purpose animal to the sierra Indian and also the animal closest to his heart. Besides owning a flock, the serrano (mountaineer) includes these daily compan ions as subjects in his textiles, on his hand decorated gourds, his pottery, his silver and gold ornaments (pages 648, 654). Indeed, the presence of the llama in Andean Peru is as universal as its figure, which has even crept into a symbolic place on the na tional coat of arms of that Republic and is also found on its coins and postage stamps. Peruvians revere the llama as we do our eagle, and the culmination of their respect is the fine bronze statue to this animal in a prominent site on Lima's beautiful Paseo de la Repfiblica. But to see the llama or his mountain con freres and to understand their importance among the peoples of the highlands, you must journey to their Andean home, which centers in southern Peru on the high plateaus sur rounding the blue waters of Lake Titicaca. You may catch your first glimpse of pack llamas on the clean sloping streets of Arequipa, beneath snow-capped Misti, guardian peak of Peru's most important southern city. However, llamas in Arequipa are only visi tors and they will not come into their own until you wind by railroad or auto road up over the bleak passes lying between Arequipa and Puno.t The Department (State) of Puno is the world's center of lamoids. In this area, roughly the size of West Virginia, there are at least 200,000 llamas, close to 700,000 alpacas, and the largest flocks of wild vicufias. Actually, llamas and alpacas far outnum ber their owner-associates, the Quichua (Que chua) and Aymara Indians, who, as living descendants of the Inca people, constitute some 90 percent of the highland population in this and most other sierra regions of southern Peru and neighboring Bolivia. It Is Cold in Llama Land My first night on Titicaca's shores found me so cold that I resolved to purchase at least a part of the Indian's warm costume, much of it made from llama and alpaca wool. So the second day found me, bright and early, in the colorful, if unsanitary, market square, searching out the woolen goods "counter." There you can find any variety of hand-knitted woolen wear-socks to fit any size foot (thanks to the cylindrical heel less construction), mittens with or without full fingers, thick mufflers, and the colorful stocking caps (known as gorro), with their handy ear flaps and gay designs of dancing figures. My second night in Puno found me in bed dressed in my recent purchases, complete with cap, scarf, sweater, long woolen under wear, and several pairs of socks. If your night progresses as mine did, you will be cool in such garb, even with addition of the hotel's heavy wool blankets, until the wee hours past midnight when of a sudden you are warm. To be comfortable you must then begin shedding your extras until you have the normal complement of bedclothes. Yet the outside temperature is seldom really cold, averaging at night about freezing. The * See "Incas: Empire Builders of the Andes," by Philip Ainsworth Means, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, February, 1938, and accounts of the Pe ruvian Expeditions of the National Geographic Society and Yale University, February, 1915, and May, 1916. t See "The Pith of Peru," by Henry Albert Phillips, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, August, 1942.