Summer 2016

Shearers With Altitude

Shearer Adam Riley writes about his experiences volunteering for Awamaki in Peru.

he rumbling sound of hundreds of animals moving outside my tent and the low melodic hum of alpacas are the first things to greet me as I groggily open my eyes. I have been in the mountains for less than twelve hours and my first day of work is about to begin. I check my watch, 5:30am. I can hear the men yawning and calling to the alpacas as they gather the herd into the ancient stone corral where I have set up my camp and before I can get dressed and head out to join them I am surrounded by about 150 wet, dirty, fully fleeced alpacas.

At almost 4000m, the altitude was having its effect and I had spent the night fighting off nausea and nursing a hangover style headache. Regardless, the animals were gathered and the work had already begun. I collected my shearing tools and walked through the herd of alpacas to join the men, who had each grabbed an alpaca and tied their legs together with a small piece of rope. Three were shearing, two with hand shears and a third with a razor sharpened kitchen knife.

They all paused to watch as I grabbed my first alpaca and moved her over to the rope restraints, sizing up my ability to handle the animals. Talking amongst themselves in Quechua and with the occasional chuckle, I can only guess what their assessment was. Before I felt truly awake or had really grasped the scene around me, the alpaca was down. A small seven year old boy was holding the head and all were waiting for me to shear. I was about to hand shear my first alpaca in Peru.

This article can be found on Page 13 of our Summer 2016 edition, on sale now! Click here for subscription and purchasing information.

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