Saturday, June 02, 2012

Buying baby alpaca in Peru

When traveling in Peru, you are constantly offered products made from alpaca or even better - baby alpaca. The alpaca as well as the llama, is in fact related to the camels, and it is priced for its wool, but beware - not everything you are offered as alpaca or baby alpacca is the real thing.
Alpaca wool looks like to sheep’s wool, but is lighter, warmer, and does not prickle the skin. It contains no lanolin, making it very good for those allergic to sheep’s wool, and is, funny enough, also flame-resistant.
A fluffy alpaca. Photo: Kyle Flood
Alpaca wool is highly priced as it is light and soft and has a texture not unlike hair. It is prepared in much the same way as sheep's wool and everywhere you are offered products classed as alpaca or baby alpaca.
For those of you that want to buy alpaca to avoid allergy, it is important to know that many products classed as 100% alpaca or made from alpaca, have mixed in other fibres, mostly sheep's wool. These products are tempting to buy as they are often extremely cheap (from 15 soles and up). To separate the mixed products from the real is done by feeling the weight, as many pure alpaca products are extremely light and feels fluffy. We had a blanket in our hotel made from baby alpaca, and it kept you very warm, in spite of being very light.
We were given an account on what (not) to buy by our guide on our tour bus in the sacred valley. She took me to a reliable vendor (or that is what she told me) in Pisac selling the real stuff, and the prices of a baby alpaca scarf started at 130 soles. By haggling, I managed to get the price down to 115 soles, after two phone calls to the owner of the store.
Yarn made from alpaca wool. Photo: Darnast
I paid a similar price on board PeruRail as they offered baby alpaca products on our return trip from Macchu Picchu. So the lesson is, you will have to pay for luxury - even in Peru, but here luxury will come cheaper than home, so you will get a bargain, anyway. Another reason to buy apaca products is that they are not widely available outside South America.
BUT for those of you that want to buy something nice for yourself, friends, or family - a mixed product is cheap, and of good quality, and worth buying, and there are so much more hand craft to buy in Peru, but that will be left to future shopping stories from Peru.

No comments: