Vicuña Festival near Marangani

Vicuñas are wild relatives of alpacas and llamas, but these two young vicuñas were quite tame.

Every two years, the people in this area round up the vicuñas into a corral to shave their coveted wool (hey, it's better than shooting them!).

An albino vicuña stood out from the rest.  I overheard the boys calling it "Gringuito" (little gringo - comparing it to light-skinned outsiders like us).

Gringuito is ready for his close-up.  Even the eyes are mostly white, with some pale blue and a black slit.

Traditional ceremony preceeded the shaving.  Here coca leaves are beings offered while dressed-up llamas mill around in the background.

Two very nervous vicuñas await their role in a ritual called "pagado a Pachamama" - payment to mother Earth. 

I was nervous too when the ceremonial knives came out, but fortunately they only cut the tips of the vicuñas' ears to take some blood.

Wildlife officials performed the ceremonial first shaving.

As the shaving continued, locals performed music and dances. 

Walking back to the van through a beautiful Andean backdrop.