Vicuna are the wild members of the camelid family, llamas being the domesticated side and in fact, Vicuna will not be domesticated, like Masaai warrior the stress from contact with humanity can kill them. When the Inca arrived there were almost two million in the NW, they almost became extinct thanks to the Spanish passion for the soft wool.
In Molinos there's a criadero, not always easy to reach as the river has a sandy quicksand bed (See rainy season posts of us being tractored across. I was too occupied to shoot the occasions we began to sink and water came over the sills) where they raise and guard the remaining animals.
Seeing them wild feels like a privilege as they frighten easily and are well camouflaged in their landscape, the puna (Cold desert in Quechua) at 3400 to 4600 metres above sea level. Sometimes I feel as though I'm on African safari (and south African visitors I've guided have noted the similar landscape) when the Vicuna run wild.
They are most likely to be seen on the road through the Cactus park close to Cachi and on the road to Salinas Grandes salt flats where they seem to be becoming ever more accustomed to humans passing.
But when you head for La Quiaca, en route to Bolivia, where no tour buses tread, there are llamas galore wandering across the road and truly wild vicuna. We were lucky to spot this group grazing on the dried up bed of the Rio Grande but even the sight of us, high above on the cornice road caused the leader to emit a high-pitched scream commanding his harem to flee. We followed them running at 50km/hour along the valley (unfortunately I haven't yet mastered driving and shooting photos at the same time) but suffice to say, it was thrillling - A photo committed to memory.