Hello! My name’s Evie, I’ve taken over from Jo here at Experience Days as intern, so I’ll continue to post blogs and reviews about various experiences around the UK.
The very first experience I got to attend was an Alpaca Trek in Kent which I did with Issie who was completing work experience with us that week. Lucky her! She got to come along with me for a day out in the beautiful countryside with spectacular views of the Romney Marsh and the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, not forgetting the gorgeous animals we were accompanied by.
I’d never properly met an alpaca before, so it was very interesting to see these creatures up close. When we arrived at the farm, we had a look around the farm shop before being greeted by Jane, who took us over to the alpaca enclosure (which also housed a dog and at least five cats). We were fortunate to arrive about an hour after a baby had been born (known as a cria), which was just incredible! It’s amazing how quickly these animals are up and about, eyes open and walking around, I would have guessed it was at least a few months old, not minutes. Each alpaca had a name, which we were told came from family members and friends of the owner (though where names like ‘Lord Lockington’ and ‘Hershey’ came from we’re not sure), but we were very impressed that Jane remembered each one, as there were around 50 alpacas on the farm!
As soon as we entered the field the more sociable alpacas came right up to greet us, pushing their noses into our cameras and sniffing our hands. It was so sweet, and they weren’t shy about letting us stroke their necks either. There was a constant whining sound coming mainly from the new mothers, which we were told is the alpacas talking to each other, apparently it’s possible to vaguely figure out what they’re saying, but Issie and I
couldn’t quite work it out!
After a while chatting to Jane and meeting all the alpacas, we were joined by the other
couple on our trek and headed over to meet Lara, who would be our guide for the day. She had four of the male alpacas tethered to a fence in different coloured harnesses; so cute! They all seemed completely at ease, and were quietly chatting to each other in their low, moany tones. Lara was great, she had a real connection with the animals and you could tell they loved her. She had so much knowledge to impart, it was just fascinating to listen to her talk about them, and the alpacas seemed pretty interested too! We learnt a bit about alpaca history, where they came from, what they eat, a bit about their anatomy and their personalities. Turns out because alpacas are herd animals, they get very upset if they are isolated. Similarly, they’ve been known to show symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and depression in the winter, they obviously love the sun as much as we do! It was great to see the alpacas as a group, the way they interact with each other is fascinating. Lara pointed out the different friendship groups, and how they pick ‘best mates’ to hang out with.
Now, on to the actual trekking part. The farm is situated in the stunning Kent countryside, so when you’re not focusing all your attention on the alpacas, there are gorgeous views to admire. We were each given an alpaca to walk with, mine was called Hershey and was the leader of the pack, so I had to walk up front and the other three (Stu-Pot, Alan and Toby) followed behind. As we started leading them away from the enclosure, all their friends ran up to the fence and tried to come with us!
Alpacas are very independent animals, so at times it was more like they were walking us than the other way round. If they wanted to go in one direction, there wasn’t a lot we could do to convince them otherwise, the only time I had to be assertive was when Hershey tried to pull me into a stream! Half way through the trek we stopped for photo-taking and a bit of food, for the alpacas that is. I was a little apprehensive about letting them eat out of my hand, but they’re so polite, it was incredible. They don’t bite, or even use their teeth, they just suck the carrot piece up with their lips, and you barely feel a thing. Alpacas tend to keep their own pace, you can’t hurry them along, so it was more of a gentle stroll than a trek, which suits me just fine.
After heading back to the enclosure (greeted again by their excited alpaca friends), we fed them all some carrots, which was a bit overwhelming because they all come at you at once! Then it was back to the café next to the farm shop for a delicious sandwich and drink, much needed after all the walking.
All the staff were extremely friendly and made us feel completely at ease with the animals, who were exceptionally well behaved. At the end of the day we were given a certificate as a reminder of the day, not that we’d need any help remembering! The whole day was around four hours, but it flew by because we were so engrossed in watching the alpacas and listening to Lara’s expert knowledge.
Highly recommendable and a very enjoyable day, try it for yourself!