Friday, 15 November 2013

15/11: TREKKING WITH ALPACAS

Oops, had hoped to post this yesterday (Thursday) but somehow Friday snuck up on me.

We had a fabulous afternoon 'trekking with alpacas' on Romney Marsh in Kent.   Actually it was a very gentle stroll, rather than a trek, with lots of carrot breaks and grass nibbling breaks (for the 4 legged walkers, not David and me).  We were lucky with the weather as it didn't rain.  We had a really bright, cold day but the wind was icy so we were well padded out with warm coats, hats and gloves  Alpaca Annie at Romney Marsh

We were accompanied by Lara who was absolutely brilliant with the alpacas and llamas and was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the cute little beasties.   I'm so glad we did this, we've learned lots about alpacas and dispelled the myths about them being aggressive, spitting at people etc.   They are very intelligent animals, they aren't tactile and are rather head-shy and don't like being stroked (except on the necks) but Lara has worked with alpacas and llamas for a long time and explained how to handle them and win their trust and we all got along very well.

I walked with a lovely cream alpaca boy called Fennel and David with a mid tan coloured alpaca called Stu Pot (I thought it was spelt Stew Pot till I saw it written down) and I think we were well matched.    Stu Pot (like David) enjoys his food and doesn't like to walk briskly, preferring a slow amble with lots of munching en route.

Just a few of the 150+ photos I took this afternoon .... methinks there may be a drawing or two in the pipeline next year

This is (my alpaca) Fennel, a very superior alpaca who is apparently very protective of the others in the herd, breaks up fights/squabbles, worries when any of  the group is sick and acts as look-out in the field whilst the others graze/play.   He was very wary of me at first but soon accepted me and very gently ate chopped carrots from my hand.  


They are sheared once a year by professional shearers from Australia, they are now sporting the beginnings of their Winter coats.  Their fur doesn't contain lanolin and isn't at all oily/greasy and garments made from alpaca fleeces are hypoallergenic and water repellent.  Apparently its also fire-retardent - you can't set fire to an alpaca (who worked that one out I wonder)?   We learned so many facts about alpacas that I'm still trying to remember everything


I do know I fell in love with these wonderful characters ... we are seeing more and more of them in Kent these days.  Many sheep farmers are introducing alpacas and llamas into their flocks of sheep as they actively challenge foxes and other predators which is immensely useful in lambing season


They have really good long distance vision but poor short vision which makes them a little jumpy about birds suddenly taking flight from the ground near them, or rattling paper bags etc ..... much like horses which I'm far more familiar with

Surprised they can see anything in front of them given the hairstyles ....



David, bonding with Stu Pot.   Stu Pot is still a 'baby' but is very greedy and larger than other alpacas of his age.  Apparently as he is such a lovely specimen he may escape  the big C (castration) in order to produce some little Stu Pots in the future.

Think they're having a little 'man to man' discussion about the future here       LOL



One of the few photos of Stu Pot I got with his head up - mostly he was stuffing grass along the way but here he was gently taking carrots from David's hand


Back at the ranch .... David getting mobbed for carrots.   They really are very gentle though and took the chopped food very delicately from our hands


I think the dark brown alpacas are rather cute as well

Just look at that face


But ...... check out the light brown one on the right ... he appears in several of my photos and has the same (dare I say slightly gormless) smile in each one  .... you know, the sort of character that shows up in the background of wedding group photos and nobody knows who he/she is??


He's on the left of the picture here ....   In the front is one of the llamas that have been introduced into the alpaca groups.    Lara hopes that they will soon have more llamas which will be trained to accept the trekking routine.   The ones they have at the moment are not well socialised so she's working hard to get them to accept/enjoy the company of humans





I could go on and on .... and on.   We had a lovely (but very cold) afternoon and I'm so glad we've done it.     I'd like to go again but maybe when the weather is a little kinder.   Romney Marsh is very exposed and can be quite bleak in the Winter months - but picturesque.

From Romney we drove towards London to visit our Mums before we go off to Fuerteventura for a sunshine break.   Driving along the motorway as the sun went down I took a couple of random shots out of the car window and was amazed at these two photos (bearing in mind we were doing 70 mph on the motorway).   My little camera certainly comes up trumps sometimes

I've done nothing to these ... this is how they came up through the car window at 70 mph - perhaps I should add that I was a passenger, not the driver LOL





So we had a brilliant day, only marred by the fact there was an accident on the way home from visiting our Mums and our journey was slow and very tiring ... but we got home safely, eventually, and that's why I'm so late posting these photos.


I have one day at home tomorrow to get all the boring (housework) stuff done before the house sitters arrive, and then we're back to Fuerte again.   Just a year ago I took this photo (one of many) whilst walking the beach path along the  more volcanic rocky bits which aren't so attractive to tourists.   I still love the rugged volcanic rocky shorelines, the miles of golden sand dunes (blown in from the neighbouring sahara desert) and the ever-changing sea - because of the tides and the famous Fuerte winds we have lots of excellent surfing areas but we also have lots of quiet sandy coves with calm waters where you can walk out into the sea for half a mile before the water reaches waist height .   We love this island

This is one of the more rugged areas about 15 minutes walk from our house 


Just above the horizon, you can just about make out the faint outline of the Lanzarote coastline ... we are just 10 minutes away from our neighbouring island by High Speed Ferry link.

8 comments:

Jo said...

I adore those alpacas, they are so cute. I would love to take a trek with them too.

Have a good trip.

Screaming Feline said...

I have to say, I am jealous that you got to spend such close time with those wonderful creatures. You did capture awesome pictures, how can one not love those faces!

Jan said...

How fortunate you got to do this! Great photos too - those faces are so sweet looking but I also like that photo from Fuerte. I think I feel a beach visit in our future too! Oh, the siren call of the sea, if only it could be as warm as Fuerte! lol

Sue Clinker said...

The alpacas are cute aren't they?

But they really aren't tactile and are nervous about having their heads touched - so no stroking those fluffy noses! Also you can't stroke their backs as it disturbs the dense coat which is their protection against rain/sun - they don't groom each other like lots of other animals for the same reason.

Lara explained that because they are so cute they often get put into kids petting zoos - which is their worst nightmare. Being intelligent they soon work out that spitting at humans tends to keep them at arms lengths but that's a habit 'her' alpacas haven' been allowed to cultivate (although they might spit at each other if arguing over food or personal space).

Sue Clinker said...

Haha I know what you mean about the call of the sea Jan. Ironically we live on the Kent coast in England but the sea isn't very inviting at this time of year in England.

So looking forward to seeing the fabulous turquoise sea on Fuerteventura tomorrow

Doreen Cross said...

The Alpacas are so cute. Maybe one day I will get around to drawing one.

Sue Clinker said...

Hi Doreen
If you need any ref photos I have hundreds now. You're welcome to use one/some

Wishing you a very happy Christmas and hope to 'see' more of you and your artwork next year

jenikya said...

We visited the alpacas in spring this year. My partner got Fennel, and I had Toby. Nice photos. Here's my write-up:

http://jenikya.com/blog/2014/06/a-morning-walking-alpacas.html

Jenn