Hiking With Alpacas In New Zealand (or How to Have a Very Happy Girlfriend)

It was a long time in the making.

On a road trip through New Zealand a few years ago, I spotted a couple of alpacas in a field on the side of the road. We stopped the car, wound down the window… and Lauren promptly burst into tears.

“I love them!” she sobbed. Until that point, I’d had no idea that these odd-looking wooly animals could have such an effect on anybody, never mind my girlfriend, but there was no question about it. I was dating an alpaca lover, and life would never be quite the same again.

Ever since, life has been a steady stream of alpaca-themed videos, alpaca-themed posters, alpaca-themed items of clothing. There’s an alpaca cushion sitting on the bed as I type this. Basically, in our house, it’s all about the alpacas, all of the time.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, then, when a very strong hint was dropped during our most recent trip back to the small town I grew up in. Ashburton’s slogan is “whatever it takes,” (lol) and if Lauren was going to come along, what it was going to take was some quality alpaca time.

And that’s how we found ourselves driving south one hot, sunny morning. We were headed for a nondescript point on the map near Geraldine, where a local farming family had started a side business offering alpaca walks.

Walking. With alpacas. I may have had a Very Excited Girlfriend in the car beside me.

Hindered only slightly by believing Google Maps over the directions on the website (hint: don’t do that, unless you enjoy fording streams in the middle of the road), we pulled up in the driveway. 

And saw this.

Group of alpacas

We were definitely in the right place.

After an introduction to the alpacas and their humans, and a brief orientation (this is the spitty end, this is the poopy end, that kind of thing), we were off.

There were four alpacas in the herd, and even though I’m not the Official Alpaca Lover of this relationship, I’ve gotta admit they were damn cute. Smaller, friendlier, and altogether more adorable than llamas, they exuded a surprising sense of calm.

I saw a news clip the other day of alpacas being used to cheer up patients in an Australian hospital, and I can’t say I’m surprised. I was pretty damn happy to be around them. Lauren, of course, was basically exploding with joy at this point.

Lauren gazing lovingly at alpaca

I mean, wouldn’t you be?

We wandered along a path beside the fields for fifteen minutes, pausing occasionally to chew on tasty patches of grass. By we, I mean the alpacas. Not the humans. Mostly.

The sun was shining. Insects buzzed lazily in the hot summer air. Everyone and everything felt chilled out and relaxed.

All of the alpacas were on leashes, but they barely needed to be. They knew where they were going, even if we didn’t, and absolutely nobody was in a hurry.

Alpacas on grassy trail

Until we got to the river.

Getting to the rocky shoreline required scrambling down a small slope. Knowing what was in store, the alpacas showed a sudden burst of enthusiasm. They may not be the biggest of animals, but when an alpaca decides it’d like to run down a hill, there’s not much you can do to convince it otherwise.

All of the alpacas remained upright after the unexpected detour. Only two of the three humans managed to do the same, and yet you still couldn’t wipe the smile off Lauren’s face. She really does love those animals.

Hanging out down at the river was the best part of the walk. The alpacas headed straight in, flopping into the shallows to cool off. I dipped one hand into the freezing water and decided not to join them.

Alpacas in the river

As the small herd chewed its way along the river bank and practiced different styles of bellyflop, we chatted to the owner about her business. Well, that’s what I did. Lauren was busy trying to figure out a way to hang out with alpacas every single day of her life.

I could have lazed around beside the river for hours, but procrastinate as we might, the time eventually came to head back. The alpacas weren’t thrilled about the idea, and to be honest, neither was I.

Spending time with these wonderful animals had turned out to be an unexpected highlight of my time back in New Zealand. I’d have been more than happy to hang out with them all day.

And not only because of their awesome photo-bombing skills.

Photobombing alpaca

Managing to avoid a second tumble on the way back up the bank, we all slowly headed back toward the paddock. I’m not sure if animals can amble, but if they can, these alpacas were totally nailing it.

When we did eventually make it back, let’s just say it took a long time to say goodbye.

Happy Lauren. Happy alpaca

The fun wasn’t quite over yet, though. As much as the alpacas are the drawcard for heading to this little South Canterbury farm, they aren’t the only piece of unbridled cuteness you’ll find there.

Baby rabbit and Lauren

Because of course there were baby rabbits. I’d already discovered how hard it was going to be to get Lauren to leave this place. Now, I was just trying to work out how many farmyard animals I could fit in my Dad’s car before he banned me from ever using it again.

It took a while, but we eventually agreed that we probably wouldn’t get away with smuggling three lambs, a couple of rabbits, and a guinea pig into the back seat. Waving goodbye to our new wooly friends, we headed into Geraldine for a coffee. And by coffee, I mean a lengthy discussion about our life as future alpaca owners.

When booking your experience, there are two options for spending time with alpacas. You can spend thirty minutes feeding them in a paddock, or do the hour-long walk that we did.

Trust me, you don’t want to just hang around in a paddock for half an hour. As with many other things in life, when it comes to spending time with alpacas, more is definitely better.

Even if you have to fall down a bank to do it. 


Details

Alpaca Walks is run out of a farm between Geraldine and Winchester, a few minutes off State Highway 1. In the middle of New Zealand’s South Island, it’s a pretty convenient location for anyone heading south from Christchurch. You’ll pass nearby regardless of whether you’re heading down the coast towards Dunedin, or inland to Tekapo and Queenstown.

At just under $60 NZD per person, the hour-long walk felt like money well spent. It’s low-key, in the way that many of the best attractions in New Zealand are, and nice to contribute to a small family-run business rather than a big tourism operator.

Oh, and if you’re looking for lunch or a good coffee afterward, I can recommend Cafe Verde in Geraldine. The sprawling outdoor area is the perfect place to sit in the sun and plan your new, alpaca-filled lifestyle.

Or so I hear.

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Hiking With Alpacas in New Zealand

One Response to “Hiking With Alpacas In New Zealand (or How to Have a Very Happy Girlfriend)

  • The alpacas look like they have a lot of personality! But, they also look like they may smell, do they? You are a better boyfriend than me!!

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