Last week we went to see some friendly alpacas. The largest alpaca farm in Chile, Quintessence, is an hour’s drive from Santiago and it’s a rather pretty drive getting there.
I’d taken my kids to see some dinosaurs a few weeks ago, but they got a little scared by the big T-Rex and Triceratops, and I’d heard that alpacas are gentle, kind and very intelligent.
The farm makes a lovely day trip from Santiago, offering tours on a very casual basis. Send the owners a whatsapp and pop along. We got chatting to the founder, Maria Herlinda De La Garza and learnt a lot during our little wander around.
We saw two types of breeds – Huacayas which apparently make up 98% of the alpaca population and have wavy wool on their legs, neck and forehead, and Suris which, if it weren’t for the farms around the world breeding them, would be an endangered species. They’re just as beautiful, with a more dreadlocks look to them.
Apparently alpacas originate from Asia and date back over 10,000 years. Today, wild ones can be found across the Chilean and Peruvian Andes mountains.
There they live around eight years, but on the Quintessence farm, on a diet of almond shells and protected from the Andes’ harsh temperature changes, they live up to 25 years.
They’re only shaved once per year and give about two kilos of wool each. The natural fibres are incredibly insulating and unlike synthetics, they breathe. Head to the farm shop and you’ll see a range of gorgeous scarves, ponchos and formal jackets for sale.
And ohhh alpacas are so damn cute!
My eldest child suggested we take one back as a pet, but hey we have an apartment. And I’m not sure alpacas are allowed in the lift.
Need to know:
Bring snacks or a picnic. There isn’t a cafe on site so it’s a good idea to take some snacks if you have kids just in case. There is a very simple barbecue style restaurant nearby called Los Hornitos (about 7 minutes on Panamericana Norte heading back towards Santiago), but if you’re vegan or into fancy dining you’ll go hungry. I’m told the grilled meat is excellent, the staff were very friendly and my kids loved the chips, but it ain’t chic for sure.
Contact via Whatsapp. Some friends emailed and called the farm, but didn’t get a response, so it’s best to send a Whatsapp. It’s a very casual affair – when we turned up on a weekend (after confirming via Whatsapp) the gates were closed and we just let ourselves in.
Day trip only. The farm is big but the actual visitor area is quite small. This was perfect for our preschool age kids and an hour or so was plenty of time.
Hand sanitiser. The farm is very clean, but as I was with our then two week old child I was glad to have hand sanitiser at the ready. I couldn’t spot wash basins for hand washing.
No charge. When we visited the farm didn’t charge us to visit, and there was no pushy sales talk in the shop.
Getting there. There are very few signs to the actual farm and the road leading there is a fairly bumpy dirt track. Best leave the freshly washed Porsche at home and bring the mucky SUV instead.
Quintessence S.A. www.quintessencealpacas.com
Monday-Friday from10:00-13:00 and from 14:00-17:00; Saturdays and Sundays by appointment only.
Parcela 14 La Estancilla, Casilla 73, Llay Llay, V Región, Chile.
Whatsapp: +56 9 934 57300 or+56 9 836 11715.