Senior Spanish Alpaca Experience

WARNING - NO DRAMA LLAMAS HERE!

As part of the senior curriculum, students have been studying about the environment, in particular ecotourism, and the economic, environmental and social factors that influence decision making at the local, state and national level. They have also been learning about Spanish-speaking countries contribution to the world.

To further enhance students’ knowledge of ecotourism and the impact of the Spanish-speaking world, senior Spanish students had the opportunity to visit Mountview Alpaca Farm, on the fringe of Lamington National Park. At Mountview Alpaca Farm, they mix ecotourism values with Hispanic culture to create a relaxed experience for locals and international tourists alike.

Students attended a meet and greet with an alpaca 'in training' to visit aged care homes in the future, whilst listening to a very knowledge guide on all things alpaca. We learnt that alpacas are native to South America and are predominantly located in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Chile. For over 9000 years alpacas have played an important role in the survival and economy of the Andean people in South America. The value of the alpaca and the llama was recognised as early as the 14th century, when the Incas used the alpacas and llamas for food, fuel, clothing, transportation and religious ceremony. Alpacas were considered so important to the survival of the indigenous people that they were tightly controlled by the government and Incan royalty. Their fleece was renowned as the 'Fibre of the Gods'. The decline of alpacas began in 1532 when the Spanish invaded South America and the alpaca population was pushed towards the Andes. Sadly, 98% were killed by the Spanish conquistadors. Whatever alpacas and llamas remained were left to interbreed and over time they changed from a single-coated animal to the two-coated animal of today. Just like their llama cousins, the average lifespan of an alpaca is twenty years. Some interesting facts are that alpaca fibre has a naturally wonderful handle, a soft and comforting feel that you can wear next to your skin. Alpaca is warmer and stronger than the fibre of other mammals, is light weight and quite water resistant. Lastly, alpacas are blessed with fluffy, soft fleece while llamas tend to have longer, shaggier fleece.

Our College students spent their time walking, laughing, taking photos with, and feeding a colourful group of alpacas, as well as having a Spanish inspired pizza lunch, taking in the views of the Gold Coast hinterland.

On 2 November, the Year 10 and Year 11 Spanish classes ventured off to Mountview Alpaca Farm. We started off with a quick introduction before meeting our new alpaca friends. Our alpaca, Peaches, was a stubborn but gentle cria (baby alpaca), who seemed more interested in the grass than us, ha-ha. We learnt the history of alpacas, including how valuable their fleece is and how they nearly experienced extinction by the Spanish conquistadors. Our knowledgeable tour guide taught us that they come in 22 colours and are closely related to the camel and the llama. We are so grateful to have had this fantastic opportunity to learn about these amazingly soft pack animals and we must not forget the incredible gourmet pizza. We had so much fun visiting a site of local tourism and it’s a memory we will cherish forever. – Zoe Clacher & Isabelle Doo, Year 10 students

The Spanish alpaca excursion, which we were fortunate enough to take part in, was a wonderful and unique experience that I will remember for a very long time. It was extremely exciting to be able to walk, feed and spend time with these incredible animals, that we would not usually see in our everyday lives. – Marissa Dirkx, Year 11 student

I would like to express my wholehearted thanks to Mountview Alpaca Farm and O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat for having us. Many thanks also to our College Senior Leadership Team for supporting the event, along with the Languages Faculty, in particular Mrs Ursula Lindeberg for joining us on this special excursion.

Michelle Barriga | Languages Teacher