A visit to the Alpaca Loom in Paarl

Home of the much fluffier hornless cousin of the unicorn

If you're South African and unable to fulfil your dream of seeing South America right now because of COVID-19-related travel restrictions, the Alpaca Loom Coffee Shop and Weaving Studio in Paarl may be the next best thing! Okay, they don't have Machu Picchu, a Rio Carnival or any Bolivian salt flats for those forced-perspective photos that everyone takes, but they have alpacas! And alpacas are awesome! 

As international travel is not really currently an option, the lower lockdown restrictions mean that there's nothing stopping those of us with wanderlust from exploring our own backyards. While technically I visited the farm just before lockdown, located close to Cape Town, with plenty to see and do outdoors, the Alpaca loom makes for a great well-ventilated social-distancing day trip. 

I really thought we had enough wildlife in South Africa and didn't understand why we would bother to import more. After my experience, it all makes sense now. 

A visit to the Alpaca Loom

Located on a large piece of ground in Paarl, the Alpaca Loom is a farm full of alpacas that are bred for their wool (and a couple of llamas and camels too). The farm is also home to a petting zoo, a weaving studio, a coffee shop with a great view and a gift shop where they sell alpaca wool products and other souvenirs.


Reasons why you should go to the Alpaca Loom:

1. You can meet the alpacas.

2. You can learn the difference between an alpaca and a llama …and then continue referring to them all as ‘llamas’.

Llama vs. Alpaca
  
3. You can make numerous references to Napoleon Dynamite.
“Tina, you fat lard, come get some dinner!”



4. For a fee, you can go on a tour of the nursery (as we did) and lose your minds over the babies! 

Baby alpaca / Cria
Aww!

5. You can also go on a guided walk of the farm (accompanied by both two-legged and four-legged guides) which are usually scheduled twice a day.  

6. If you're like me, you can take a Lla- Alpaca Selfie to go with your Dassie Selfie, Lion Selfie and #turtleselfie

Lion, Dassie and Turtle selfies
Dassie Selfie       -       Lion Selfie       -       Turtle Selfie


(I think my animal selfie skills are improving.)

7. Even if you don't go on a barn tour or guided walk, you can buy llama food and feed the llam- alpacas. (When I visited, it was only R20.)

8. You can shop for scarves, shawls, blankets, rugs and other souvenirs made with alpaca wool that has been sheered, spun and woven on-site, in all its original natural colours. 


Alpaca loom store

(Sadly, this may be the only way a hot Latino is going to keep you warm for the time being.)  

9. You can take in the pretty views. Paarl is very scenic. 

10. You can eat cake and drink hot chocolate at the coffee shop while watching the alpacas spit on foreign tourists. (Well, maybe not right now, but when I went before lockdown you could. And, no, you really cannot overestimate just how entertaining this can be.) 


Alpaca Loom Coffee Shop


Things I learnt:

1. The people at the loom shave the Alpacas in September so if you want to see fluffy ones go in August and if you want to see super awkward-looking alpacas with skinny shaved bodies and fluffy pompom heads, I’ll see you there in October. (Now's the time!)

2. They’re pregnant for a year and are most fertile 2 weeks after delivering a baby. - That’s a lot of procreating!

3. A baby alpaca is called a 'cria'. 

Cria at Alpaca Loom

4. They all poop in a designated toilet area. The dung piles can be spotted by the long grass in that area because they’re smart enough to know not to poop where they eat. 

5. If you get attached to an alpaca, you can buy one as a pet! It’ll set you back between R5 500 and R12 000 (or more) but then some dog breeds cost roughly the same. And they’re even slightly fluffier than Labradoodles!

Nursery at Alpaca Loom
 
6. They’re protective. If you have enough property you can get a guard-alpaca! They might not protect you but they’ll protect other animals anyway. 

7. If you don’t quite have enough space (after all, property in Cape Town is expensive), you can rent one! True story. If you need to hire an alpaca, llama or dromedary for a film shoot or a special event like (as their website suggests) “a birthday party or wedding” they can hook you up! Who wouldn’t want an alpaca at their wedding? Who? Confetti and rice are so overrated, now you can be showered with alpaca spit on your special day. Think of the photos!


Other stuff I learnt about them on the internet:

1. Alpaca wool is water and flame resistant and hypoallergenic.

2. They can be used as therapy animals. (I think I could do with a comfort alpaca right now.)

3. They are pretty hardy creatures with some intense antibodies and since they rarely get cancer, research is underway to see if they can treat it. 

4. Alpacas and llamas can successfully cross-breed. I know what you're thinking: "So a 'Llapaca' is not just a word you use when you start referring to an alpaca as a llama and then correct yourself halfway?" I thought that too, but we are both wrong. A cross between an alpaca and a llama is actually referred to as a 'huarizo'.  

Alpaca Loom Paarl

How to get there:

The Alpaca Loom is in Paarl which is about 45 minutes away from Cape Town (or an hour if you drive like me). If you're not from Cape Town, the best way to get there would be by Uber or rental car. (Public transport isn't really a thing here.) 

Address: Suid-Agter-Paarl Rd, Southern Paarl, 7624.

More info about opening times, tour times, prices and directions can be found on their website. (I'd post it here but it's 2020 so things are more subject to change than usual.)


While you’re in the area:

The Spice Route is right next door.  Despite its name, it's not really a route at all, it's more a centre where different artisanal stores and restaurants sell their products. 

The Spice Route, Paarl

Being in the Winelands, it's a great place to sample wine. You can also enjoy craft beer, gin and artisanal chocolate, or shop for glassware and hand-crafted decor. 


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A visit to Cape Town's alpaca farm

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Welcome to the Sharonicles


The Sharonicles is a travel humour blog by a South African travel writer. With six years of experience as a cruise ship crew member, her travels on ships and on land have taken her to 57 countries on five different continents.  She photographs a plastic flamingo called 'Rodrigo' on her adventures because it seemed like a good idea ten years ago and it’s probably too late to turn back now. She also likes unicorns, carbs and referring to herself in third-person.

Here she shares advice, opinions and anecdotes revealing the funny side of travel from her experiences. 

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