Paul knows how to break women’s hearts. The alpaca man has bushy eyes, mischievous looks, and brown fur with curls that feel as soft as a giant stuffed animal.
Together with his four companions and the Brown family who owns it, he goes for a short walk through Fützen, a district of Blumberg am Randen, a few meters from the B 314 between Stühlingen and Tengen.
Spring came on this day, everywhere white trees in bloom litter the green meadows. In the distance are the filigree bridges of Sauschwänzlebahn.
Petra Brown and her husband Martin, with their children Max, 25, Hans, 23 and Lily, 13, lead the five alpacas first on a short ropes trail.
Then it passes through a meadow where the animals enthusiastically pounce on the green clover. You should not be in a hurry on this trip. “Hiking with the alpacas really slows things down,” says mum Petra Brown.
Petra Brown, 54, and her husband Martin, 51, fell in love with an alpaca in 2010 when they saw a romance on TV that involved an alpaca.
“Man, these are wonderful animals,” the couple said. They did some research, but the first alpaca didn’t move to Fützen until 2018.
Meanwhile, the family owns five lovely animals: the shy Paul, the adorable Fritz, the rascal Tony, and the shy Emile, who always brings up the ass, and Eramus, the sunshine – that’s how Petra Braun presents her animals.
It is a purely male group, with females beginning to flirt and argue right away.
For small or large groups of about three hours, book an alpaca picnic with Brauns. Of course, someone from the family always goes with them to make sure that the hikers treat the alpacas well.
Her relaxed style is infectious: “You always have to laugh when you look at her,” says Petra Brown, “After the stroll, all the guests have smiles on their faces.”
The alpaca is a species of camel originally domesticated from the Andes. They are prey animals and do not like to be touched. Therefore, guests are meticulously orientated before the outing.
So dogs have to stay in the house because they scare the cute animals. “Always drive the alpaca to your right, they’re used to it,” advises Petra Brown.
Animals determine the speed
Walking around Fützen is subject to the pace of the alpaca. You decide when to stop and when to continue at your preferred pace.
While everyone is staring at their smartphone and rushing from one date to the next, there are beautiful animals roaming the landscapes that seem to have all the time in the world. “Guests really come here,” says Petra Brown, laughing.
She knows all about the members of her lavish family: the young ones, also known as foals or cresses, are always born in the Andes at noon to dry out until the next freezing night.
They prefer to eat hay and grass and need a lot of space. To be cut in May and after that it is only half its width. And they give people peace of mind, which many today urgently need.
Walking with animals seems to be a trend that no region can afford to ignore anymore. You can hike with donkeys, sheep or alpacas, just stay on the road for a few hours or cross the Sevin River with a donkey.
There are also performances at the “Eselhof” in Lenzkirch-Kappel as well as the “sheep flight” in Steinen im Wiesental.
Hiking with sheep in Wiesental
Uwe Braun affectionately calls his sheep “Schöfle” in the local Steinem dialect, and offers half-day or day introductory tours for children, adults or people with disabilities.
Animal Fan, who also runs Animal Table in the Lörrach district, offers hiking trips in order to offset the costs of keeping a few of his 30 sheep, six llamas, and four donkeys.
Where does this tendency to take nature under one’s feet with four-legged companions come from? “A lot of people want to go back to nature,” he says. Many families love animals, but they have neither the money nor the time to take care of their small zoo on a permanent basis.
The alpacas should take care to meet them
Basel psychologist Karin Heidegger, who deals with animal-assisted interventions at the university, says pastime excursions with animals are still under-researched.
The Corona pandemic has shown that dealing with animals can reduce people’s stress and can compensate for the lack of social contacts.
She says animal-human meetings work best with pets who “enjoy interacting with humans and like to connect with us.” It is also important for the animal to withdraw if it does not feel it, giving interested parties on the way.
“Hiking is a unique experience,” she asserts. Don’t expect much from this. But of course, “such a hike is a wonderful experience that can be very beautiful,” says the Basel expert.
In Bloomberg, the little hiking tour with Paul and his buddies is now over. He goes to the pastures, the pace of beautiful animals accelerates. When Petra Brown and her husband open the gate and loosen the halter, the alpacas really do step on the gas and leap into the meadow.
In one place there is a small excrement. One by one, the alpacas headed towards them and rolled happily in the dust. Paul, my shy heart, joyfully extends his hind legs in the air. Life can be beautiful sometimes.