Monday, 20 June 2011


Well apart from the welcome rain - which would be even more welcome if it came at night - nothing much is happening at the moment.  All the cria and kids seem to be OK and have been updated with their vaccinations.  

We  are really looking forward to the rest of the cria for this year being born and it has made us realise how far we have come in a short time and how our herd has improved and changed.

Whilst sorting the filing cabinet, a long overdue job which is not yet complete, I came across the details of our buying trip to Chile which emphasised the point even more.  I expect I sent it to some of you at the time, but it might still be of interest.  This is the story of our most expensive holiday ever.

"Well we actually did it!!!

As usual our timing was poor.   We moved house the week before flying to Chile.  Managed to get more or less straight and even wash and iron enough clothes to take with us.

Luckily I looked at the e-ticket and found out that we were flying on Tuesday and not Wednesday.  Bit of a rush to the outdoor shop for hiking boots and warm jackets.

We left home (in Somerset) at about 9 a.m. delivered mother and six dogs to their holiday destinations, had a pub lunch on the way to Heathrow and arrived far too early for our flight.  Probably better than the usual Geraldine-time where you have to run to get to the boarding gate just as it is closing.

Departed Heathrow at 17.35 Tuesday and arrived Santiago (via connecting flight from Madrid) at 7.40 a.m. local time on Wednesday -  they are five hours behind us.

Our agent met us at the airport and we went back to his apartment for a shower and rest prior to flying to Arica in the north of Chile - a 3 hour flight.   We then picked up a 4 x 4 - actually I think we should have had a tracked vehicle, given the terrain we had to cover driving on the Alti Plano, where roads were mainly dirt tracks.  You could see another vehicle coming miles away by its dust storm.  That, however, was a rare sight as there were not many other drivers.

Geoff, our agent, had arranged to see alpacas owned by three Indian farmers and during the day we called on others to arrange to see their animals the next day.   The drill was that we arrive, meet and greet, and the Aymaras disappear for about an hour and mooch back with 50 - 100 alpacas.   They herd them into enclosures of dry stone walls and we select the ones we want to buy.   This was a bit scary, but Geoff was very helpful and we soon gained more confidence.   There were a lot of frogs, but I think we selected mostly princes.   We would point to the one we wanted to see and the farmer would either catch or lassoo the animal.  If we decided to buy and Geoff agreed we had selected well, he would eartag, microchip and photgraph the chosen animal.

 The Indians only speak Spanish or their native tongue, so conversation was a bit limited but they appreciated our efforts I think.   We were invited for coffee in one Indian home and I offered to help Carmen, but apparently I asked to go to the toilet.   This caused a lot of amusement.

Over three days we selected 15 alpacas  including what I hope will be an excellent Light Brown stud.   I saw a fabulous white Macho as they call the males, but could not afford him.  Maybe next time!!

Geoff was also selecting for other clients and as his normal assistant was not able to come, we helped as much as we could.   Unfortunately on the last day Mike woke up with a bad nose bleed and had another one later so he had to stay in the vehicle.   We drove to Arica after the day's work and he had the worst nose bleed I have ever seen just as we arrived at the hotel. It was a lucky day for the porter, though.   I was busy trying to cope with registering at the hotel, which involves passports and form filling, worried about Mike and wondering if I should try and get a doctor.   the porter was quite concerned, but also hovering for his tip.  In my haste and without my glasses, I selected a $20 bill.   Normal tip would be 500 pesos - about 0.50$ - still I am sure he enjoyed spending it.

Luckily after a rest and a bath Mike was back to normal and we went out for a meal with Geoff at about 11 p.m.  It was a fabulous restaurant overlooking the crashing waves of the ocean which were dramatically visible through the huge windows.  We finished our meal feeling human again at 1.20 a.m. when we finally took the hints of the restaurant staff and left.

Next day we flew back to Santiago where Geoff took us to an excellent hotel and we parted company.   We agreed to meet up later in the week so that we could receive a CD with pictures of the alpacas we had selected.

We had a private tour of Santiago the next day.  Our guide, Carlos, was great and even made a special trip back to the hotel to return my phone which I had managed to leave in the taxi.   The following day we went shopping (clothes are very cheap) and spent time relaxing in the main square.   Had to have pasta for lunch as I could not understand the menu - even with my phrase book.  I am pretty sure that Conger Eel stew was being offered.   We sat outside, but the clientele inside were watching a bull fight on the TV.

In the evening Geoff and his wife took us to a great seafood restaurant.   They were both charming and it made a lovely end to our stay. 

We had a long and uncomfortable flight and were relieved to arrive at Heathrow finally.   We were ready for another pub lunch on the way home as our last meal was breakfast on the plane from Santiago to Madrid.

The trip was definitely not for the faint hearted, but it was a great experience.   The Chilean people are really friendly and helpful, and we felt very safe all the time we were there."

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