September 1, 2009

Camping with llamas.

"A guide and four llamas would ferry us to and from our campsite, leaving us with two of the llamas to carry our packs on day hikes. Mark Pommier, our llama guide, showed us the saddles, lead lines and panniers, and the picket line for securing the llamas in camp. We practiced snapping buckles and tightening cinches. Mr. Pommier also gave us some insight into the llama psychology. Although they are fuzzy and adorable, batting their Tammy Faye eyelashes, they tend to be aloof — 'more like cats than dogs,' he said. But they’re hard-working and dependable, and would be easygoing companions on the trail."

I've never gone camping, and the idea of walking and camping has always been ruined by the thought of carrying heavy stuff. Getting an animal to carry everything seems like a great solution, but, of course, you have to relate to the animals and take good care of them. Are they really completely adorable? Hmmm....

The travel writer, Helen Olsson, went with her husband and 3 little kids into the San Jan Mountains near Silverton, Colorado, exactly where we were last month.
Bears tend to avoid campsites with llamas. When threatening wildlife approaches, llamas sound a piercing alarm cry.
And the mountain lions? When we saw a mountain lion around those parts, it had been eyeing some cattle. It might have liked llama.

And here's another thing:
Redwood Llamas... offers full-service pack trips that include guide, tents, llamas and meals for $4,000 for four people, four days, or $1,000 a person per day.
$1,000 a person per day? That's 4x what we spent in beautiful luxury at the Ritz-Carleton in Bachelor Gulch — with all the Colorado hiking and scenery during the day and dinner at Spago every night and room-service breakfast on a private balcony every morning.
Less costly is the drop-camp option: The guide leads you in and out; you bring gear and food. A three-day trip in July cost $1,075.
So, you get the equivalent of the hotel only — no food — for $358 a night. That's pretty close to the room rate in the summer at the Ritz-Carleton. And here's where we stayed in Silverton, at the Wyman Hotel, where we paid $183 per night for a very charming room that looked out over the street that is a national landmark.

So llamas are a luxury, a big luxury, even as you are roughing it. You've got to want to do it just as much as you'd like to stay at the Ritz. Your choice.

27 comments:

Hunter McDaniel said...

"That's 1/4 what we spent in beautiful luxury at the Ritz-Carleton in Bachelor Gulch"

Did you mean to say 4x instead of 1/4?

Trevor Jackson said...

My jaw dropped too, Hunter. I think the last paragraph clarifies. Althouse later says $358/night is the room rate.

Otherwise, $4k/day? There'd better be diamonds hidden in those room-service eggs.

Ann Althouse said...

Oops. Yeah. Sorry. Fixed.

Ann Althouse said...

There's probably a suite in that hotel that cost $4,000 a day.

Ann Althouse said...

The most I've ever spent on a hotel is $800... at the Savoy in London, with a view of the Thames. Very nice!

James said...

I've been hiking with llamas - annoying creatures. They were supposed to carry some of our gear, but they were useless. We carried more of their food than they did our gear. And they were stubborn cusses, too. Though that wasn't always a bad thing. When I wanted to take a break, others would cajole me into keep going (while I cursed them under what was left of my breath). But when the llamas wanted to stop, there was no changing their minds.

rhhardin said...

As an experienced summer-long camper as a kid, I'd recommend putting a pup tent in the backyard and sleeping there.

If you need anything, visit the kitchen.

Carrying stuff isn't the problem. Inconvenience is.

Trevor Jackson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

And if the guide gets you up to the site with all your stuff, then why do you need to keep llamas with you.

Seems like that part of it is mainly to entertain the children.

Trevor Jackson said...

There's probably a suite in that hotel that cost $4,000 a day.


I don't doubt it. Especially in the winter.

rhhardin said...

Camping with raccoons might have some interest.

Let each one carry a little gear for you in backpacks.

traditionalguy said...

But how many people will get exotic Llama vacation bragging rights at their Club? This is a high end product, and it would have little appeal if every one you know had done it too.

k*thy said...

Actually, if your were day hiking (which it sounds like you did), you don't have to carry a large load anywhere - and it might cost you all of maybe $10/night to car camp.

My guess is that folks who go this route may very well be more green-horns in the backcountry. As for myself, I've never gone the horse or llama (plus guide) route or backpacked with 3 kids, though can see the advantage.

AllenS said...

Llamas have a nasty habit of spitting. I brought a woman friend to the MN state fair one year, and at the outside horse barn, there were llamas and one of them spit a grass spitball at her forehead. Not cool.

Paddy O. said...

Maybe if this catches on this country will finally find a way to settle the great, empty West.

Men and women with loads on their back can only carry so much. Having a load bearing animal -- a "animal-pack" or "pack-animal" maybe--would allow for significantly more baggage.

Those South Americans are sure lucky to have such semi-docile creatures willing to carry stuff. I once saw a picture of a man on the back of one of those. Hilarious! Imagine riding an animal! Carries the stuff and saves you from foot blisters. Though I imagine it might get a little sore in a "sensitive" area. The ingenuity of people with money to spend never stops surprising me.

John Lynch said...

Llamas are camels, only with more hair. If you like camels, you'll love llamas.

tim maguire said...

I would probably rather hike with llamas than stay at the ritz, but I'm not paying five-star prices to sleep on the ground. Camping is cheap and if it's not, you're not doing it right.

Largo said...

fine for camping, great for golf, but never, ever, hire them as a film crew.

wv: necists -- incest with one's niece.

Who can resist that anagram! (Doh, just saw that I missed it by an 'e')

dbp said...

Backpacking is perfect for when you are in college: You are too poor to do much else and you are still young and strong/stupid enough to carry 80 lbs 15-20 miles per day.

Catherine Wilkinson said...

I prefer a mule. They stomp on snakes.

ironrailsironweights said...

Llamas are quite useful for guarding sheep flocks from coyotes and dogs.

Peter

The Drill SGT said...

well said DBP

Catherine, I was about to make the same point. When I was a lad, we took a week long hike out of the Tahoe basin using a mule into Desolation Valley. The mule was a pain in the Ass (pun planned), but it could carry a lot of stuff up a nasty 10 mile switchback

exhelodrvr1 said...

Don't llama farts contribute to global warming?

Ann Althouse said...

"Llamas are quite useful for guarding sheep flocks from coyotes and dogs."

We've seen a lot of that in the countryside around Madison. Guarding both sheep and goats. It's very cute.

traditionalguy said...

This is getting too cute. I suppose that eating roasted Llama Loins a no no by now.

Synova said...

We drove up through Silverton and Ouray the weekend before last and we got all the way up there (a friend moved to Telluride) before I started to think... hey, waitaminute... miner's shrine?

By the time we got to Ouray I'm like... dang, should have paid attention to the "make sure you see this" parts.

Course, I was driving on those roads and pretty much jelly, so...

(If I'd *not* been the one driving I'd have been way past "jelly" to "quivering puddle.")

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

First of all, llama is delicious; I ate it many times in upland Peru. That and guinea pig and old sheep, but this is a post about llamas ...

American llamas are much too pricey to eat, though I've occasionally considered poaching one for the freezer.

They're quite cranky, especially females, and most particularly when they're not quite ready to breed. Because they're camelids they females breed in the couchant position. Like the Sphinx.

The sex life of the camel, is stranger than you think.

One night in the African desert, he tried to screw the Sphinx.

But the Sphinx's posterior entry was clogged by the sands of the Nile.

Which accounts for the hump on the camel, and the Sphinx's inscrutable smile.
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Now to the arithmetic. The author, not Ann, got it wrong. $4000 for four people for four days is $250 per person-day, not $1000. Spendy for my tastes (unless I get to eat the llama) but not unreasonable as such things go. Definitely not a "high end" experience in the eco-tourism world.

And back off topic. If you ever have a chance to get to the Altiplano in Peru, DO it. When you're at 14,000 feet and a hundred miles from a town of any size ... the stars are fantastic. Put it on your 'To Do before I die' list.