Take a stroll along the Sandias with Llamas del Sol - Albuquerque Journal

Take a stroll along the Sandias with Llamas del Sol

Llama walking treks can range anywhere from two-to-four hours long and take place on the Guadalupe Trail acequia, Rio Grande Bosque and Sandia Mountains. (Courtesy of Lynda Liptak)

If you’re looking for an outside-the-box activity that involves both animals and outdoor exercise, Llamas del Sol has just the thing for you.

The organization, which was founded by Lynda Liptak, was initially launched with the intention of rescuing llamas for future adoption while also educating the public about the animals through meet-and-greets on a small farm in the Rio Grande Valley. While that mission remains ongoing, another available option offers the opportunity to meet the animals through llama treks.

These treks can range anywhere from two-to-four hours long and take place on the Guadalupe Trail acequia, Rio Grande Bosque and Sandia Mountains. The options vary in degree of difficulty — the Sandia trail is the most challenging — and range in price from $65 to $120 for adults and $30 to $60 for children ages 3 to 12. The treks can be customized to suit the needs and abilities of the participant

“The purpose of it is to get to know (the llamas), not just in a field, but to go with them, to lead them,” Liptak said.

The term “lead” is key with the llama trek, as visitors do not ride the animals during the journey.

“I get that question a lot, ‘Can I ride them?’ They are companions, and they will carry your load for you, but not you,” Liptak said.

One of the llamas at Llamas del Sol. (Courtesy of Lynda Liptak)

They don’t do all your work for you, but they will share your burden by carrying items you might have.

Llamas are domesticated members of the camelid family —which also includes camels and alpacas — and were imported to the United States and Canada from South America in the late 20th century. Llamas are social creatures by nature, and they tend to have a wide range of personality types. Some even hum and are quite vocal.

A person’s initial exposure to a llama tends to be a revelatory experience.

“A lot of people are like, ‘Wow, I had no idea I’d enjoy them that much,’ … they’re so gentle and sweet,” Liptak said. “I think another (surprising fact) is also how bonded they are. They’re individual personalities. People notice that, but also that they’re like a bonded family. The llamas are looking out for each other. A really strong awareness I get from people is how alert they are. They’re very much aware of their surroundings and always looking at everything that’s coming at them.”

Prior to the trek, an approximately 30-minute meet-and-greet is scheduled with the llamas and their potential trailmates. During these sessions, Liptak assesses not only the physical fitness and hiking aptitude of each participant, but also their compatibility with the animals.

“I kind of look to see who’s attracted to who,” she said. “Some llamas are more curious about some people. You can just tell, ‘Oh there’s a match, they’re gonna love walking with each other.’ ”

The orientation also provides the chance to debunk some misconceptions about the llamas, namely that they have a penchant for spitting in the direction of strangers. Those instances generally only occur in extreme circumstances, such as in a situation where self-defense is required.

“The orientation is pretty informal,” Liptak said. “But mostly it’s getting people, especially if they’ve never been around llamas, getting them comfortable so they’re not worried about being spit on, that their size isn’t too unwieldy. Some people are hesitant at first. Kids come and you just want to make sure that everybody is at ease before going out on the trail.”

Liptak schedules the treks by appointment only and can be available on both weekdays and weekends, though much depends on how busy she is with llama rescues. Though she has several volunteers, Liptak is currently the only trek guide. The trips also follow COVID-19 safety protocol upon request.

“We’ve all had our vaccines, so I’m comfortable being outside with masks off and if my guests are comfortable with masks off outside, that’s what we do,” Liptak said. “If they are not comfortable, because I have had guests who are immunocompromised, then I just keep my mask on. And I keep hand sanitizer on hand all the time. We keep our hands clean.”

Online: llamasdelsol.com

 


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