Our tame and very friendly llamas never fail to provide a memorable outing for the family. The woods and sunny slopes of Monte Comino are home to a group of the cutest, wooly llamas. Trekking with them is more than just a hike, it’s an experience you won't forget.
“It all started here, on Monte Comino. We wanted to give a boost to agriculture on the mountain and preserve the beautiful dry meadows, under threat from the continual expansion of the woods. The only way we could do that was to start an agricultural business but it was hard to agree on what animals to have on the farm. We discovered llamas through trekking with our grandchildren.”
At an altitude of 1,200 metres and six minutes from Verdasio by cable car, Monte Comino is bathed in sunlight from the morning. The dawn tranquillity suffuses the woods surrounding the meadows, but the silence is different to the absolute quiet of an urban Sunday as it comes with the “white noise” of the sounds from the forest emanating from the shadows of its ancient trees. The rustle of the wind caresses the grass along the path, dotted with flowers along the way. Many types of animals and plants live in the grassland and pastures. There are about 1,700 types of plant, two thirds of the plant species found in Switzerland, 37% of which are rare or under threat. That is the little piece of paradise where Marisa and Jean-Pierre Bäschlin chose to launch their agricultural business, which was soon to become an agro-tourism centre. The llamas fit perfectly with their surroundings: they don't damage the soil, they don't drink much or make a lot of noise. Furthermore, plants, flowers and aromatic herbs are their ideal diet.
Llamas have a strong sense of hierarchy. For example, Lamir and Zlatan want to be leaders, while others prefer to be lower down the hierarchy so they don't have to take responsibility. They always follow the leader so they must always be led when trekking, even by children. They know the route and their agility is heartening for their fellow hikers.
There are about twenty llamas living on the farm, including three that were born recently and two slightly bolshy alpacas. Lamir is the leader, even if Zlatan, his second in command, has been trying in vain to take his place for some time. The males are best suited to the hikes as they are more docile and have more stamina. Monte Comino has three routes of varying levels of difficulty: the initiation for small children and people who aren’t used to hiking, the half-day mountain tour and a trek to the summit of the mountain (one-day hike). The llamas love a snack and they can't resist a nibble of their favourite flowers or bush. It is their uniqueness that makes a llama-assisted hike so appealing on an emotional level.
It’s hard to say goodbye to the llamas, especially for young children, but the memory of their fortitude walking beside us lasts a lifetime. And if you would like a more tangible souvenir, you can buy a woollen quilt to remind you throughout the winter of your wonderful hike and the scent of wild flowers.
Did you know?
Llama wool comes in 22 different natural shades. It’s light and warm, free of lanolin and hypoallergenic. It is seen as a luxury fibre in the textiles market. The Monte Comino llamas are sheared once a year.