TAMBORINE MOUNTAIN STORIES give you an insight into many of the local businesses and characters you will find when you Escape to Tamborine Mountain.
MOUNTVIEW ALPACA FARM
ALPACA YOUR BAGS
We’ve talked about the local wine scene here before, but it’s not often you expect to share that experience with a furry friend. Hence, I was quite eager to talk with Shania Pack, manager of the family-run Mountview Alpaca Farm situated in O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyard, to learn more about this fascinating and fluffy arrangement.
by Kyle Hitchmough
Were your family the original owners of the property?
We’ve only been here at this new location for about two years in total and functioning properly for about 18 months. Before that we were previously at the top of Lamington National Park Road, at the top of the mountain. We weren’t the first owners, we took over it from someone else.
What spurred the relocation?
Cyclone Debbie hit. Even though the cyclone didn’t hit us, we got an incredible amount of rain and there were some pretty horrific landslides up the mountain at Lamington National Park and the road was closed for some time—and that was not the first cyclone to occur. So, we decided it was a better idea for the business to be somewhere else.
Why did you choose this particular location, the vineyard? What’s the relationship you have with them?
The O’Reilly’s and the people that run the vineyard here, they’re really good people—they offered us an opportunity to come here and to be a part of this which has benefitted both businesses quite well.
Why an alpaca farm? What gets you started in a business like this?
I think it’s just something else, something interesting. You’re not stuck at a desk, you get to see how such an interesting animal affects other people. We take the alpacas out to hospitals as therapy animals. It’s great to see people thoroughly enjoying themselves. Someone seeing an alpaca for the first time, that’s a really cool thing to see.
You also offer a combined alpaca walk and eatery experience. Did that come from the partnership with the winery?
Yes. We didn’t have that to begin with, we just had our alpacas—you could feed them and walk one, but then it grew from there. You can buy the picnic baskets and things like that from O’Reilly’s, and it just made sense to put the two together. It’s very popular—we have bookings every day, people are constantly coming through and wanting to try it. Having a picnic with an alpaca, it’s not very often you can say that.
What goes into the day-to-day of managing a place like this?
Obviously the first thing, before anything else, is looking after the animals, making sure they’re healthy and that they’re being looked after by the customers. You have to keep an eye out on how people are treating the animals, keep them watered and fed and make sure they’re looking good every day. Then you’ve got to run the part of the business where people are coming to see you, managing bookings, who’s working when, all that type of stuff.
Obviously, this is a very unique business to get into. What might people not expect about alpaca farming?
I think the biggest thing for people is not expecting the different personalities the alpacas have. They’re seen as more of a paddock animal like cows and horses. People who aren’t so used to being around animals like that may not know that they are individual. They do have really huge personalities: every single alpaca is different in their own way, and you have to explain that to people. Then they come back and say “You’re right, they’re so different from each other”, and it’s true! They’re like people. Some are short, some are tall, some have funny-looking noses: they’re all different.
Do you find you get a certain kind of clientele more often than not?
Of course we have tourists come all the time. We get buses full of people from other countries or other places in Australia but, believe it or not, we also have regulars— Some locals, some who aren’t local. We have one fellow who comes regularly all the way from the Sunshine Coast. We have businesses, people that care for the disabled or the elderly, they come out all the time. We get all sorts of people out here, alpaca walking is for everyone. You get toddlers, teenagers, the young twenty-somethings who like to get Instagram photos, and then the elderly want to relax with an alpaca. It is for everyone. We do certainly deal with tourists more than anyone else. Canungra is very reliant on tourism, and tourism is such a lively thing in Australia in general.
What do you enjoy most about working here?
The alpacas are just the coolest animals. I enjoy this job for many reasons. Not only am I helping support myself and my family, but just being around the animals… sometimes I might be having a bit of a bad morning, I’ll come in to work and just give Pancake a hug, hang out with him for a little bit before starting, and it does make you feel good. Then you’ve get to see people’s expressions when they meet the alpacas for the first time. I had one girl once, I’ll never forget it. Her mother said to me, she’s never touched an animal her whole life. Not even a dog, or a cat. She’s terrified. She was autistic, she was struggling, but within half an hour she was patting the alpaca and she was just the happiest ever. She had this huge smile across her face, her mum thanked me with tears in her eyes and it was such a cool moment to be part of that experience.
852 Lamington National Park Rd, Canungra QLD 4275. (Inside O’Reilly’s Vineyard)
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