Arena Redaktion, 15.06.2023

Cuddly companions

Llama hiking in the Tiroler Zugspitz Arena

Heidi Hofherr-Kuprian organises something a little off the beaten track in Biberwier: hiking trips accompanied by llamas. Here, she tells us why many people are wrong about these lovely animals, and recounts some of the wonderful things she’s experienced with them.

Heidi, what gave you the idea of organising llama hikes in the Tiroler Zugspitz Arena?
Heidi Hofherr-Kuprian: To tell you the truth, it was a gut feeling. My husband kept llamas at the time I first met him. There’s lots of potential for hiking trips in the region, and we’re often out and about ourselves, so we decided to combine this with our love of the animals. We’ve now been organising our llama hikes for over ten years, and we also work together with hotels in the area.
What makes these four-legged companions special?
Heidi Hofherr-Kuprian: Llamas are very undemanding animals with mild manners. They also have a strong character, are calm by nature, and are generally well-adjusted creatures. Humans could do well to learn something from them, especially in these fast-moving times, when we all really need to shift down a gear.
Heidi Hofherr-Kuprian
Where do you go with your guests on llama hikes?
Heidi Hofherr-Kuprian: We often head towards the Loisach springs or the Mittersee lake, or we may just set off into nearby woodlands. The routes our hikes take are guided by the people who go on them. If there are lots of small children, for example, it’s easier on the woodland paths. We – and our llamas – are very flexible about this.
You mention young children. Are there any restrictions on who can go on your llama hikes?
Heidi Hofherr-Kuprian: No, everyone who wants to join us is welcome to do so. We take groups of all ages, from small children to pensioners and everything in between. We also, to give you an example, have a boy in a wheelchair who comes along with us and the llamas three times a year. A physical disability is no restriction at all.
So what can you expect from a hike with you and your llamas?
Heidi Hofherr-Kuprian: First of all, we get to know each other, which I think is really important. I explain everything, while the llamas and hikers have a chance to get acquainted. Our llamas are very trusting and quickly get used to new people. After that, each of our eight llamas is given a human partner who will guide the animal on a lead during the hike. Children, especially, often use two leads so they’re not knocked over if the llamas pull away, for example when they see fresh grass in the meadow. Our llama hikes usually take around one and a half hours.
How should hikers prepare themselves?
Heidi Hofherr-Kuprian: Most important is that they wear sturdy shoes. It doesn’t matter what else they wear, but sandals are definitely not a good idea (laughs). That’s not just because of the trails – although you should always have the right shoes on when embarking on a trip in mountainous terrain. Another thing that can happen is that one of the llamas may get scared and accidentally step on your foot. A llama isn’t as heavy as a horse and its hoof isn’t as hard as a horse’s, but it’s still not pleasant!
Has anything really memorable ever happened to you on one of your llama hikes?
Heidi Hofherr-Kuprian: Several times, actually. I mentioned the boy in the wheelchair. He’s severely disabled and can sadly neither walk nor speak. Sometimes he even has difficulty feeding himself. But when he visits us, he’s always incredibly happy to be with the llamas. His eyes sparkle and his joy is truly palpable. Even though he cannot properly express himself, at times like this you understand him completely. It gives me goose pimples. I love thinking back on these moments, and I’m always happy when I know he’s coming to visit us again soon.
One final question: why should everyone go on at least one llama hike in their lives?
Heidi Hofherr-Kuprian: I recommend hiking with llamas at least once because it’s an opportunity to truly forget about everything for a while and simply enjoy nature and wildlife. Our hikes are also a good way of showing that the commonly held belief that llamas are unpleasant and always spitting is simply untrue. On the contrary, our animals are better behaved on their leads than some dogs. And – I say this without any bias – they’re the sweetest creatures on earth!
Fernpassstraße 69 | 6633 Biberwier
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