Susan Reynolds knows the names of every single one of her 75 alpacas on her Crookwell farm.
“It’s like having an extended family, or just a lot of cousins,” she says.
Such is her love for alpacas, Susan welcomes guests on Airbnb to stay on her farm – situated just under three hours drive from Sydney. She even encourages them to learn and immerse themselves with the animals during the stay.
“Every person that leaves here will become Australian alpaca ambassadors. When you meet them, you will fall in love with their eyes and individual nature and quirkiness,” she says.
The story of Susan and her alpacas began some about 17 years ago when she swapped Sydney for the country; in her case, a 100-acre farm in the Southern Tablelands. Alpacas were the natural fit for Susan’s sustainability values.
“I wanted to have stock that I did not have to send off to market or to slaughter. Alpacas are primarily fibre animals (with the fibre made into clothing such as socks and scarves),” she says.
Alpacas, originally from South America (mainly Peru and Chile) were mass introduced into Australia in the 1980s and Susan says they are perfect for the Australian climate.
“I wanted an animal that was going to be good for our environment…They are light grazers, don’t foul water and they have communal latrines that enrich the soil. By farming them, you are actually improving the outcome of your sustainable farming because of the natural fertilizers you get from them,” she says.
After starting at Taylors Flat with three alpacas and only armed with knowledge from Google and the Department of Primary Industries, her farm (and the industry) quickly grew. Susan says she fell in love with Crookwell as she has to drive through the town to get to her farm. So after eight years, she moved (along with her alpacas) to a more manageable 52-acres at Crookwell.
“To come into a community that is welcoming – the people here have a great sense of community,” she says. “They are only too pleased to help and to extend any assistance.”
She says her tree change was also to escape Sydney’s traffic and smog. It is the idea of escaping the tenseness of the “big smoke” that Susan passes on to her Airbnb guests. This begins with a cup of tea on their arrival to Crookwell.
“I ask them if they want to walk around the farm. Then they start to relax and by the time they leave here, they are different people. Their shoulders are down, they’re relaxed, they joke more and they are more balanced people,” she says.
“Unless you get out of Sydney, you don’t have the opportunity to stop, pause and appreciate nature. The alpacas are a big part of that too.”
While they still remain much of an enigma in Australia, the Australian alpaca industry is booming. There are an estimated 200,000 registered alpacas in the country, but the industry estimates there could be as many as half a million animals in Australia. We also have the finest alpaca fibre products in the world, says Susan. She farms her alpacas for locally-made clothing such as socks, scarves and dog jackets.
As you’re enjoying the delicious home-cooked breakfast in her light-filled dining room, guests will spot the “old girls” strolling over the hills, through the paddocks and towards the house. Their swan-like bodies move surprisingly gracefully as they form an orderly queue.
If they are keen, guests can then join in on the alpaca feeding process as Susan explains every single detail of the creatures. They are extremely passive animals (but might jostle over the feed on offer).
“People do hand feeding. They’re surrounded by 30 to 40 alpacas and they can observe them so close. They don’t have any opportunity to do this at any other place. I can’t think of anywhere you can,” she says.
“None of these girls are going to hurt you at all. There’ll be a little bit of argy-bargy between them in terms of pecking order but that’s about all.”
While she enjoys hosting and passing on her love of alpacas, welcoming Airbnb guests also gives Susan plenty of enjoyment.
“I got involved primarily because it provided a little more income and it also gave me an opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life. From overseas visitors to Australians and everything in between,” she says.
“I found it very very rewarding in a number of areas. I’ve learnt so much from overseas tourists who’ve stayed from me, and a lot about tourists in Australia.”
As guests walk through Susan’s farm, through the various paddocks that house the alpacas (including “the teenage retreat” and “geriatric pen”), huge rows of fenced off land come into view.
This is where Susan has marked out wildlife conservation areas which are protected and will eventually bring back the original ecosystem onto the property.
“This is what will be my legacy here.”
Our host’s guide to Crookwell and the surrounding region
Lindner Quality Socks – The Lindners have been making socks since the 18th century and current owner Andrew Lindner still uses some of the original machines shipped over by his parents from Germany. Using locally-sourced merino and alpaca wool, they make around 10,000 socks each year.
Arcadia Crookwell – Situated in the heart of Crookwell, Arcadia offers a variety of permanent pop-up stores situated under the one heritage roof. You can find antiques, clothing, jewellery and more.
Crown Theatre Cafe – Formerly a theatre in its heyday, it has now been restored as a restaurant with even a three-storey play area for kids.
Potato Festival – Potatoes have been grown in the district for more than 150 years, with the annual Potato Festival held every May.
Argyle Inn – Taralga is one of the oldest rural settlements in NSW and the Argyle Inn has been beautifully restored. Stay in one of the boutique rooms and pull up a seat at the bar. The food is simple but delicious fare, with produce sourced from the Inn owners’ farm and other local producers.
Taralga Wildlife Park – Not like your regular zoo, but this wildlife park offers an intimate experience with a number of exotic and farm animals.
Words Kevin Cheng
Photography Jiwon Kim
All homes referenced in this post are intended purely to inspire and illustrate. Airbnb does not recommend or endorse these home listings or any other homes on the Airbnb platform.