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A tree in every garden, an alpaca on every walk

19:03 20/08/2020

Bruges is certainly finding novel ways to bring down its citizens’ blood pressure as the coronavirus rages, heat waves wash over the land, and a federal government proves impossible to come by.

First, every household with a front garden in Bruges is entitled to a free tree. The tree must be planted in front of the home as the idea is to add more green to streetscapes.

“It’s not always easy to get trees planted in the middle of a city,” said Mercedes Van Volcem (Open VLD), city councillor for public space. “So residents’ front gardens seemed like an ideal place. We hope to get a big response and plant many trees. The more green in the city, the better.”

Homeowners who are interested in the initiative can email ikwileenboom@brugge.be. The city will even come over and plant the tree for you. “We can assess what kind of tree the owner wants and if it will work in their garden,” explained Van Volcem. “We can’t plant a tree that will become giant in a very small front garden, for instance.”

Snuggle a baby alpaca

You know what else is very small? A baby alpaca. And now one family in Bruges is letting people take them out for a walk.

The Demeulenaere family has a sandwich business. They deliver to schools, and when the coronavirus shut down schools, it shut down the Demeulenaere’s business, too.

Not the types to settle down for an extended holiday, the couple thought hard about what kind of enterprise they could do during the crisis. Then they joined a colleague on a walk with alpacas, and they were sold.

The couple bought four young alpacas, arranged to keep them in a lovely nature area in the Bruges district of Assebroek, and Hakuna Alpaca was born. They lead walks with the animals, which are quite possibly the cutest living things in the world.

‘Own characters’

“They are very young and have really made themselves at home in the meadow,” Olivier Demeulenaere told Het Laatste Nieuws. “We first talk to the visitors about the animals; they have their own characters, but they are herd-oriented animals who are happy to have company.”

After that, the customers learn how to drive the four alpacas to their stable and put on their halters. “Then we take to the walking trails. The Assebroekse Meersen is a beautiful nature reserve.” Walks are about 90 minutes, but there are shorter versions if smaller children are involved.

There are a few packages to choose from for the experience that include drinks, sandwiches or a barbecue. Prices vary, but there is a minimum €80 required for every outing.

But where did the Demeulenaeres take their own walk with alpacas that inspired them so much? Well, it appears there are other alpaca walking options in Belgium. There’s one in Bütgenbach, for instance, and another in Ham.

Photo courtesy Hakuna Alpaca/Facebook

Written by Lisa Bradshaw