Monday, 25 June 2012

Have you had your daily llama?

Llama Oscar - stud male
What are you looking at?

With a group of friends, I took a lovely ramble through the south Northants countryside yesterday. We'd had torrential rain overnight so I was half-expecting it to be called off, but at the last minute the clouds parted and out came the sun. So there I was, ambling through a little piece of rural idyll, wild flowers all around, kites and buzzards soaring overhead and a llama at my side.

Yes, that's right, a llama. We were visiting Catanger Farm for a spot of llama trekking. I had envisaged a gentle stroll with a beautiful, docile animal beside me, in keeping with the publicity leaflet’s promise of ‘the perfect way to de-stress’. Well, it was a lovely morning, but thanks to the standing water up to my knees, shoulder-high wet grass, tenacious mud and borrowed wellies a size too big, it was actually quite challenging.

Llamas are incredible, ridiculous creatures. Perfectly adapted for life at high altitude, they have two expressions: startled and bewildered. I’d sum them up as jittery but harmless. They have no top teeth to bite with and their soft-pad feet don’t have hooves, so while a kick might take you by surprise it’s not going to break your leg. Yes, they spit when they’re angry – but who doesn’t! The only noise they make is a nervous-sounding hum.

So after an introductory talk, nine of us set off on a two-hour walk under mercifully blue skies with five llamas between us, taking it in turns to lead them – and sometimes to be led by them. Once you’ve got the hang of it they’re pretty easy to steer, but I must confess that at one point I let go of my llama Indigo and he bounced off into a field of rape from which only the tips of his ears protruded.

The whole experience was rather surreal, but I'd definitely recommend it as a different way of recharging your batteries.

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