As far as mountain ranges go, the Kaikoura ranges do not really compare to the massive Andes of South America when it comes to height or scale. When it comes to long-necked furry mammals though, it is another story. Last weekend we headed north to explore the coast and to experience the new tourist phenomenon that is llama trekking.
First up, a clarification: ‘You Do Not Ride Llama!’ as the brochure loudly exclaims. Instead, you walk alongside the animal, gazing into its large black eyes and hoping that it doesn’t decide to spit in your general direction. First, though, you need to pen the creatures so they can be haltered up. That was an interesting way to start the morning, chasing llamas round a muddy paddock. Since moving down here I have invested in a pair of good quality gumboots, and in this situation they really came into their own.
Next it was time to get to know our charges, and for them to get to know us. Each llama has a distinct personality, which was evident from the outset. Just like the seven dwarves, there was the slow one, the grumpy one, the eager one. Carlos and Rocky were the best of friends, so naturally they had to walk side by side. We took them by the halter, and headed off for the grassy verge of the highway, into the late morning light.
Being llama novices, we opted for a flat and easy hour-long taster rather than a half-day trek or an overnight mission. As it turned out, they were very pleasant exercise companions, stopping for a chomp of grass every now and then, but otherwise peering quite happily over our shoulders at the mountainous terrain and posing for the obligatory llama selfies. While riding is out, you can put any important documents in the satchel bags on the animals’ flanks to get ‘llaminated’ (this is a great activity for families, because the opportunities for ‘dad jokes’ are endless).
Llamas in Auckland are about as rare as lapdogs at the Brown Pub, so the opportunity to make friends with what looks like a long-necked sheep was rather novel, and not to be passed up. In fact it was a friend from the city who tipped me off the activity in the first place. Of course I booked right away. In short, we paid good money to take someone else’s llamas for their daily exercise. And we had a lovely time.