Friday, October 11, 2019

Even if I’m a city girl, I’m an animal lover at heart!

I grew up in a small town in the middle of Nebraska (USA) with various fluffy rabbits, escape-artist hamsters, numerous goldfish, cats, dogs and even a hedgehog at one point. So, it comes as no surprise to my husband when I suggest something wild like, “Hey, do you wanna go to a goat farm?” Or better yet, “How about walking a llama?”

Now, my last suggestion sounded a bit far-fetched at first. But, when I started researching things to do on the Isle of Wight, I found a farm that raises/breeds alpacas and llamas. This family farm just happened to be near the route that we planned to cycle on this English island, located an hour train ride south of London and a short ferry boat ride away.

Apparently, many city folks like ourselves are interested in this fairly new-ish idea of walking an alpaca or llama in the English countryside. There are literally dozens of these farms and bed-and-breakfasts across the U.K. now offering “meet the alpacas” or walking experiences. 
When I called the West Wight Alpacas before our trip, I secured the last two spots for a 20-minute walk around the farm. The farm, started in 2010 by husband and wife team, Neil and Michelle Payne, also offers 40-minute walks and has numerous animals that can be petted or fed before or after your walk. You’ll find more than 60 alpacas and llamas here as well as goats, chickens and two adorable fat pigs!

After we were given a good intro about the farm and its animals, I quickly learned two things about my particular llama.

1.    1.  Llamas can be stubborn AF. Mine certainly was. My llama often wanted to brush up against the hedgerows to have a scratch or start eating the leaves.

2.     2. Llamas do not cooperate very well for photos/selfies. I had many failed attempts with my llama and opted for some other llama photos afterwards that hubby took.

I learned another truth later, but we’ll get to that story in a moment.

Now you may be wondering, what the heck is the difference between an alpaca and a llama?

To be honest, I didn’t really know until we went on this llama walk on the Isle of Wight.

First, llamas and alpacas are both in the camelid (camel) family and originally hail from South America.

Based on physical characteristics, llamas have long, banana-shaped ears while alpacas have straight, smaller ears. Also, llamas are bigger than alpacas, sometimes weighing twice as much.

Another difference between the two is the fur. Alpaca wool is much softer and has a finer fiber than the llama’s double-layered coat.
But the one common trait they both have is that they spit!

After our generally nice walk with our llamas, we bought some animal feed from the farm café so we could feed the other animals. We set out to feed some of the other llamas and alpacas that were out in the pasture. Well, I was feeding one of the llamas, but I thought he/she was being a bit too greedy, so I moved over to feed one of his/her pals. That was enough to piss off the first animal, and the next thing I know I was partially covered in green, grassy-smelling spit – on my face and on my t-shirt!
It was disgusting, but also pretty funny! Of course, this would happen to me! Somehow, I always seem to be the accident-prone person.

Luckily, I had a spare t-shirt in my backpack so I could change. No problem!

Walking a llama was still a cool, farm experience and it’s something I would recommend to any other fellow animal lovers.

Just don’t expect to actually learn how to walk a llama because they do what they want!



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