Two thousand euros will
buy you a llama, though I don't know what you'd do with one. Even
the benefits from farming them seem to elude me, much like they do
with the farming of ostriches.
But in Ardeche, home of
great tourist attractions such as the Gorges De L'Ardeche (Ardeche
Gorge) and the Ardeche Caves, there are the Ardeche Llamas.
Ardeche is a 90 minute drive
from Montelimar, and the Ardeche Gorge provides an amazing view for
the last 30 kilometres of the trip. The Ardeche Llamas is a very clever
tourist attraction which seems to survive more from the tourist dollar
than the farming dollar (or should I say euro?). We'd come prepared
with a bag of bread to feed the llamas, but the tourist guide told
us that it wasn't good to hand feed the llamas. It affects them mentally!
This immediately caught my attention, as I listened with interest
to some very specialised llama psychology.
Apparently, when you feed
a llama by hand, they accept you as an equal (like another llama)
and therefore a competitor. And it is common for them to attack the
person feeding them. The attack takes place in the usual llama fashion
� by spitting at you!
Llamas spit! A disgusting
habit, but obviously very effective. Would you continue to feed something
that spat at you? I think not. Then I noticed the children hand feeding
"Maybe you should've told
us this story in French," I told the guide, as I brought his attention
to the children's activities.
"Don't worry," he assured
me. "These are all females, and it's only the males that are affected."
So with a sigh of relief,
I went back to observing the llamas.
Llamas are very large, about
the size of a small horse, while their smaller cousins, the alpacas,
are more like large sheep. In fact, llamas are the original species,
whereas the Alpacas are a crossbreed (twice removed) from the llama
and something else.
Llamas are so used to being
handled by tourists that you can handle them quite safely and not
be concerned about being bitten because you were grabbing its head
and pushing it up towards the camera. Not that you wanted to be that
close to them for too long, because the flies were unbearable. They
weren't big like the Australian blow flies, and they didn't bite like
the Australian sand flies. The annoying thing about them was that
they were so small and kept flying into your eyes and up your nose.
I think I inhaled about a dozen of them before I headed for the safety
of the trees (far from the feeding llamas).
But rather than get into
boring details, let me tell you about the poodle �
An elderly tourist couple
came into the llama enclosure with their small grey poodle (the French
take their dogs EVERYWHERE! And you can always tell where they've
been because of all the doggy-doo everywhere). Within seconds a large
female llama came over to them, fascinated by this little creature
at the end of a leash. The curious llama didn't seem to bother the
poodle until all of a sudden it snorted at him, just like horses tend
to do. Well, the dog jumped a mile, and so did a number of people
nearby. But that poor little poodle had to put up with this targeted
attention from the llamas for over an hour! First one llama would
come and sniff at him, then another, and on it went. In the end, I
think the tiny little poodle was scared out of its wits! Not that
its owners minded all that much. They thought the llamas were so cute!