Dervla can’t cope with trying to find her way in the forest bit of the Forest of Dean, so we direct her to the closest town where Rich has to take over with the OS map. My weather app was adamant that the rain would stay away. My weather app was wrong. After parking up by Mallards Pike Lake we have to don the waterproofs. Still, it’s what the Welsh would class as ‘drizzle’, and neither of us ever let a bit of wet stop play. Alastair, the owner of Severnwye Llama Trekking is already parked up and introduces us to our companions for the day – 3 daft dogs, and 2 llamas, both named after Formula 1 thingies. Mine is called Primo, and is the top stud male in the UK. Neither of us can remember what Rich’s was called as the name was quite long winded, and we don’t really do Formula 1, so for convenience sake we’ll call him Bob. Bob is very gentle and docile, and perfect for looking after Rich. Primo has attitude. I liked him immediately.
We amble along the forest trails for two hours, meeting the occasional dog walker or cyclist, and in one instance horse and rider. The horse freaked out a little, probably wandering “who let the f***ing giraffes out?!” but Primo and Bob gave him one of their ‘chillax fella’ looks, and calmly moved over to the side to let him pass without getting even more wound up. Most people we encounter are curious and want to touch the llamas – they are after all giant bundles of fluff, but there’s always one who reads too many tabloids and tries to hide because “I don’t want it to spit at me!” No it won’t dear, but I might, for being so ignorant. Don’t worry, I didn’t actually say that to her face. I just thought it, and gave her one of my looks.
Alastair is 74 but looks 15 years younger. Proof perhaps that keeping active keeps the mind and body young? His first career was in marketing for Formula 1, closely followed by a dealership in high end sports cars. Quite a leap to a llama trekking company. But then again not really as he and his wife Moira have always loved animals. When not snuggling the llamas and listening to them hum (this indicates that they’re happy), Alastair kept us entertained with stories about meeting Roger Moore, Formual 1 bigwigs, and the locals – otherwise known as foresters.
They run the treks between March and October, for groups of pretty much any size, and provide picnic lunches which are fit for royalty. Be you a veggie, gluten-free, vegan or allergy sufferer, they cater for all diets and even provide picnic tables. No sit mats required. By lunchtime the rain has intensified a little, to proper rain rather than drizzle, so we tie Primo and Bob up to their bus (the truck) and settle down in the picnic area next to the Go Ape office. I feast on potato salad, Mrs Crimbles crackers, the cheese board, a very nice pate, and gluten free shortcake; whilst Rich eats several slices of cold pizza, with some extra cheese on the side.
After lunch we continue the trek for 45 minutes, calling it a day at 3.30pm as we’re all wet, and Bob and Primo have the munchies – both having been pulling us of the track for tasty grass and leaves since lunchtime. I try to help load them back onto their bus. Bob walks on without a care in the world. Primo is more used to being a stud than a trek llama and even though he’s behaved impeccably all day, isn’t so sure about being coerced into a van by a short person in purple boots. He refuses to board with me tugging on the rope so Alastair has to take over and give him a shove. We wave goodbye to Alastair and our creature companions with heavy hearts.
This was my third llama trek, Rich’s second. Be warned, once you’ve tried it, you’ll never be able to get enough! They’re adorable creatures, like dolphins in that they can sense when they need to be extra special gentle around adults, children and other creatures who need a little TLC. Your worries will melt away after spending a few hours with them. And no, they don’t spit. Unless you’re really, really annoying.