Llama trekking at the Prennergut-Hof in Nova Levante
A warm and woolly feeling
Family llama trekking in the Val d’Ega
Most children long for a cat or a dog. Those who have seen the trusting look in their children’s shining eyes will know how hard it is over time to resist: after a while a kitten, a floppy-eared puppy or a cute little guinea pig - or at least a goldfish - will join the family. But Juli, our little daughter, decided she wanted nothing less than - a llama! And even though our home is located in the green outskirts of Berlin, a llama would go way beyond any parental desire to fulfil her wish. Much to her disappointment, then, Juli’s pleas - apart from what seemed like two hundred cuddly llama toys – had thus far gone unanswered.
Until, that is, two years ago when, while making our holiday plans, we came across Denise and Dieter Bologna in South Tyrol’s Val d’Ega. They actually breed llamas on their farm, the Prennergut Hof! It goes without saying that no alternative was possible: our annual summer holiday would be spent there, in Nova Levante in the Val d’Ega.
Happiness has a name…
… and its name is: Rooney. Coffee-brown, this creature from the Andes is one of over 100 animals on the Bolognas’ llama and alpaca farm. Even as a new-born he amazed his foster parents with his tenacity and toughness. And nothing, but nothing, can make Juli’s eyes light up more than the prospect of spending an afternoon at Rooney’s side. She has been bouncing around with anticipation since breakfast, and now she leaps out of the car with a gleeful chuckle as we come to a stop on the driveway.
A kingdom for a llama
Dieter usually first tells his visitors a little about his animals, their origins and history; he introduces the Calabrian guard dogs that live with the herd and protect them from danger, and recounts amusing tales of the personalities of the senior mare Bellissima or of the Alpaca stud Pablo, who gently sniffs visitors’ faces as if giving them a kiss. The passion and joy with which Denise and Dieter run their farm is second to none: you can feel it everywhere, in their every word and look, not to mention from the mood of their charges - even outsiders like us can at once see that all the farm animals appear relaxed and happy. The Prennergut is truly a kingdom for a llama!
Of course, as “repeat offenders”, we need no introduction: and so Dieter and his wife set off with Juli, carrying the halters of Rooney, Iron and Chamois in order to fetch these three males from the pasture. Only the more tranquil stallions are used for trips or indeed treks, while the rather more headstrong mares are left to graze on the wide meadow.
Shoulder to shoulder
Today we decide for a gentle stroll via the promenade down to the village and back. Each of us stands at the left shoulder of his or her llama, thus making slight contact with him. These sensitive animals do not respond to spoken commands or pulling on the halter, but adapt themselves to the pace of their leader by means of body - or rather “fleece” contact. Even small children can thus enjoy the experience of leading a llama on their own – with Denise or Dieter always keeping a watchful eye on the animals and their little companions, of course. After about twenty minutes of clip-clopping along the gravel path, lined with large spruce trees, we reach a wide meadow where we come to Juli’s favourite part: this where the llamas can browse and be thoroughly stroked and cuddled. I too run my hands again and again through the incredibly soft, dense wool, amazed at how soothing is this wordless interaction with the friendly animals. The blissful smile on my husband’s face tells me that he feels the same. And the light from our daughter’s eyes could easily match that from a 60-watt light bulb…
A farewell kiss
With a deep sense of relaxation we finally make our way back to the farm. While we talk with Denise and Dieter about their Mangalica woolly pigs that also live alongside geese and Indian runner ducks on the Prennergut farm, Juli praises “her” Rooney for his fine coat and wonderful behaviour while out walking. She promises to come back very soon – “Tomorrow I have to practise swimming a bit with Daddy in the pool, but the day after I’ll come and visit you again if I can!”. Needless to say, this is not our last trip to see the llamas on this holiday!
Before we leave for the day, we make a mandatory detour to the stable where the males are kept – we simply can’t leave without a goodbye kiss from Pablo!