A Llama Tale - Adventure's of a 12 year old girl and her llama, Moche
Our trip was long and cold. The train climbed high into the mountains, leaving behind the sea coast and my home. Father had died and now Mother was returning home to visit Dad's father, my grandfather, whom I had never met. We passed through a tall pine forest and then high grasslands from which white mountain peaks rose still higher on the shoulders of gray walled cliffs. This was to be my new home, a bleak landscape of brown grass and rocks. There were rocks everywhere - big ones, little ones - all over with moss and lichens growing on them.
"Is this where we're going to live, Mom?"
"Yes Sandy, but we have a few more hours on the train before we get there. I think you'll be surprised."
So I curled up in a blanket, closed my eyes and thought about our home by the sea, my friend Peggy, my sea shell collection (I brought that with me) and the long beaches that Mom and I would take walks on. I fell asleep.
"Wake up sleepy head. Wake up, Sandy. We're here!"
"Huh? Boy is it cold."
"Take a deep breath and we'll get moving. The cold never seems so bad once you're moving around. Come on now!"
The train had stopped and we were going to get off. The high grasslands had been desolate but this place looked like the end of the world. Instead of a grassy plain with rocks everywhere, this was solid rock with grass growing here and there like little tufts of hair.
"Mom, why didn't Grandfather ever come to visit us? Why didn't we ever come here before? Why does he live in a place like this?"
"You'll see Sandy. He's quite wonderful. You have been here before but you were too small to remember. Your Dad and I have been so busy at work these last few years we just haven't been able to come this far. And finally, young lady, I think in a very short time you'll see why your Grandfather would have a hard time getting away for a long trip. Come on, grab your backpack and lets get going."
The only way to describe the place is lonely. There was no train station, no houses, buildings or cars - not even a phone booth. The train was pulling away and we were in the middle of nowhere. Just us, the railroad tracks and an old steel tower of some sort.
"Mom, no one else got off the train!"
"No, but a lot of people live up here."
"All over. You'll meet them in due time."
Mom said, "Look - Here he comes now!"
I looked around and the next thing I saw (or thought I saw) was a lion running right at me. I screamed and must have fainted because the next thing I remember was laying on the ground and looking up at Mom and Grandfather.
"Huh?" I was waking up. There was Mom and an older guy with white hair and a red beard. The "lion" was a dog, twice my size with shaggy hair all over and big brown eyes. Above the dog, Mom and Grandfather were more faces. All round us were big fuzzy animals with rabbit ears. They were llamas - lamas like they have at the zoo!
"Sandy?" It was Mom with that soft voice she uses when she thinks something might be wrong.
"Wow!" I was sitting up now and the llamas were putting their heads down toward me in a gentle way, sniffing at my coat and hair.
"Are you ok?" She had switched tones to get an answer.
"Where are we Mom?"
"This is Eric, your grandfather."
"Hello, grandfather." Mom had told me I should be polite when I first met Grandfather because he doesn't have kids around and I might upset him or something.
I couldn't hold the questions back anymore. "Is this where you live? Are these your llamas? They have llamas in our zoo at home and there are always people with some in the Christmas parade. I've never seen so many. Why haven't they run away?"
Grandfather smiled a real nice smile, "Hush child, you'll see and learn plenty if you'd like to. This is Max, he didn't mean to scare you. He was just glad to see your Mom."
Max came over, he and I became good friends. Max was a big, shaggy dog - the same color of the rocks in the cliffs surrounding us.
We started our trip to Grandfather's as soon as I was on my feet. The train had stopped in a small rocky valley. As we climbed out of the valley onto the mountainside, there were steep rolling grasslands.
We climbed up from one grassy meadow to another, higher and higher. Behind us was a never ending series of lower mountains framed by a dark green forest and a river far off that sparkled in the afternoon sun. The llamas would run ahead with their bushy tails bouncing. Some would skip down the hillside and then come bounding back to join the main group. There was one white llama, named Noah, who carried our two duffle bags. Grandfather had tied the two bags together and they rested on Noah's back. Noah, Grandfather, Mom, me and the llamas all climbed still higher, up the steep slope, from one meadow to the next.
"Mom, when will we get there?"
"Maybe another two hours. How close are we Eric?"
Grandfather said, "Two hours is about right, perhaps a little less at this rate." Time passed quickly as we walked in the warm afternoon sunlight. Grandfather told us about the mountain, the weather that year and all about the llamas. One little llama followed behind me. He would sniff at my jacket or hand, scamper away and then come sneaking back to start the game all over.
"Grandfather, does this little llama have a name?"
"That's Moche, Sandy. He was born late last winter and doesn't have anyone his own age to play with. Maybe you two will become friends?"
"I hope so." Moche was all brown but had a black face with dark eyes that twinkled in the sunlight. Suddenly off he dashed, skipping sideways down into a little valley at our right. We were home. There right in front of us was a log cabin. But it was very small. Here at the top of this knoll the cliffs rose right up into the peaks above us. The meadow grew right up to the foot of the cliff and under an overhang of rock sat this tiny log house. There was one door and a little window without any glass. The window had one large shutter that hung down instead of swinging sideways.
"Grandfather, where's Moche going?" I didn't want to say anything about the tiny cabin but I just couldn't understand how we could all live in such a small house.
"See!" Grandfather pointed and as I turned to look toward the valley I could see it was actually quite long. The high cliffs formed a natural wall on one side and there was a fence of boulders on the outside. The center of the valley was a long grassy meadow. Almost as far as I could see were little groups of llamas of every pattern and color you can imagine.
Mom opened the door to the cabin.
As I walked in I realized it wasn't a log cabin at all. This was the entrance to a cave.
"Mom, it's a cave!"
"Yes, it feels so good to be home."
Grandfather came in the door behind us. "Go in and look around if you'd like, Sandy. Your Mom and I will take care of Noah and talk awhile."
I took a few steps and then sniffed at the interesting odor. It was sweet and pleasant but very different. I came to a stone stairway that lead to a large room. The ceiling of the room was a round dome and the floor was very smooth. There were rugs here and there on the floor and some pretty ones that were hung on the walls. There was one large animal skin on the floor too and smaller ones that were on the chairs and benches. I saw one pillow that Mom had made for last Christmas. Her and Dad had talked and laughed about it but I never realized they had sent it anywhere.
Sunlight came into this room through two narrow shafts that were cut deep into the left hand side of the ceiling. On the far side of the room was a smaller room. It had a chair and a set of long shelves that were full of books and rolled papers that might have been maps or blueprints. There were wooden pegs on one wall of the smaller room, some had clothes on them. There was also a long bench with heavy blankets. That turned out to be Grandfather's bed. This smaller room was his bedroom. I could see from the steps that there was a small ledge cut into rock wall. There were two pictures on the ledge. Later I found one picture was of Dad and Mom when they were younger, the other was of a lady, my grandmother.
High above Grandfather's bedroom were two oval openings that looked like a balcony. There were four other openings into the large living room. A very large hallway opened to the right of where I was standing on the stone steps and then halfway between Grandfather's bedroom and the hallway were three smaller tunnels, side by side.
I walked down the hallway to the right. I counted thirty steps and then the hallway turned to the right. Grandfather had all sorts of things hanging on the walls of the hallway. There were more woolen rugs and animal skins, a bow with long black arrows, a long spear of some sort that seemed to come apart in sections and lots of outside winter clothing: heavy coats, boots, snow shoes of all sizes and lots of other things. In one place, water came right through the side of the wall and ran down to the floor. The water collected in a little pool and then ran along the side of the hallway in the direction that I was walking.
The passage turned again and the water splashed down a waterfall into an even larger cave. This new room was at a different level, down from where I was standing. There was a large opening on the far side, through it I could see the valley and some of the llamas. This was where the llamas lived.
Stone steps were cut into the wall along the side of the waterfall. I went down carefully. This was the sweet, pleasant odor I had noticed. There were hay mangers along the wall and small beds of hay were scattered here and there around the room. I walked over to the entrance. There was a low wall of rocks that had been built in front of the entrance as a wind break. I walked around the wall and was in the llama valley. Moche was there, all brown and fuzzy with his black nose and bright eyes. He came over and sniffed my jacket, my hair and finally my nose. I giggled a little, he jumped back, turned and ran off down the valley to play with his friends.
Looking down the valley I could see a long mountain meadow with clusters of llamas, some were resting and others were grazing. In the other direction, I could see the log entrance to Grandfather's cave. Mom and Grandfather were sitting by the log entrance talking. Max was in the grass near them, the sunshine made his coat sparkle. Max saw me and so did Noah, who was grazing off to the other side of the log entrance. I think Grandfather saw me also but he didn't look in my direction. I walked back into the llama's cave, up the stairs by the waterfall and into the central room where I had started. I thought I should check in with Mom but decided to see some of the other rooms first.
There were three passages, side by side, to choose from as well as the small room where Grandfather slept. I went over to that room first. There was a chair and lots of books on his shelf. The two pictures on the rock shelf had nice frames. The picture of Mom and Dad was taken when they were a lot younger and the other lady I knew was my grandmother who had died some years ago.
I decided to look at some more rooms but couldn't decide which of the three tunnels to take. The right hand tunnel curved up and to the right. The left hand tunnel had a gentle slope down and to the left. The middle tunnel sloped strait up with an angle like a set of stairs might have. All three tunnels had sunlight in the far end, so they didn't seem dark or scary. They all had little wool rugs with pretty designs hanging here and there on their walls and a few pictures that I could see were wood carvings.
I took the middle passage. As I walked up, I found it curved to the left. I came around the corner and this tunnel became a wide hallway. Here was the balcony with the two oval openings I had seen high on the cave wall above Grandfather's bedroom. The balcony provided light for this hallway and a small room at the far end. This room was about the same size as Grandfather's bedroom. There was a chair and a long bench like bed. There was dresser at the foot of the bed. It opened like a blanket chest on the top and had three long drawers on the bottom. There were even little drawers on the sides. I wanted to look in the little drawers but thought I had better not. There was a large wool rug that hung on one wall. Llamas were woven into the rug. Llamas running across a little valley with high rock walls on each side. It was a picture of Grandfather's valley with red, brown and white llamas - running, skipping and jumping in play.
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