Farm life in Los Llanos, Colombia

| Johan van Rijswijck

I gently swing up and down and look from my hammock over the endless grasslands. In the shade of the veranda a small breeze cools me down and this way I manage to escape the hottest moment of the day. From the corner of my eye I see a cowboy walking towards our horses. He nods graciously and starts to saddle off the Criollos. The animals have done their job. I stay in Los Llanos, a vast nature reserve that is shared by the countries Colombia and Venezuela.

Horseback riding across the Prairie

Los Llanos is an area of endless grasslands wedged between the Andes in the northeast and the Amazon basin in the southeast. This desolate landscape is the terrain of the Llaneros. These cowboys live on typical farms called Hato's. The coming days I will stay at Hato Mate de Palma and get acquainted with Colombian farm life in Los Llanos. 

We get up at dawn and after a good breakfast with eggs and meat we climb our horses. The strong four-legged friend is the faithful companion of the Llanero who is known as a hard and tough cowboy. We set off to herd a herd of cattle. While herding the cattle, typical songs of the region are sung to put the cattle at ease. We drive through shallow streams and small wooded areas in the further open prairie. The wooded areas are home to many species of birds, such as the native bright red Corocora and other animals such as anteaters. Meanwhile, the banks of the streams are populated by large families of capybara, large hamster-like mammals that only occur in South America.

Tough cowboys with a small heart

After we brought the cattle together in a fenced-in piece of land I got a demonstration of taming a wild horse. Taming these wild horses normally takes about five days. The cowboys are used to riding wild horses, says one of the tough guys who is on the road with us. When they go to another hato for work, they are generally assigned the wildest horses. For the landowners this is a way to tame their wildest horses and at the same time they immediately notice if the cowboys are strong enough to work for them. Laconic, the Llanero shrugs his shoulders: "We don't care, we ride every horse that is offered to us.” It is one of the many stories the men tell me.

Their tough appearance initially masks their friendliness and unlimited love for the environment and nature in which they live. Fortunately this masquerade is soon broken when I hand them a bottle of Aguardiente. One of the men takes the tiple, a 4-string musical instrument, and starts singing at full blast. Soon his companions join and the rest of the evening they enthusiastically perform an extensive repertoire of traditional regional songs.

Travel through Colombia?

Would you also like to get acquainted with the rural life of Los Llanos and stay on a hato? Or would you like to make a trip through Colombia yourself and are you curious about the possibilities? Then take a look at the travel itineraries that we have put together for inspiration. You can book these trips directly, but we also like to create a personal programme based on your wishes and ideas.

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