Walking in the mountains is good for us, but walking in the mountains with a donkey… well that’s just therapy for your soul!
We have just come back from a couple of days hiking in the stunning Parc National de la Vanoise in the French Alps, with the gorgeous four-legged, long-eared, ball of fluff ‘Figaro’, as a recce for a future trip!
I would highly recommend this to anyone of any age. Having a donkey with you adds a charming new dimension to your hike. Their slow and steady place forces you to stop more often, take in your surroundings, spot the small things you might have otherwise missed and travel in a manner reminiscent of a simpler time.
Figaro was strong-willed, kind eyed, funny and like all donkeys… obsessed with eating! Within just a few hours of setting off he had become an unforgettable member of our hiking family, with cuddles and kisses aplenty. We would often walk with our arm over his neck, admiring his magnificent ears, chatting away to him about anything and everything. Donkeys are great listeners!
Most of the time we didn’t even need to lead him, he just plodded along happily on a route I’m sure he knew well. We just made sure someone was behind him for the moments that the urge from is stomach to dive head long into the vegetation became just too frequent. At which point we would give him a little vocal reminder, “allez Figaro, allez!”
“Poor donkey” some may say. Yes they carry your bags, but Figaro was carrying just 30kg’s, which is less than I have carried myself on many expeditions/adventures, and he is 4-wheel drive! You could be mistaken into thinking that we took a donkey for a walk, but I can assure you that it was more like Figaro took us for a walk… most things were on his terms! We stopped 10 times more than we normally would, allowing him to rest and eat, water was available for him around almost every corner (although they don’t drink much) and he had feed for morning and night as well as some treats.
I absolutely adore the creatures, they could possibly be my favourite animal of all. So loyal and stoic in nature. So focused and surefooted in all types of terrain. Who could want for a better hiking buddy.
As well as sharing the load and making fantastic companions, donkeys can also provide other great benefits when out on the trail. Such as the fact that donkeys have great memories. They are said to be able to recognise areas where they have previously been up to 25 years before. A very useful quality while route-finding in challenging terrain.
They also have an acute sense of self-preservation and are a good judge of whether or not a situation is safe. It’s nigh on impossible to persuade a donkey to go somewhere that they consider being dangerous.
The hardest bit of hiking with a donkey… handing them back!
Our wonderful donkey Figaro came from our friends at Anes en Vanoise in Praglonan.
Feel free to ask me any questions, happy to help where I can.
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