Saturday, 15 August 2015

The epic Romanian donkey trek

The searing sun would find its way through the intricate lace curtains of our hosts family home, waking us all. Time to get up, put fresh pants and walking socks on, heavy boots and nine-day-old shorts. I would sort the donkeys, putting a concoction of potions around their eyes to keep the flies and other insects away - my soft Englishness taking great care with this process, using all our own repellents to help the donkeys face the day. Breakfast would be one of cold meats of unidentifiable origin, lumps of pork fat, white cheeses and jams made from the prolific bilberries and raspberries which grew wild in the countryside. We would smile and joke with our hosts, not a word of language between us, saying our goodbyes as the Romanian mamas hugged the children to their aprons and great maternal bosoms.

A day of walking with donkeys. Through pine forests and open plains, up hills and around mountains, across grazing land ferociously protected by mountain dogs, over streams and past ponds, down deep riveted sheep tracks and stoically along brand new EU funded roads.

We kept walking, with donkeys carrying our needs, their loads lightening as we drank the litres of water necessary to combat the 35 degree heat. The children were incredible in their resilience, playing word games, marvelling at insects and fire-bellied toads, taking it in turn to lead the donkeys and never complaining. Sharing precious Haribo sweets brought from home, one at a time knowing the sugariness had to last until the next break, until we finally arrived at our new family for the night.

It was difficult, it felt heroic, the walks were up to 20km a day, the heat was almost unbearable, the maps were wrong, the instructions a disaster, it felt like the last great adventure to be had on this earth and we all accomplished it together. Flopping down with weariness each night, smiling and remembering the days gems, bellies full of fried meats and gherkins - the satisfaction provided us all with a calm so rarely found in our culture.

I could have just kept walking, forever.

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