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Pilgrim Tales - with Dalie the donkey


Nunca se camina solo
The story so far.....

Travels with Dalie the Donkey
by Barbara on Tue May 27, 2008 9:29 am
I walked the Camino del Norte and Primitivo with a donkey and a tent. I always asked permission except for one or two occaisions when there was literally no-one to ask. Most times I was allowed to camp in a large garden or field, the only problem was near Lugo when NO-ONE would let me camp for the night, and I asked at a lot of places. I ended up in the refuge with the donkey in stables miles away. I was once refused by a campsite, but that was because of the donkey.....and once by the Monks of Val de Dios for the same reason. And they have plenty of room.....7 km to the next refuge, all uphill. Most of the refuges I was on my own with my donkey on whatever patch of grass. People were actually very good about offering a stable when the weather was bad. I met with nearly unfailing kindness, the gardia were most helpful, and so were the local civilians. With one or two honorable exceptions (Cobreces and Bolibar spring to mind) the religious establishments could possibly have been less helpful if they had beaten me with a large stick
Minus donkey it would be no problem camping, apart from carrying the tent. On the Le Puy route there is always some accomodation available in the spring, and not many walkers. I was in the Aubrac in march, and the weather was indeed cold, with quite a lot of snow on the ground.
I actually prefer camping, being somewhat antisocial when tired, and a light sleeper, so do not cope well with large dormitories, and as I can only afford a hotel on rare occaisions, enjoy the privacy the tent gives me. Don't get me wrong, I like meeting other pilgrims, just not ALL the time. I don't really like the Camino Frances because of the crowds.
Remember also when thinking of camping, that even the lightest possible tent is fairly bulky and light waterproof tents are not cheap to buy. You will need a good sleeping mat and a thicker sleeping bag than if you are always under a roof. The weight does all add up.


by alipilgrim on Tue May 27, 2008 3:45 pm

What did you do with the donkey once you reached Santiago??

by Barbara on Tue May 27, 2008 5:53 pm

Well, she came back home with me of course. She lives in our pasture with her friend, another donkey. Actually, in this weather (rain, rain, and more rain) they seem to be living in their stable all the time.

Oh, do you mean how did I get her back? In her deluxe horse trailer, towed by my ratty camping car.
There is a tale to tell there of breaking down on the motorway outside Ponferrada, and the donkey garage arrangements......


by JohnnieWalker on Tue May 27, 2008 6:54 pm

BarbaraTell us a Camino with donkey story! Pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

by Barbara on Wed May 28, 2008 7:33 am
Well, since you ask so nicely....
Here is the tale of Bilbao and the transporter bridge......

Having spent the night at a very nice but very expensive agrotourismo just before Bilbao, I really didn't want to retrace my steps to pick up the waymarking, so plodded on hoping to pick up the camino further on.
Big mistake.
So found myself about noon in a little public garden trying to find a way across the river that didn't involve a busy dual carriageway, and not doing very well. Small crowd of helpful and voluble spaniards, one of whom has the bright idea of trying to get me a police escort, one donkey enjoying the grass and occaisional flower in the garden, one person insisting I return ten or so K via said agrotourismo, you get the picture.

Someone pulls out mobile phone, and a police car arrives lights and siren.....
Small crowd becomes larger, and policeman summons his sister who teaches at local school to interpret.
After a while and many phone calls one of the crowd is assigned to look after Dalie the donkey, who is by now munching through a large bag of bread and cakes contrubuted by one of the crowd, and I am whisked off in the police car to survey the proposed route. Now Bilbao has a sort of suspension bridge with a travelling cabin, sort of a horizontal ski lift, so as to let tall ships by. Apparently we can cross in that, it takes cars and pedestrians, but I have to be shown the way to it, given my apparent proclivity for getting lost, and assess it's suitability for donkey carriage.

So, the route being Ok, and this thing will take six cars so five cars and a donkey should be OK, I am returned to the gardens, with now considerably shorter grass and fewer flowers......complete with hand drawn map, policeman's home address and phone number, firm instructions to spend the night with them in four days time when I pass his house, and a large bag of sweets from his sister.

So we walk through the docks and get to this very impressive bridge, and wait in line with the cars. Dalie is unimpressed, and anyway still eating her way through her goodie bag. We duly get on the bridge, and fly above the river as if this happens every day. We are charged the rate for two pedestrians by a young man acting as a bridge conductor, and stroll off the other side.
All in a day's pilgrimage. Don't know how the newspapers missed this one, we seemed to make the front page for less than that at times.

More walking, followed by a night in the tent on the beach. Later I did stop at the policeman's home, and was taken over my route for the next two days by car, and nearly a very small boat. I didn't think Dalie would go for that one, though!


by sillydoll on Wed May 28, 2008 8:00 am
Barbara - I would swap my Tim Moore book for yours any day!

by JohnnieWalker on Wed May 28, 2008 8:11 am
Estupendo! Thanks Barbara - Encore

by Barbara on Wed May 28, 2008 7:02 pm

So, you want I should tell you about Dalie's search for a boyfriend?

by sillydoll on Wed May 28, 2008 7:19 pm

Si, si senora!!

by Barbara on Wed May 28, 2008 7:58 pm
OK now you have to know that I was walking with a soon to be ex friend who decided she would like to join me walking from Le Puy en Velay to celebrate her retirement from nursing. For a nurse, she did seem a little well..... uncomfortable with bodily functions. Dalie reckoned that she had no right to tell her what to do, so mostly I led Dalie, and the friend did really useful things like find a shop where we could buy postcards.
Anyway, in the spring a middle aged donkey's fancies turn to thoughts of love, or at any rate, sex. Once a month for five days at a time. Rather like PMT in some ways, only rather more so

When she is in a certain condition (as my mother used to say) the only thing on her mind other than food is finding a mate. Not fussy about the species, never mind the race, four legs is good enough! An admirable lack of racism, but can be inconvenient, and requires rather more tethering than usual at the end of the day.

So there we are leaving the Aubrac, lovely sunny day, just had a night in a comfy hotel, Dalie in the now ex garden for the night. Refreshed and invigorated, we amble along the high street of a small, clean, and correct French town. I think it was a household electrical goods shop that had the clean and reflective plate glass window. Dalie sees a really good looking donkey gazing at her from the good clear reflection and stops dead (no skidding to a halt, top speed is about 6 kph and only with a stable full of hay in sight).

EEEEEEEH AWWWWWW at top volume. I think it translated as "Cor, I really fancy you, want to come round the back?3

Repeat EEEEEEEEH AAAAAAWWWWWWW when the paramour dissapoints by not leaping at her in joy.........

Ok, voicemail has failed, so we will be more direct. In the high street now full of shoppers looking at their morning entertainment, Dalie gives out with about a gallon of highly pheremone enhanced urine.

Retreat of pilgrims, dragging donkey......


by JohnnieWalker on Wed May 28, 2008 10:37 pm
and the bodily functions allergic friend! But....did the donkey ever get a paramour?....we await the next chapter

by Barbara on Thu May 29, 2008 12:25 pm
JohnnieWalker said:
and the bodily functions allergic friend! But....did the donkey ever get a paramour?....we await the next chapter

I'll let you know in a day or two. Watch this space

by Barbara on Thu May 29, 2008 9:37 pm
I am reminded by Dalie today that when she is looking for a boyfriend the signs are there to be seen, and if I do not notice then it is my fault.....

Donkeys when amorous get stroppy, bit like two legged people I suppose, and work their mouths as if they have a toffee stuck between their teeth. Mind you, in Dalie's case it could well be a toffee, or anything else she has managed to glom off some unsuspecting child. reminds me of the time she ate twenty-five school dinners....

However, on this day we had strolled along a very nice promenade by the sea, and were now climbing a hill towards the refuge at the top. Now it seems that I had missed a marker somewhere so we were approaching rather obliquely on a minor road instead of the usual camino del Norte brambles, and this road took us past a number of farms, all with some sort of livestock watching with interest. Cows in particular like to watch anything that is happening outside, I suppose if your day's excitement is a couple of trips to the milking parlour it's only to be expected. Dalie enjoys a chat with anyone she sees in passing, and often exchanges a bray for a moo or a bark. About three kilometres from the refuge Dalie stops, calls loudly, urinates copiously, and gazes into an apparently empty field. At times like this I usually pretend I am waiting for her owner, nothing to do with me, honest......
A very small donkey canters across the field, greets my madam, and makes a spirited attempt at getting through the luckily sturdy and well fastened gate. I drag Dalie away and we continue, Dalie sulking as only a donkey can, and we arrive at our refuge. Nice place to park her behind the church, where the grass could do with a cut. Bearing in mind her tiny boyfriend of some way back, she gets electric fence with the power on, and tied up on a nice long rope. Apart from a long distance exchange of donkey calls in the night (rather like teenagers on the telephone) which can't have woken many more people than the church bells, all goes well until morning.

I give her a breakfast of left over bread and turn off the fence, untie the long rope and am about to harness her, short lead rope in hand, when her putative lover calls. It was like the starting gate at Sandown. Off she goes down the hill, hooves twinkling cheerfully on the road (this from a donkey who insists "tarmac is far too slippery, dear, can't go any faster, really I can't", under all normal circumstances) Abandoning pack saddle and bags I follow. Every time I get round a corner and see her she trots off again, just slow enough that I can keep up. After all, I am the one who finds her the stale bread, so it wouldn't do to lose me completely. Back at the same gate she is nose to nose with little donkey, who couldn't have done what he obviously longed for without a stepladder anyway. I am allowed to catch her, and despite my inability to understand that I am required to open the gate, she accepts the piece of bread still miraculously in my pocket as a poor second best. We return to the refuge and I tie her up very very well before gathering up my scattered belongings.

by JohnnieWalker on Fri May 30, 2008 12:00 am
Almost an allegory for life...but seriously ... does Dalie keep a journal? And in it is there a description of the worst other pilgrims/camino experience and the very best?

Should we start a Dalie Diary?

Next episode....can't wait....

by Barbara on Fri May 30, 2008 7:04 am
JohnnieWalker said:
Almost an allegory for life...but seriously ... does Dalie keep a journal? And in it is there a description of the worst other pilgrims/camino experience and the very best?
Should we start a Dalie Diary?

Next episode....can't wait....

Alas, Dalie cannot write. I send emails on her behalf and she can use the donkeyphone over about 3 km, also an ordinary phone if I hold it for her. Do you think we should move this thread, as it seems to have not a lot to do with camping any more?

Because best/worst experiences could be fascinating.......

Next episode will tell the tale of the campsite by the sea, and Dalie on TV.


by Deirdre on Fri May 30, 2008 10:51 am
I love it! This has become very entertaining reading! Donkeys are such entertaining creatures anyway... for unassuming little animals, they certainly have their own unique way of doing things!
Buen Camino,
Down bag (90/10 duvet) of 700 fills with 180 g (6.34 ounces) of filling. Mummy-shaped structure, ideal when you are looking for lightness with great heating performance.
This is lovely. It´s so clear that you really appreciate Dalie for her self, not just as a transport mode. Can you tell us how her name is pronounced? What kind of donkey is she? Big or small? Is that her picture on your avatar?

Those of you keeping up with Gareth's pilgrimage on his blog will see that he has been visiting Dalie the Donkey. Now that he has moved on I'm sure Dalie will want to catch up on some chores then perhaps we will hear more stories?
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
Dalie brays to you that her name is pronounced Da-lee, and that her picture is indeed my avatar, being much prettier than me. Now, here is the tale of the twentyfive school dinners, to be followed by the campsite by the sea.
We were wandering along somewhere near Santanilla del Mar when we strolled past a church (patron St James), and just as Dalie was eating the church grass two people rushed out to talk to her. After a while they realised I was there too, and suggested rather firmly that as I would definitely be passing the school at which they taught around lunchtime we would wouldn't we, stop and eat lunch with them. Well, the school was also named after the Saint, so what could we say but yes.
We eventually arrived at the school, could tell it was a school by the noise of many small people at breaktime, and Dalie swung straight in at the gate, probably atracted by the sight of sandwiches and cakes. We were instantly mobbed by many small persons queing up to feed Dalie sandwiches etc. I would post a photo here, but I can't work out how to do it......
Suffice it to say that you can only see the donkey by looking carefully.
I am constantly amazed by the amount of chocolate one donkey can eat. One small boy had just started to break off a segment when my greedy walking partner snaffled the whole bar. The boy was about to burst into tears when his astute teacher, seeing what had happened, congratulated him on his generosity, thus averting disaster. After a while they remembered my lunch.....
This is usual, I often get to stand around while Dalie chomps a bucket of carrots or so.
So all the children had a go at feeding Dalie, I reckon she had twentyfive cheese sandwiches and an equal weight of cake and chocolate. Apparently spanish school lunches don't go heavily on the healthy eating options, but that was OK by Dalie.
So, then I had to tell the children what we were doing, translation provided by the teachers, and set off again. I was firmly instructed where to go next, pockets full of cakes and even an apple or two that Dalie hadn't seen, on the assurance that there would be a field for Dalie and a bed for me. Turned out not to be so, but that will be the tale of the campsite by the sea, on another day :)
Ok, I think I now know how to post a picture.......


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so you charted a path from then on to pass schools at lunchtime? :)

I've been meaning to ask does Dalie have a donkey equivalent of an autopilot or gps device and do you reckon she could journey to Santiago on her own...maybe we need to campaign for a donkey compostela..

Great to have Dalie stories back again!
've been meaning to ask does Dalie have a donkey equivalent of an autopilot or gps device and do you reckon she could journey to Santiago on her own...maybe we need to campaign for a donkey compostela..

Oh yes, Dalie has a built in GPS, tuned to stables, food, and of course boyfriends......

No autopilot except around home, where she can always find her way back to the stable, in fact when I take her out in the cart I often have to be quite forceful about not going home just yet :) I expect she could find Santiago by herself, but only if there was a big pile of hay in the Cathedral. She didn't get even a certificate, and I did ask.......sigh.

next episode will be the campside by the sea, and Dalie on TV
Down bag (90/10 duvet) of 700 fills with 180 g (6.34 ounces) of filling. Mummy-shaped structure, ideal when you are looking for lightness with great heating performance.
Barbara, how/where did you buy the donkey? I am trying to do the camino by mule (riding mule) and would appreciate any advice you might have as to sources. Thank you. p
How did I buy the donkey?
At a local riding stables, where she didn't really fit in, being too big for the little kids and not classy enough for the big ones. Dalie says she is far classier than any pony, how often have they been on TV?

So, she brays, tell them about the time she was on the Camino del Norte and was interviewed for the papers and TV.

Now we had spent our lunch break at a school, which was fine, and turned up at the seminary where the headmaster said we could certainly, definitely absolutely no problem, find a place for the night. Oh, but he had forgotten that I am actually female (so is Dalie, but apparently that is OK for donkeys, not for pilgrims)

So, nicely but firmly I was turned away. Not Dalie, she was told she could stay on the farm. I did point out that that kind of left me carrying a pack saddle and two heavy bags to a hypothetical hotel, so was told how to find the campsite on the coast. Leaving aside the apparent fragility of a vocation that can be disturbed by one female pilgrim, I was by now knackered. Oh well, off we go to the campsite, Dalie leaving a fragrant reminder of her passage on the manicured lawn. I didn't stop to pick it up.

Somewhat later we find the cunningly hidden entrance to the campsite and I attach Dalie to a bush, which she starts to eat, and walk into reception. The young lady behind the counter is helpful, asks me how many people in the car. Ah. Basic communication problem here. Now my spanish is not so good, but I manage to explain no car, one donkey, one tent, need grass for both of us. Me for sleeping on, Dalie will do the shortening of said grass. Problem :? Please can I wait till the boss arrives so she can get permission for my admittedly unusual vehicle........... I point out that by now it is gone time for pitching tent, cooking supper, etc. and if boss says No WAY then where do I go next? Dalie co-operates by hanging head, shuffling hooves, and looking like about to fall down with exhaustion. She is good at this, and can do it starting at six ack emma. Young lady takes pity on us and parks us at the far end of the caravan area, with instructions to get the tent up, tie up the dangerous wild beast and try to be inconspicuous.

By the time I have got us settled for the evening, brushed Dalie, fed her, put up the tent, had shower the boss has returned. Big smiles, and how nice to see a pilgrim. In french, which is a LOT easier for me than spanish. Dalie will take any language that has a phrase for "nice donkey, here is something to eat"
The owner takes me off for a drink and talks me into a late start the next day so the local press can interview us before departure. Well, why not? Also gives me a pile of postcards and tells me the night's stay is on him.

Sleeping over, I pack up, get my rain gear on ready for the next day's spanish heat :roll: and we meet the press. Actually the local TV van, and two from the newspaper. I wonder if all this free publicity for the site is worth a campsite coffee, and indeed it is.
Dalie is somewhat dissapointed to find that the microphone being shoved in her face is inedible, but shows her best profile and does not urinate on the reporters. I am translated from french to spanish, we are both photographed and off we go.

That evening every house we pass disgorges hordes of children wanting to talk to the pilgrim donkey who was on the TV........I am allowed to wait while she is fed cake and chocolate.

The next day, and for some days following, I am given many copies of Dalie's press cuttings, and Dalie is given many goodie bags of cake and yes, chocolate. . I steal some of the chocolate.(well, ok, most of the chocolate) Dalie refrains from eating the newspaper cuttings. When all the cake is gone and she has to go back to stale bread she sulks for two days.

So there you have it, a star of press and TV, accompanied by one somewhat secondary pilgrim.
Inspired by the Tales of Dalie, we yesterday "invested" in a donkey of our own. She´s not a camino-traveling donkey like Dalie, but she´s a Camino-dweller, having spent the past four years tethered in a garden along the River Cea in beautiful downtown Sahagun.

She now lives in Moratinos, another Camino town, and makes forays up and down the trail each morning. So far she´s given Photo Ops to pilgrims from Spain, France, Norway, and Japan! Keep an eye out for her, especially in the mornings. (I can only hope she will someday be as well-trained and behaved as Dalie!)

What is her name Reb?
Hike 30+ miles on California’s Santa Catalina Island as part of the Catalina Camino
Dalie says she will tell you her name when she is ready. We both look forward to visiting you but don't know where Moratinos is.....
let me know when you are ready for a pack saddle, I may have one you could use
Dalie requires me to post here, largely to complain about ill treatment and lack of chocolate cake. However, as her hooves are ill suited to typing and I refuse to allow her in the house she will have to put up with my version of events. We walked from a riding stables north of St Leonard de Noblat to La Réole this september. Dalie and I both stuffed ourselves with fruit every day, simply by picking up nature's bounty from the ground and harvesting the grapes the mechanical harvester refused to gather from the vines. This may well have sweetened my temperament, and Dalie's is fairly kindly anyway, but we had a wonderful time. Don't tell the world, or the Vezelay route may turn in to the Camino Frances autoroute :roll: Anyway, she votes for Périgeux as world's best place to stay, largely because of the five star box with three meals a day at the riding stables. Of course, as usual everywhere we stopped people rushed around finding fields, hay, carrots and chocolate biscuits for her. At one point she managed to look so ill-treated and tired that she was given an entire packet of high quality chocolate biscuits all for herself. I know they were good, I stole two of them. We actually manage to walk for three weeks without getting lost once or having to backtrack due to impossible paths -pretty good considering our usual proclivities for disastrous navigation. However, the last day reassured me that we could still find ourselves a problem or two.

The tale of Dalie and the stripey pony

Leaving La Réole I noticed a few signs announcing circus performances. Not being keen on such things, and in any case on our way to the pick up point for our luxury transport home (D in expensive double horse trailer, me driving the tatty jeep that tows it, husband having done the outbound journey) we strolled on, minds in neutral, until I noticed large numbers of exotic beasts tethered by the river. No problem, they are tied up and we can edge over to the road and pass quietly by......
Until the zebra strolled up. Male, NOT tied up and exuding "oooh I like you" vibes at Dalie. Now missy only likes boys at certain times, thank heaven, or we would never get anywhere. Bear in mind that she has a load of about fifty kilos on her back, plus my lunch, including a bottle of wine and some nice fresh bread for me, and some free not so fresh bread for her. Said zebra tries to mount her, she does not approve and kicks him. He has another go and I land a good firm blow on his side with my stick. Dalie by now is dancing around in circles and he is trying to get a strategic position behind her.....
At this point a representative of the circus arrives and says don't yell at him or you will frighten him. I point out this is the general idea, and will you kindly tie him up so we can get on with things. This seems to be a novel idea, but the zebra keeper is finally summoned. Dalie reckons no stripey pony is going to have her dubious virtue, not today anyway, and lets loose a two hoof kick. Unfortunately this is not a good idea when fully loaded as she slips and sits down. By now more than a little worried I am unloading her bags. Zebra keeper arrives and Dalie stands up. He uses her to lure young sir back to his box, protesting that he must have been released while he was absent. Pull the other one, I say.
After a certain amount of discussion of a not altogether friendly nature, a consensus is reached. I won't demand police, ambulance, and vet. They will keep their stripey pony inboard until we are well clear. We have a drink together, Dalie eats all their carrots, and we continue to the airfield where we are to be met. Why an airfield? Easy to find for all concerned, plenty of grass for Dalie, and picnic tables for my lunch. At this point I find out that in the fracas my nice fresh bread has been lost overboard and I have to share Dalie's portion. At least the wine bottle didn't break. Thank you St. James

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