By Paul Savill
Donkey trekking has just started in the western Algarve with a series of walks with donkeys planned this summer starting from Aljezur.
There are several walks going in various directions, which take in the nearby dramatic scenery of hills, valleys and coasts.
The walks vary in time and distance. The shortest is half or one day, the average two to three days and the longest can take five days and reach 100 kilometres.
The first donkey walk took place recently to coincide with the fourth crossing of the Via Algarviana by hundreds of hikers and bikers.
Setting off from just outside Aljezur one sunny morning were two donkeys called Kiko and Jeko, a guide and four clients of various nationalities and ages, from a Spanish woman in her thirties to an Englishman in his sixties.
Five days and 90 kilometres later, they reached Cape St Vincent, the Algarve’s most westerly point, along with the hikers and bikers and were greeted with cheers.
They had joined the Via at the pretty old village of Marmelete. At their arrival, the donkey train was longer than at the start, the troupe having been joined on the last day by a father and his two five-year-old twin sons.
Due, perhaps, to the fact that they were able to ride the donkeys for some of the way, the boys completed the journey without a whinge!
The route taken used sound country paths for most of the way and hard roads only occasionally.
A few streams less than ankle deep were encountered which posed more of a problem for the donkeys than the humans, but with a bit of pushing and carrot bribery the donkeys were persuaded. Donkeys had no problems with their hooves and the humans had only three blisters between them!
The donkey tours are being arranged by Burros & Artes, headed by Sofia von Mentzingen. She cares for a herd of donkeys at a smallholding just east of Aljezur. Resident in the western Algarve for several years and fluent in several languages, she acts as the main guide at present.
Walking with donkeys, she says, is good for both soul and body for it creates a rhythm which is claimed to be far more soothing than walking on its own.
These gentle creatures gladly carry the walkers’ bags (restricted to about 10kg per person), and they happily plod on at a pace slightly slower than hikers.
Every two hours, they take a rest with grazing, limitless apples and carrots and rolls in the grass!
Every night, the clients can help put the donkeys to rest. This involves brushing down, checking hooves, spreading straw for beds and feeding them oats – plus more apples and carrots!
Accommodation for clients varies from hostels, b&b rooms and small hotels.
Prices vary according to length of trek and standard of accommodation.