The journey

Chico the wonder donkey

All hail Chico, keen as mustard! He is truly an impressive creature, and I am just so amazed by his rate of learning. Once upon a time, about two weeks ago, he was scared of manhole covers and the giant white letters that say



in the road. He’s not paid them any heed for ages. A week ago we were heading through Llwyngwril, halfway between Tywyn and Fairbourne, which has a short footbridge next to the stone bridge. The footbridge looks like Tarmac, but when Chico trod on it there was a ‘Clip clop, clip clop, dong!’ He leaped back so his hooves were right on the edge of the metal, and though about it for a moment. I danced about on the metal part to show all was well. He tried again, ‘Clip, clop, dong!’ and shied away again. Then he took a breath – you could really see this bit happening – summoned up the courage, and stepped out on to it. ‘Dong, donk, dong, donk, dong, donk’. Resounding congratulation from me, and probably horse nuts to seal the deal. Brave donkey!

Wonder donkey on Barmouth footbridge – 1km long!

Since then he’s managed the kilometre-long wooden slatted footbridge from Fairbourne to Barmouth without batting a long eyelash (although he wouldn’t walk on the side with the view of the water, and wasn’t going to stop for anyone). Yesterday he took on the bridge to Porthmadog – another kilometre, only this time concrete, through misty, drizzly vistas watched by two motionless swans sitting on the dun-coloured water. He is a determined donkey, genuinely keen to overcome what worries him, and I feel so glad to have chosen him.

We’ve passed through fields with bullocks in, passed horses on the road, countless yappy dogs; yesterday also included being swamped by a group of fifteen high-pitched children on a school trip (fifteen hands all reaching for his nose simultaneously), and being eyeballed by a bunch of wet llamas in a field by the main road. There is a wide variety of daily stimuli, largely unforeseeable, that the little guy has to deal with. I’ve been on a mission to keep these to a minimum, but as the walk goes on and he gets braver there is sense and necessity in deliberate lessons. A few days ago we were on the beach, camping on some scrub in the curve of a river. The morning’s low tide thankfully drew the river mouth out into many shallow rivulets over the sand and pebbles, and Chico, previously very keen not to get his hooves wet at all, crossed them, saving us a long walk round to a bridge, and treating us all to a four-mile stretch of sand, complete with the further experiences of unusual flying machines, footballs, speedboats and nudists.

Today, horses. Three days ago we walked down a path with two gigantic horses on one side, and several crazy Shetlands on the other. I would have kept my head down and got out of there – forget Chico, I was scared of the huge horses, and Shetlands are just weird – but Rhys spotted the opportunity and made Chico come as close as possible to meet them all. And last night we stayed with a lovely couple who run an equine therapy centre, so this morning Iain and Lindsay are introducing Chico to their young New Forest pony, in the amazing stable on the high Lleyn peninsula headland above Black Rock Sands that we stumbled to in last night’s salty gale.

Just one thing Chico is still routinely frightened of – lambs. Honestly, just when you think you are starting to get to know a beast…


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  1. Pumperknickle! Finally caught up on your’s and the big man Mr C’s adventures. Very proud of you both and delighted to hear you are singing to him.
    If you get a chance, take a look at this.
    Used to play at the Saturday morning film club I went to when I was a girl, fist full of milk bottles and tongue-tang-tastic sweeties. I look forward to hearing what lyrics you can give to it. Much love to you and el burro (he’s Spanish after all!)

  2. The lamb fear makes me laugh. I just bottle fed a lamb and my children got such a charge out of the “lamb tricks” she would do after eating. I imagine Chico can’t decide if it is a dog or something else! When I walked our lamb to school on a leash with my daughter, people drove by and waved. It was only after they got home, that they sent email asking me if it was a new puppy…or something else.

    Happy trekking!

  3. Bravo, Chico! Truly amazing how far he has come in two short weeks. How odd that he would be afraid of lambs. Maybe he doesn’t like the smell of wool.

  4. Nancy in Iowa says:

    I am definitely impressed by you and Chico – gates, bridges, gigantic horses, children – don’t worry, lambs will be next!

    Can’t wait for the next chapter!

  5. colleen from nc says:

    Yea Chico…..both of you are doing great. I am very impressed!!!!!

  6. maybe with a dollop of mint sauce?

    • don’t worry, it was just a joke… lamb with mint sauce?

      Anyway, have a great trip, sounds like heaven to me.

  7. I guess he eats grass?

  8. Oh, Hannah! I’m so proud and inspired by you and Chico! The two of you are quite the team! I love reading your adventures and how far you have both come! Bravo, bravo, BRAVO!!

  9. A wonder donkey indeed. Well done!

  10. What a fantastic journey. Love seeing the photos and reading your posts.

  11. Well you have been busy conquering dragons,wind,rain letters in the road Uncle Tom Cobley and all and coming thru with flying colours WELL DONE both of you. It will make for a very good read when the book comes out!, Looking forward to the next chapter, keep your spirits up ,hopefully the weather will improve, I do know what it’s like to be out in bad weather horses had to be exercised what ever the weather is doing, my big yellow cycle mac was very useful once the horses got used to it!!!! God bless take care Jill

  12. What a great journey you are on, I would have done something similar in my youth. Just a thought, I know when horses get very spooked and wont walk over something, you tie a shirt over their eyes and they will trust you and go. Might work with a donkey too. Same reason carriage horses have side blinders on, keeps them from being spooked by what comes up from behind them. Donkeys eyes are the same as horses, they see out side and not directly in front, they have a empty spot so that’s why stepping on something odd freaks them out. they cant see their own feet. But it sounds like hes getting the hang of just trusting you and if you take it slow, youll get there in the end. Thanks for all the details, so interesting and different from the US. Cheers!

  13. So sorry to have missed you and Chico in Porthmadog yesterday where I live. Where are you heading next, and incidently I have lots of lambs on my farm..

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