The first donkey, Mali

A handsome donkey in her stableNote: Mali’s not the donkey for this trip, look here for the reasons. But I’ve put this page here for posterity, even though it’s all out of date now. Oh tricky old internet…

There’s nothing wrong these days, thankfully, with finding your other half on the internet. And that’s just how, after Googling ‘donkeys’ and ‘Wales’ I was introduced to Mali the donkey. I visited her in early January, and she was not very keen on me, but her owner assures me that she is just young, and a little training between now and May will go a very long way. And then she will be happy to go a very long way.

Why Mali?

Her owner recommended Mali (which rhymes with Sally, and is the equivalent of Molly in Welsh) because she is a big, strong, three-year-old donkey. Too strong to carry kids along a beach without possibly scaring them, she’s currently mostly hanging out with the other donkeys, but is in need of some fruitful work to keep her occupied. Her owner reckons she’ll really take to walking, will enjoy the other people we meet on the way, and will have no trouble with fifteen-mile days: “She can do fifteen miles, standing on her head!”. I’m also hoping that she’ll be faster than the average donkey, on account of her greater size and energy. The average donkey goes at around 2.5km an hour, and I think I probably walk at around 4km an hour (at a total guess). It’s tough walking below your natural gait, so it will really help if she’s a quick ‘un.

And what next?

Her owner is currently training Mali – girthing and mouthing her (that’s getting her used to a belly-strap and a bit, to anyone not up to speed with equine terminology, which includes me). She’s moving from the lawless barn with all the other donkeys to a stable with one companion, which will apparently calm her and make her more disciplined. And then, come April, I’ll try to spend some decent time with her, doing a little donkey whispering and going for walks. As her owner says, first they need to “find her brakes.”

What to expect

Her owner tells me that Mali doesn’t go in for Polos, and doesn’t like having her ears touched (this one I noticed for myself when she flinched as I touched an ear five seconds into our first meeting, after her owner and the owner’s uncle had finally managed to get her under control. Gulp). She does like apples and horse treats, and people – I’m assured. Judging by her other donkeys, she may freak out when she first encounters puddles and white lines in the road, says her owner. She’s a beauty, a real handsome jenny (female donkey), and I will be proud to be seen with her, provided she doesn’t mind coming along with me.

And after the walk?

Her owner is lending Mali to me for the walk. It’s great for me because I have their support (and for some reason their impression that it is a good idea, and will all work out), and they are keen because, as they say, it’s sad to see a strong donkey without a job to do. So after the walk I will give her back…
Or… I will be unable to be parted from her, and will have to leave London and get a field, and start planning the walk around the rest of Britain, or the Med, or the world – mwah ha ha haaaa.

Even if I do give her back, donkeys can live for fifty years, and have amazing memories; they can remember people and places for up to 25 years. Provided we get off the starting blocks, this could be the beginning of something beautiful.