Donkey and cart on the Voie de Vezelay

It is time to take a break from the October “foalfest” here in Finestrat on the Costa Blanca and celebrate the peregrina con burra who inspired all this: Barbara Reed and her donkey Dalie in France. They have just returned home after a walk along the Voie de Vezelay, one of the routes of St James in France. The new feature here is Barbara’s custom made donkey cart, which looks very interesting indeed!

I have not had any details of the specifications yet, but it looks like a very lightweight construction and very practical as an overnight camping (caravan?) vehicle too. Can you contribute a comment with some explanation of the design and materials, Barbara. (Some of the Peregrinos Con Burros people from the Santiago virtual albergue look in here regularly and I’m sure they will all be building donkey carts soon!)

Barbara finished her walk with Dalie back in the pack saddle and pannier bags, as I remember her from walking with Dalie, and what a lovely uncomplaining animal she is… Until she sees a crowd of tourists. Then she puts on a mournful expression, staggers through the town market square, and every English tourist cries out, “Look at that poor overloaded donkey and that cruel insensitive French peasant…”

Once through the town, Dalie is happily trotting again.

Barbara adds the following comments and links regarding the cart:

The cart was great where the hills were not too steep, but the brakes proved to be not good enough going downhill, they are just a metal band on the tyre, and in order to set them I have to be in or alongside the cart. problem here, if I am leading herself in a town and have to keep stopping to adjust the brakes as we get to the top or bottom of a hill. So I need to think about hydraulic brakes that can have a brake screw (rather than a lever) on the forward end of the shafts, with a flex hose so I can move it to the seat when I am actually riding in the cart (about half the time, when it is flattish and fairly smooth) Also I have to find a way of giving her better traction on tarmac, as she tended to slip going uphill. Dalie is shod for long walks, as she has fairly soft hooves which wear down in about 200km on hard surfaces. Road studs do exist, as do rubber overshoes. The studs wear very quickly, and the overshoes don’t come in a small enough size. Anyone here with specialist knowledge?
So we finished with the pack saddle at St Palais. BTW, we left the Voie de Vezelay at Orthez and cut across to the Le Puy route at Maslacq. As we were finishing our walk I stayed at a wonderful gite which only took walkers and cyclists, NO CARS or support vehicles- it is easy to find, follow the snail waymarking, (before Ostabat at Uhart-Mixe) It’s in the Miam Miam Dodo. The last photo is in the garden of a (very nice) B and B at Lichos where we stayed because most of the Gites and refuges in that area squatted by large groups with car back-up. I have nothing against tourigrinos as such, just wish they would stay a little way away from the Camino at night so as to leave some room for the non motorised pilgs.
Anyway, whinge over and back to the donkeys. The cart still needs a little detail work, but yes I can sleep in it, and it is pretty comfortable. I can carry enough water for both of us, and it is narrow enough for most of the tracks. It’s not so good going uphill on tarmac, and I think Dalie would have found the Pyrenees difficult. So, not the ultimate answer as yet. Any disabled pilgs should probably look at the Randoline as a better option, I intend to make a canvas cover and sort the brakes, in the meantime I will be doing my shopping with the cart, which was made by Mr Hillam in the UK- he has a web site, and is very helpful.


About Gareth Thomas

After a mixed career as an aircraft technician, London fringe theatre playwright, Franciscan friar, and secondary school teacher, I find myself looking after the needs of four donkeys in a remote location in the mountains in the Costa Blanca. I like to listen to BBC Radio 4 and the wind in the pine trees. I am writing a comedy about a school in Benidorm. My favourite film of all time is "Jean de Florette". If I had my time again I would not have spent the early 1970s working for Special Branch.
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13 Responses to Donkey and cart on the Voie de Vezelay

  1. JabbaPapa says:

    Carts are even rarer than either horses or donkeys on the Camino, but I do have to compliment Barbara on that absolutely wonderful contraption !!

    Even its very narrow breadth seems to have been specifically designed for the job of getting to the sanctuary of Saint James in good order, including leaving enough room for passing cyclists and walkers.

  2. Barbara says:

    (Barbara’s post has been inserted into the main blog article to go with the photos.)

  3. Barbara says:

    How come my post is now in twice?

    (Sorry! I pasted it into the main blog post and then forgot to delete it before hurrying down to the field to have another beer and spend more time with the foals. – Brotherlapin.)

  4. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    I read a book I forgot I had – A Passion For Donkeys – by a woman with a Scandinavian name. It shows donkeys’ teeth at various ages. It was upsetting when they showed pics of maltreated animals but they are right to discuss it.

    I would guess a cart would be rather restricting and encourage the carrying of too much stuff. But I’ve never trekked with a donkey, so that’s supposition.

  5. Barbara says:

    Yes, restricting, but no more so than using a bike. Too much stuff maybe, if you aren’t careful. I had what i always carry plus water for both of us and a netbook, so it was easy to go back to the packsaddle.

  6. Frere Rabit says:

    Barbara, the vehicle looks very practical and it doesn’t look as if it weighs very much either. I’d like to find one of those old Valencian style donkey farm carts from somewhere local. I’ve seen a few horse carts rotting away in corners of fields, but nothing donkey sized. The present life with donks is so precarious – dependent on a teaching job with yet another temporary 10-month contract – that I don’t know if it is wise to start thinking about buying any more stuff! Four donkeys are quite a significant encumbrance enough, without adding a cart.

    Jabba, I’d like the reference for that book if you can remember more details. Sounds interesting.

  7. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Frere (please delete this)

    If you mean me and not Jabba about the donkey book, I’ll get the details for you by tomorrow. I think it’s an ’80s book. I have no internet and use a friend’s where I am now.. If the postage weren’t so brutal I’d send it on- I’ll weigh it anyway. I think a kilo costs about 10 euros to post. ….Dunno. If the book seems uninteresting, I could send photocopies of the teeth page.

    Incidentally, Jabba will not be best pleased that I have been mistaken for him!!!!!!! He will “show you the instruments”, that man!!!! Edit your post or go into hiding!

  8. Frere Rabit says:

    “If you mean me and not Jabba”…

    Aaaaaarrrgh! Yes, sorry about that. Never try to write anything coherent if you teach Year 9 last thing on a Friday afternoon…

    No, posting it would be excessive. I’d be interested to add the details to my bibliography of donkey books.

  9. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Ah yes – the worst possible class at the worst possible time. A waste of everyone’s time. They are barking.

    The book weighs 1100 gms, and would be excessive to post.

    A Passion for Donkeys, Elizabeth Svendson, 1988 ISBN 0-7153-9252–2
    Cost £15 new back then.

    About half is chapters on donkey culture in general, the rest about care of donkeys, breeding, riding and driving, drawings of forelimbs and hind limbs with faults* noted, A-Z of donkey health, acquiring a donk etc. 205 pages.

    “Dipped, weak loins, Sickle Hock, Cow hock, Too long cannon, Peaked sloped loins” and so on.

  10. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    However, if you ever wanted it, it’s yours for the postage.

  11. Frere Rabit says:

    Ah,Wall Eyed, yes I know the name! The author is the founder of the original donkey sanctuary at Sidmouth. So your book will indeed be an authoritative volume. Yes, if you are happy to send it I will pay the postage. Switch to my email address garethomas (at)

    I will send you my daughter’s address in the UK to post it, for she is coming out to see the foals soon and can bring it with her. I’ll send you the cost of postage. Many thanks.

  12. JabbaPapa says:

    Incidentally, Jabba will not be best pleased that I have been mistaken for him!!!!!!! He will “show you the instruments”, that man!!!! Edit your post or go into hiding!


  13. Frere Rabit says:

    Cripes indeed, Jabba. Powerful stuff.

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