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.
UPDATE TUESDAY 11th OCTOBER – 10 pm
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 http://www.chemindecompostelle.com/Randoline/index.html 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. http://www.hillamvehicles.com/