Week two at Donkey HQ…. .

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Watch out………watch out………donkey’s about!

So, it’s now two weeks into our little sojourn at Donkey HQ and we have well and truly settled into the rhythm of life here.  Aside from the morning and evening feeding, grooming and mucking out of the donkeys we’ve had an interesting and varied week.

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Eight donkeys waiting for their breakfast!

We celebrated Kerstin’s birthday last Sunday with a cycle into town for some lunch followed in the evening by some ouzo we’d brought back from Greece last year and Kerstin’s homemade quince crumble with a carton of Ambrosia custard we’d had kicking about in the van for several months.

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Kerstin’s birthday lunch.
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Ouzo O’clock!  Egészségére! (Hungarian for cheers – Kerstin has been teaching me a bit of Hungarian as well as her native German).

The following day we took a walk up to see how the vacation donkeys were getting on with their temporary families.  Flor and Luna were saddled up to take the young children for a spin around the outside of the enclosure.

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Flor and Luna saddled up ready for a walk.

Not wanting to be left out the other donkeys followed us along the inside of the fence.  All was going well until Olivia decided to vault the fence to join us.  If there is going to be any trouble you could put money on Olivia being in the centre of it.  She’s a bit flighty and none too bright.  She’s intellectually challenged shall we say and always acts before putting her very modest little brain into gear.  After untangling her from the fence she joined our little party looking very pleased with herself indeed.  She raced up and down, backwards and forwards like a dog.

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A few seconds later Olivia jumped the fence (she is the dark brown one).

If donkey show jumping was ‘a thing’ in Portugal then Sofia should sign Olivia up.

P1140735.JPGAll of Sofia’s donkeys are a range of ages but she has four (Romano, Jeko, Mokka and Margarida) who are known collectively as ‘the oldies’.  From time to time as a change of scene for them we can take two or three of them down to a large area of grazing in the valley a twenty minute walk away.  I call it Donkey Day Care.

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Romano ad Mokka going to ‘Donkey Day Care’.

It also gives Romano a break from Mimi.  Mimi is like an annoying younger sister to Romano.  She follows him everywhere and she hee-haws if she is separated from him.

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As the song goes………Me and my shaaaaadow.  Or it should it be Mimi and my shaaaaadow?!

She has been here for over a year but the other donkeys can be mean to her so she sticks like glue to Romano as he is the only one who seems to have any time for her.  Mimi is rapidly becoming one of my favourites.  She’s super friendly but with a really cheeky naughty streak.  I’m pretty sure it was Mimi who dragged my jacket off the side and trailed it around the floor of the stable last week.

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Mugshot of Mimi.

It’s also been a musical week this week.  Tim was invited to play with a friend of Sofia’s who has a small group and who had been booked to play at the Christmas Market in Aljezur at the end of the week.

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Romano and Mokka come back from Donkey Day care whilst Tim waits for a lift to his music practice.

And we were invited to a choir practice.  Now I’m no singer but thought I’d give it a go.  Tim came along as well.  It was all very civilised with wine and nibbles on arrival.  On hindsight we could see why the wine was a necessary part of the evening.  Making numerous bizarre animal noises all featured as part of the warm up exercises.  Had it been a team building event in a work situation Tim and I would have been heading straight for the door whilst muttering several expletives.  The wine did the trick though and we barked, mooed, meowed and oinked along with everybody else as if it was a perfectly natural thing to do.  We were even disappointed that the next practice won’t be until the New Year.

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Nice Hat!

Since meeting the inspiring Colfer family a few weeks ago and reacquainting myself with wild swimming I’m going for a dip whenever I can.  There’s a small lake a five minute walk away in the valley where I have braved the cold water most days. It’s cold enough to give me ‘ice-cream neck’ (the same as ice-cream head but there’s no way I’m going to put my head under as well).

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Breathtakingly cold!
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Tim checks the back of his eyes whilst I go for a swim.

On our day off we took a trip on the bikes to Amoreira beach.

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Amoreira beach.

We had the whole beach to ourselves so I didn’t feel too stupid trying out some yoga before a swim in the estuary.

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Yogi in training.
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Much warmer in the estuary than the lake.

The yoga and the swim was followed by guilt free toasted sandwiches and chips at a cafe in Aljezur.

P1140764.JPGMore music ensued on Thursday with a lunch for all the people who live locally and have helped with the donkeys this year.  It was like a garden party in the sunshine but without the dressing up bit.

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Lunch for all the donkey helpers.

Then the finale of the week was the Christmas Market in Aljezur.  Our friends Di and Chris who are doing a multiple month trip of France, Spain and Portugal arrived this week and we met them at the market for a catch up over a mug of Gluhwein.

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Christina and her band at Aljezur market.

Perfecto!

More next week.

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Tenha um bom dia!

We’re back at Donkey HQ…. .

Well, our first week back here at Donkey HQ (aka burros & artes) has flown by.  We were last here two years ago and coming back we wondered if we would feel the same about the place as we had back in 2016.  We had intended then to stay for about three weeks but ended up staying eight as we enjoyed the whole experience so much.  When we arrived we left the van at the bottom of the hill and walked up to the top of the drive in the sunshine smelling that fragrant Portugal smell.  And there they all were.  The long eared ones.  How happy was I to see them all?!

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Meeting some of the donkeys again after two years away.

I’m in donkey heaven.  I can’t really explain what it is that I find so appealing about donkeys.  I love that they’re not too big.  The hang-dog expression that they so often put on.  The hee-hawing.  Those silky long ears.  That they can be stubborn.  That they are definitely cheeky.

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Mimi thought she’d join us for morning coffee.  She was later in the day caught red hoofed in Sofia’s fathers polytunnel.  He was not amused.  But you’ve gotta love her!

I’m a fan of terriers even though they can be difficult sometimes and donkeys seem to share some of the same traits.

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Note to self: Don’t leave your jacket lying where a donkey can reach it.
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Donkey HQ.

It’s great to be back here and we (I say we but it’s more me really) have been spending time reacquainting ourselves with the eleven that we already know and getting to know some new ones.

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Yay, we were soooo happy to see Romano is still here.  He’s well into his thirties and the oldest donkey here.
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And look at Kali now………..he should be renamed Kurli!
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Here he was two years ago a few weeks after he’d arrived.  He’d had a good home and was very affectionate but his owner was ill and could no longer keep him.

Seven of the nine new ones are brown and to my untrained eye look like identical septuplets.  After spending the last week with them though I am beginning to be able to tell them apart but I’m not quite there yet.

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Romano and Jeko.  Jeko now has arthritis in his hip so he needs extra care.

Anyway, the long suffering readers of this blog will know all about where we are but for any of you new readers who are wondering what all this donkey thing is about I’ll just get you up to speed with a quick recap.  Sofia, our host, who owns the donkeys runs different donkey trekking tours mainly throughout Spring, Summer and Autumn.  Anything from a two hour gentle walk along the beautiful tracks surrounding donkey HQ to multi day treks along the Rota Vicentina on the Atlantic Algarve coast.

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A neighbour moving some of the manure.

This is no cash cow business though.  Sofia is passionate about and cares deeply for her donkeys.  Many are elderly.  Others have come from poor beginnings with ‘issues’ that only time, care, love and patience will improve.

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Kali’s previous owner taught him to do this.  He’s just lovely and one of my favourites.

So we’re here to help in the day to day care of the donkeys, do a bit of maintenance and generally help out wherever help is needed.

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Mucking out.

This week has been a busy one.

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Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho…………….

Sofia was offered the loan of a large piece of land three kilometres away big enough for half a dozen donkeys to enjoy a vacation.  It was mostly fenced but Tim and I spent a couple of days repairing some areas, clipping back vegetation which interferes with the electric fencing, creating an entrance and generally making sure the whole area is donkey proof.

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The morning commute to work.
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Cutting down the vegetation and repairing the original fence.

The two families who will be looking after the vacation donkeys came down to Donkey HQ yesterday and we all walked them up to their new holiday home.

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There was much excitement when the families came down armed with carrots.

Flor, Luna, Kiko, Olivia, Xiquito and Emil will stay in their new home for a few weeks at least.

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How can you not love them?
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The vacation donkeys going to their holiday home a few kilometres away.

One of the amazing things about the area around Aljezur is the sharing of skills, the helping of neighbours and the exchange of goods.  For example, the French neighbours came to collect a trailer load of donkey manure in exchange for three big bags of carrots.  It’s only fair.  The donkeys produced it so they get paid for it in carrots.

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Tim fixed up the donkey HQ bike for Kerstin (another helper) and in exchange Kerstin cooked dinner!

Whilst we were fixing up the fence for the holiday donkeys we met Dan, a yoga instructor who has been living on a friend’s piece of land in his camper van for several months.  He invites people to join his free yoga classes to share his love and knowledge of yoga.  It’s a kind of gift economy whereby no money changes hands.

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He invited me to join their morning yoga class.  How could I refuse an opportunity like that?  I left Tim to the rest of the fence and spent an hour throwing out some shapes on a yoga mat with two other would be yogis.  And hallelujah, I managed to touch my toes for the first time in probably thirty years.  Later on in the week I’ll gift them something in return.  I haven’t thought of what yet!

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Kerstin and I doing a spot of yoga in the garden.

It’s certainly an eclectic mix of people living in the area with many cultural, music, art, dance and theatre events to get involved with.

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A cool vegetarian restaurant in Aljezur called Moagem.

We are loving being back.

 

 

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It’s not all work!

More news as it breaks from Donkey HQ next week 🙂

Ate  mais tarde!

 

Don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it…. .

Well what a week.

What. A. Week.

We are currently at Mikki’s Place.

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Mikki’s Place.

We came for two nights.

Then three.

Then four.

Then six.

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Communal spaces.

If we didn’t have our next Helpx starting tomorrow I think we may well have just stopped another week.  And maybe another.  And then another.  We’ll never know.

P1140615.JPGWe knew about the place.  Had heard good things about it.  Read some really positive reviews about it.  Seen some cool photos of it.  But.  Would it be for us?

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Ceramics and art to peruse or buy.

People stay here for months at a time.  Some never leave.  Images of a cliquey commune came to mind.  A kind of retirement village.  And I suppose it is.  Kind of.  But not quite.

P1140617.JPGLocation was a factor too.  We like to walk and sometimes cycle without having to drive the van anywhere.  Situation wise it didn’t look too promising on either front.

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Bar/dining/socialising space.

However.  You can surprise yourself sometimes.

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Dining space.

A day goes by.  You talk to a few people.  You get a good vibe about the place.

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Chill out space.

Another day goes by.  More chatting.  Interesting stories.  Different lives.

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Nice touches.

Another day goes by.  More stories.  Music shared.

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Liam from Livin off the hook.  An inspirational family from Ireland.  Check their blog out.

Inspiring people.

P1140658.JPGIt seeps in.

P1140633.JPGA few more days go by.

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Dogs most welcome too.

Ok.  Whoa.  Stop right there Jane.  I don’t do woo woo and I’m getting just a little bit too woo woo for my liking!

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Nice T-Shirt tan Jane.

Tim has been saying for the last few days that I’ve gone a bit Bodmin (if you watch the Doc Martin series then you’ll know what I mean).  This place has had a bit of an effect on me though.

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Yoga with Niamh – another member of team Livin off the hook.

We came just under a week ago believing it wouldn’t really be our scene and we’ve completely changed our opinion.

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Niamh trying to teach an ironing board some yoga moves.

It’s not a campsite exactly.  It’s not an aire either.  It’s not even a combination of the two.

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The backside of the pizza oven.

It’s unique is what it is.

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More music……
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……..an artists interpretation of the picture above by Ella, aged 6.

But anyway enough of the love in with Mikki’s.  How did our internet date go?  As I wrote in the last blog, we were here to meet up with Tim and Jan who follow the blog and who are on a similar trip to us with their lovely dog Jade.

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This is not Jan!

I have to say I was a tad apprehensive.  We had a tenuous link via our friends Sam and Chris who had met them on a campsite on the Isle of Arran in Scotland.  We seemed to have an awful lot in common though.  And not just the similar names.

Well all I can say is we have had a cracking time with them.  We’ve had a day out walking the coast.

Amazing weather.

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We were watching a pod of dolphins.

Shared a couple of meals.  Chatted about our different life stories.  Chatted some more.  Boy can I talk the hind legs off a donkey.  In my defence I’ve been socially starved for over two months apart from talking to Tim (my Tim!).  Tim is not generally a big talker so I make up for the two of us.  It’s fair to say I haven’t shut up!

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Our new besties!

It all had to come to an end sooner or later though and our new best friends (sorry Di and Chris) hit the road heading east this morning.  If we never hear from them again I’ll know they were just being polite!  If we do I’ll try not to chew their ears off so much next time we meet.

And talking of ears we are ready and raring to go to start our next Helpx.  We were there two years ago.

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Happy days at Donkey HQ December 2016.

We’re going back.

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Thankfully donkeys don’t drool.

I’ll have twenty new pairs of ears to chew off now.

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Kali, my favourite.

We’re going to Donkey HQ again.  Yay!

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First trek to the beach for Kali, Dec 2016.

Oh, and before I go.  After my yoga session with Niamh a few days ago I’ve been doing a little session in the mornings by myself.  The results have been nothing short of astounding.

Just look at me now!

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See, I’ve come over all artistic myself now!

Até breve!