Settling in to routines…. .

Ok, so we felt we needed a break from vanlife to remain in one place for a while.  But what are we going to do during our static four months with so much time on our hands?  Certainly this lifestyle we have has given us the luxury of time.  Time to do as we please, live our life on our own terms and pick and choose what we want to do and what we don’t want to do.  I can’t deny it’s a super luxurious position to be in and it’s one we try not to take for granted.  Having so much time though also throws up a few challenges.  At least for me.  Tim is a much more laid back, live in the moment, don’t analyse it kind of person.  Me?  I can analyse something to the nth degree and then some!

I’m not talking about boredom here.  I’ve never been bored on our travels.  Yes, there have been times where I’ve felt flat, frustrated or cooped up during prolonged periods of rain but I wouldn’t say I’ve been bored.  I’ll always find something to do.  Pottering. It’s one of my favourite things to do but I’m not yet quite of an age where pottering about ALL day is fulfilling enough.  Maybe in a year or two;)  For me, the amount of time we have on our hands is more a question of purpose.  Throughout our travels I’ve always been plagued by the ‘P’ word.  Or maybe there’s a bit of guilt thrown in there too.  Drifting around from place to place with no end game in mind can, for me, feel a bit like I have no purpose.  I think I’m just the kind of person that needs a bit of structure and a ‘why’.  It was one of the reasons we had decided that as part of our travels we would do some volunteering.  We viewed it as a chance to meet new people, learn new skills, experience different lifestyles and ideas and generally make a difference to someone.  It was also a chance to have a focus for a while.

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Painting the railings of the village War Memorial whilst on a Helpx in France in 2016.

It can be difficult to have a focus when you’re moving from place to place for an extended period of time.  It can also be difficult to justify what we are doing.  Lots of people nowadays take a midlife gap year which is totally understandable. Take a year or so out, explore, recharge and then pick up from where you left off.  People can understand that.  But take off with no idea of how long you’ll be gone for or if you’ll ever go back to a conventional life is a bit harder for people to take in.  If we meet people and get into a discussion on our current lifestyle we have occasionally had the awkward question of ‘yes, but what do you do all day’? If I’m honest it’s not an easy one to answer without sounding a bit lame.  It generally goes something like this: ‘Oh well, you know, we walk a bit, maybe go for a cycle, plan where to go next, sort out emptying and refilling the van, read, erm, go to Lidl, volunteer a bit, erm, you know, erm, stuff like that’.  You see.  Wishy washy and lame.  You can see in people’s eyes they don’t really get it and are probably thinking we’re just a bit work shy.  I think it’s partly an age thing as if we were in our late sixties or seventies I don’t think anyone would question what we do with our time.  You’ve earnt your retirement so live it large and put your feet up.  Or maybe it’s just my own perception of things.  I don’t know but it’s not always easy to justify what we do with our time and where it all goes. But it goes.  And very quickly too.  Filling the time whilst on the road in the van is pretty easy though as you’re constantly stimulated by new sights, different landscapes, a changing set of neighbours, the odd challenge and hundreds of questions going through your head about this and that.  Filling the time in one place though is a bit different.

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Where does the time go?!

So, after nearly seven hundred words I’ve still not answered what we’ll be doing during our extended time here.  Well, for Tim one of the biggest sacrifices he made when taking on this lifestyle was leaving behind the music scene where we lived.  Music IS a huge part of his life.  HUGE.  He’s had to adapt to not being able to be a part of several bands.  He hardly played at all in our first year away but in the last two or so years he’s adjusted to playing solo.  In an ideal world he’d want to be playing in several bands but playing solo has been a compromise.  Over the last three weeks he’s been busy making contacts and putting out feelers to get into something here and/or start something new.

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The compromise…. .

For me I have the donkeys!  I’m spending a few mornings a week cleaning up after them and generally enjoying some donkey time.  Mucking out wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I find it quite therapeutic and of course I love spending time with the donkeys.

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Sunrise over Donkey HQ after a wet night.

One of the things I wanted to do when travelling was to learn a new language or two.  I’d dabbled in French on and off since 2016, did a few months of learning German when we were in Germany and then promptly forgot it all again and ditto last year for Spanish.  Unfortunately, spending an extended period of time in a foreign country doesn’t mean to say you miraculously absorb the language.  Alas, it takes consistent time and effort.  Consistency had never been my strong point regarding languages.  Or anything else for that matter but this lifestyle has forced me into creating a few routines as I know I feel more content if I feel I have achieved something each day whether that be physical or mental.  At the beginning of this year I set myself the challenge to improve my French and I’m glad to say, even though I’m not yet where I want to be with it, I have made some mprovement.  So a consistent effort at continuing to improve the French and learning some Portuguese will be a feature of my day too.

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Time for a cup of tea and a French podcast.

Then we have some dog walking to do.  The AEZA refuge is a non-profit association taking in stray dogs and cats.  Three days a week volunteers are welcome to walk a dog or two.  Tim unwittingly gave me the idea when he said ‘I don’t think it would be a good idea for you to do the dog walking at the dog refuge’.  As a dog lover and having had four of our own dogs in the past he knows I have a weakness for them but when our last one went to the big kennel in the sky in 2013 we agreed we would have a period without the responsibility a dog brings. I’ve done pretty well in sticking to it.  It took all my resolve not to take home half a dozen strays from Greece a couple of years ago.  But, the dogs need walking and I have time on my hands so it was a fait accompli.

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I don’t normally do selfies but needs must………………Gwen enjoying her walk!

I just have to hope I don’t fall in love with one…………or two.

Até já!

And relax…. .

So, we’re currently on a break from ‘vanlife’.  We arrived in Aljezur in the south west of Portugal just over a week ago and we are intending to spend at least four months here.  So, why the extended break here?  We spent two months in this area in 2016/17 and then another two months here in 2018/19 doing some volunteering so got to know the area a little bit during those extended stays.  When we left here at the beginning of February this year to continue our travels we felt like we could have stayed longer but we were also ready to move on.  If that makes sense?  No, I thought not.  I’ll try to explain.

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View across to the new town of Aljezur.

During our two extended stays here we did some volunteering with Sofia who runs a donkey trekking business. It gave us time out of the van, a focus on something other than travel, enjoyable work and a chance to live like a local for a short while.  And of course, for me, spending time with all those donkeys was a super enriching experience.  However, after two months we were ready to live our independent life again but we would have liked to spend a bit longer in the area.  We really like the laid back slow pace of life here and it’s really the only place we have been to since starting our travels where we could see ourselves spending a chunk of time during the winter.  However, at the time we had already made our plans for our trip to Morocco.  We’d organised our Green Card for the insurance on the van in a non EU country and we were looking forward to exploring a new country.  But.  Had we not organised ourselves to go to Morocco we could have easily stayed another month or two in Aljezur either renting a house or staying at the campsite outside the town.  Tim had established a few connections with his music and I was happy to help with the donkeys.

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Cows grazing just at the edge of the town.

We decided, then, to look at the possibilities of renting somewhere in the area during the winter of 2019 to try out an extended stay here but one that was on our own terms where we weren’t volunteering in exchange for accommodation and food.  Going into our fourth year of continuous travel we were ready to stretch out a bit and stay put for a while.  Travelling fulltime can become tiring.  Not in the sense that you feel flaked out all the time but more in a sense of mentally dealing with a life on the move.  Planning where to go to next, taking in new sights and experiences daily, emptying and refilling the van, sorting out laundry every couple of weeks, living cheek by jowl with each other twenty four hours a day!

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In between the old town and new town.

When we embarked on our life change to give up our jobs and do something completely different we viewed it as a new chapter in our lives.  It wasn’t going to be a ‘gap year’ it was going to be more of a ‘gap decade’ to travel to different countries, experience different cultures, experience and learn new things and live in different ways to the norm.  There wasn’t any time limit on it.  We were just going to see how things unfolded and go with whatever felt right at the time.  This little sojourn in Portugal, then, is just a chapter within the chapter. It’s as much a time to recharge and give our brains a rest as it is an opportunity to experience living in another country for an extended period to try it on for size so to speak.

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Lunch in the sun:)

Our travels are far from over but we are ready for a break from them.

So we’ve hunkered down and settled in to our little house on a hill in the old town over the last ten days and we’re looking forward to seeing how it all pans out.

Até logo!

Onwards into Portugal…. .

The great thing about vanlife is that if you arrive somewhere and don’t feel the love for it you can just move on.  Equally, if you do feel the love for somewhere you can stay longer than you’d originally intended.  Marvão, a few kilometres over the border into Portugal was one of those places that waylaid us.  By a week.  We’d intended staying a night or two but……..well…….we couldn’t tear ourselves away.  If we hadn’t needed to be further south by the end of October we would probably have stretched our stay into two weeks.  Or three.  Admittedly we had a spell of warm sunny weather so that always makes a difference.  Pitched up at Asseiceira camping we relaxed into rural life in Portugal.

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Camping Asseiceira.

The hilltop town of Marvão probably is the main attraction for visitors to this area of the Alentejo region of Portugal.

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Marvão.
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The views are superb.

And it is spectacular perched on top of a high peak, but for me it was the rolling, granite bouldered landscape with miles and miles of traffic free lanes to explore on the bike that captured my attention.

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Typical hamlet in this region.

I’d been sadly disillusioned exploring Cornwall by bike whilst we were working on a campsite during the summer by the amount of traffic I had to contend with even on the minor roads.  Everywhere seemed to be rat run to get from one place to another.  In contrast the bike riding around Marvão was completely stress free and practically car free.

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Miles of glorious cycling.

According to Wikipedia the Alentejo region of Portugal covers over 27,000 square kilometres with a population density averaging less than twenty people per square kilometre.  Cornwall on the other hand covers 3,500 square kilometres and during the summer months has a population density of over 12000 people per square kilometre.  Quite a difference then.  Sheesh, no wonder it felt soooo busy in Cornwall.  Anyway, hopefully I’ve got the maths right there as it has never been one of my strengths.

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…….and acorn eating pigs.

So the Alentejo then is a vast area covering a chunk of Portugal which stretches from the Atlantic coast in the west to the Spanish border in the east and the Algarve in the South.  We’d explored some of the south eastern area around Monsaraz in 2016 and really loved it and we weren’t disappointed with the north eastern part either.

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The old station at Beira.

You really can’t beat a hilltop town for a good old exploration on foot.  Marvão at over eight hundred metres is the highest village in the Alentejo.  It is enclosed by 13th Century walls, has a castle at the top where you can walk the walls if you’ve a head for heights, some formal gardens and narrow medieval winding streets lined by white washed houses.  On a good day the panoramic views all around are worth the climb up.

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Walking from the campsite to Marvão.
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It’s gets pretty steep.

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img_20191020_154315904_hdrThe campsite we stayed on is just outside the workaday little town of Santo António das Areias and just under five kilometres from Marvão.

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Cork oaks.
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An early morning walk.

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The view over Castelo de Vide, another historic town in the area.

After a walk or a cycle we enjoyed popping into the mini market everyday for a coffee and a pastel de nata to observe village life in action.  There’s a little cafe inside the mini market with a couple of tables and it seemed to be the hub of the town.

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Simple pleasures.

A steady stream of people would come in, order a coffee, have a chitty chat with whoever happened to be in there at the time, buy a few groceries and then go again.  Everyone seemed to know everyone and happily spent a few minutes chewing the fat.  Barely a mobile phone in sight.  You do have to have a bit of patience or time on your hands when buying your groceries in rural towns and villages in Portugal as no one appears to be in a hurry.  News is swapped and children are cooed over.  We are so used to standing in a queue at a check-out, being served briskly with no one exchanging a word because everyone is in a hurry.  It’s quite the mind set change but a refreshing change at that. 

It felt good to be back in Portugal but time was pressing on so after a week we reluctantly moved on.  Having been brought up by the sea and then spending over twenty years being a two hour drive away from the sea we’re still always drawn to it.  We do like a good coastal walk so after an overnight stop in Évora we spent a few of nights on the Atlantic coast before arriving just over the border into the Algarve for an extended stop. 

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Back on the Atlantic coast near Vila Nova de Milfontes.

img_20191029_114553216_hdrAs regular readers of the blog will know we are swapping van life for bricks and mortar life this winter.    

It will be a chance to take an extended break from travelling and van dwelling to relax, recharge, regroup, reset, reflect and reboot. 

Well that’s the theory anyway. 

We moved out of the van yesterday. 

Time will tell to see how it all pans out and how we get on. 

Até breve!

We’ve said our goodbyes to Donkey HQ…. .

Ok, so the last time I updated the blog Christmas was upon us.

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Watching ‘White Christmas’ on Christmas Eve.  What can I say?  It’s a tradition for Tim!

I seem to have lost six weeks somewhere.

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Christmas Day picnic on Amoreira beach.

Where it went I couldn’t say.

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A trip to the circus at Monchique with our friends Di and Chris.

But there is no denying that it has gone.

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A very low key New Years Eve in Portimao.

Christmas and New Year are but a distant memory and we are now firmly into February.

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I’m going to do a short post today.

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One of many swims in December and January.

It has to be short.

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Tim found some new musical friends in Aljezur.

If I don’t get a post out today and breathe some life back into this blog it may well expire before my eyes.

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There’s nothing like a good roll to start the day off right.

It’s difficult to write a blog post after a gap of being incommunicado.

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Okami, Mel, Falco, Emil, Luna and Flor swapping news after a coupe of weeks apart.

My memory and attention span are limited.

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Flor and Luna returning to donkey HQ after a little holiday with a Dutch family who live in the hills nearby.

The previous weeks at Donkey HQ passed by so quickly it is hard to believe we spent eight weeks there.

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Xiquito ready to carry the packed lunches for a two hour trek.

We said a sad goodbye to our host and our charges over a week ago after experiencing many great days with them under warm sunny skies.

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Time for some relaxation on a two hour trek.

And some not so warm sunny mornings.

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It went down to below zero overnight for most of January but the days were into the twenties.

We’ve taken treks and trips.

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Kali loaded up with the recycling.

Some have worked out…………………..some haven’t!

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Tim loaded up with the recycling after Kali refused to go further than the Donkey HQ perimeter!  I think the writing was on the wall in the previous picture.

Jojo and Filipa, two young inexperienced donkeys, made a successful day trip to the beach under the guiding hooves of Xiquito.

 

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A days trek to the beach with Xiquito, Filipa and Jojo. (A training day for Filipa and Jojo who are young and have much to learn).

There really is never a dull moment when looking after them.

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Trekking through Rogil village on the way to the sea.  It took Jojo (middle one) a while to pluck up the courage to go over the pedestrian crossing – the stripes fazed him for a bit!

They all have their own personalities, friendships and foibles and it does take time to get the measure of their individual ways.

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It was a sixteen kilometre round trip.  The young ones had to cope with marauding cows, barking dogs, cars, lorries, traffic lights, bridges, a busy road and a river crossing.

It’s been a great learning experience though and I hope to be able to spend more time with donkeys in the future.

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Taking a well earned break on our days trek.

Of all the animals we have looked after on our travels (cats, dogs, sheep, alpacas, pigs, cows) donkeys are definitely my firm favourite.

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The donkeys relaxed whilst we went down onto the beach.

It’s not all been donkeys though.

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Vale dos Homens beach.

We hired a car for three weeks and made the most of the beaches on the wild Atlantic coast.

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The coast at Carrepeteira.

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We captured the lunar eclipse at the beach at four o’clock in the morning.

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The total lunar eclipse seen from the Atlantic coast of Portugal on 21st January 2019.

And then it was time to get back on the road.

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Praia da Marinha beach.

Tim spent the last week or so back at Mikki’s campsite on the Algarve whilst I made a fleeting visit back to the UK to see my parents.

But tomorrow it’s time for pastures new.

We will miss Portugal.

But Spain awaits.

Até qualquer dia!

 

Week three with the donkeeees…. .

Time is running away with us here at Donkey HQ.  I can’t quite believe it’s been three weeks since we arrived.  It feels like only yesterday. And Christmas is now upon us.

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This way to the donkeys……..

We’ve had another action packed week.  Well, as action packed as it gets for us!

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Mel and Mina…….I think!

Music has featured again with a trip last weekend to see a saxophone player at Moagems, a funky café in Aljezur.

P1140795 (1).JPGWe were left home alone with Kerstin, our roomie and fellow volunteer, to look after the donkeys whilst Sophia took a road trip with a friend for a week accompanied by two of her long eared companions, Kiko and Xico.

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Xico gets loaded up for his roadtrip.

We waved them off but met them the following day to hand over Florin, Sofia’s dog.

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Sofia,Carla, Xixo and Kiko ready for the off.

Florin loves to trek with the donkeys but he couldn’t stay at their planned overnight accommodation for the first night.  He really wasn’t impressed he’d been left behind and had to be put inside for the afternoon lest he followed in the donkey’s hoof steps.

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Florin not impessed he can’t go too.

We took a quick side trip to Odeceixe beach for a spot of yoga and a swim before meeting up with the donkeys.

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Odeceixe beach.
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Beach yoga.

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Florin joins day 2 of the trek.

Meanwhile back at the ranch I tried my hand at some clay modelling on Mimi’s legs.  Mimi is a natural victim.  The other donkeys don’t like her and can be mean to her, the dog sometimes snaps at her legs and even the wasps and flies have a good old go at her legs causing open sores.  To combat this she has clay slathered over her lower legs to try to stop the flies getting at them.

P1140842.JPGIt seems to do the trick.

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Tada……….the latest in donkey fashion.

Even though Mimi seems to be a natural victim in the animal world she most certainly isn’t when it comes to people.  You have to watch her.  Give her an inch and she’ll take a mile.  And she can move when she wants to.  Despite the ungainly look of her she’s quick and you do have to keep one step ahead of her.  She’s so friendly and cheeky that you can’t help but love her though.  We’ve taken her for a walk a few times and once she’s stopped looking for Romano and gets into her stride she’s a pleasure to take out.

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Jeko and Mimi……….don’t be fooled they’re not friends.  

Meanwhile away from donkey care we’ve discovered the woodburner has space in the top to cook a few baked potatoes.

P1140850.JPGIt’s a real treat having a woodburner here and we love our evenings by the fire.  All the other rooms are freezing mind!

Kerstin flew back to Germany to spend Christmas with her family so we couldn’t let her go without cooking a traditional English meal for her.  Toad in the hole, mash and onion gravy washed down with a bottle of Prosecco. Pastel de natas followed accompanied by homemade Medronho schnapps.  Perfecto!

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Kerstin’s last evening before flying back to zero degrees in Berlin!

Christmas is much more low key here than in the UK but there are signs around the town that it is alive and well.

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All made out of recycled materials.
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More music at Moagems.  It was billed as Fado with a difference.  Absolutely brilliant it was too.

It must be Christmas.  We had a surprise present tied to our front door earlier by our friends who are staying at the campsite outside Aljezur.  Thanks Di and Chris 🙂 Proper job!

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Ingenious wrapping paper.

Tim is playing some Christmas music on his clarinet in the room next door whilst I write this.  So, I guess it’s time then for a bit of mulled wine and to say thank you to all of you who read this blog.  We wish you all a very Happy Festive Season wherever you are.

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More news from Donkey HQ next week.

Saùde!

Feliz Natal e Feliz Ano Novo!

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!