Where donkeys still matter

We followed a mountain torrent upstream today, a stiff climb under a hot sun, and though we didn’t get to a summit or a pass we nevertheless had a sense of achievement, picnicking by a deep mountain pool before trekking back down (a walk of about five hours, all told). Here, in the mountains of the Alto Lario, not everybody has abandoned the former farming practices and in the summer people still live up in the summer villages. Food and other essentials are winched up. Spring water is abundant. Behind the villages ancient paths lead back into the higher mountains and up to the refuges. We took a path that had been created from a terrace set into the mountainside, capped off with huge, undressed flagstones. The path has been there for so long that it has grown into the landscape. For heavy loads, there is only one viable form of transport; the donkey. And, as my picture shows, it wasn’t long before we bumped into some fine specimens. It is something of an irony that, having seen no donkeys at all in Gytheo (described in an old guidebook as the town of the donkey), I should see several here – and in good working order as well!

1 Comment

  1. Hugo Kijne

    19/08/2011 at 15:20

    I was once a member of the Amsterdam Society for the Preservation of Cretan Donkey Trails. Unfortunately we lost most of that battle, and donkey trails going back to the middle ages and earlier are now overgrown or simply bulldozed away for new roads.

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