THE TIME I WENT Donkey trekking in the ARDENNES
Laura et Seb, les Globe blogueurs
Member for 4 years 10 months
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Slow travel with the family
4 minutes OF reading and a peaceful day
There are many different ways to roam the forest paths that crisscross the French Ardennes. To explore them, we opted for a method of travel that is as unusual as it is peaceful: donkey trekking. Our asinine travel companion is called Marcel and - in spite of the threatening sky – we can’t wait to head off for our hike, led by Marcel. Hélio is overcome with joy at the idea of mounting his pack animal and pleased as punch with his with his bright red helmet. We will trek 11km through the Ardennes, taking us to our accommodation for the night, which will also turn out to be quite unusual…
Contrary to popular belief, donkeys are not at all stubborn
At a donkey's pace through the Ardennes
We had already experienced donkey trekking, so we understand that each experience is unique because each donkey is different. The first moments with the donkey are crucial, and
Emmanuel Crametz - who founded ‘Un âne en Ardennes’ (a donkey in the Ardennes)
- explains exactly why. Before setting off, we need to connect with the donkey. In order to do this, it is important to get acquainted with the donkey, brush it, kit it out…By doing this you create a bond with the donkey but also develop empathy towards the donkey. Trying to get to know him, attempting to understand his apprehensions and habits are essential to ensure that the journey that lies ahead runs smoothly. Contrary to popular belief, donkeys are not stubborn at all. Donkeys are extremely anxious animals and need constant reassurance in order to march on serenely.
Trekking with a donkey also requires that you let go as it nigh impossible to control their tempo. It is important that you adopt the same pace as your big-eared companion. Your reward? It will open new horizons, and enable you to discover your environment from a totally different angle. Emmanuel tells us more about Marcel, his story and his personality, but also gives us more details on the route we are about to take.
Once his instructions are given and we have our map in hand, we are all set for the hike.
We love watching the rays of sun peep through and flood minute details with light
A family walk through the Ardennes forest
So we leave the village of Lalobbe and travel through the countryside. We walk through vast stretches of land, and admire the gorgeous colours of the landscapes; ranging from straw yellow to tender green. We are higher up in the land so we enjoy stunning views of the Ardennes’ hilly landscape.
Huge round hay bales look as if they have been carefully and deliberately laid out to form a pretty picture. Further along the road, we finally catch a glimpse of the forest, which is our absolute favourite environment. We love feeling sheltered by the tangled trees. We also love watching the glorious rays of sun shine in through snarled branches and flood minute details of the woodland with light. The rays of sun light up the gently undulating ferns, or solitary hazelnuts abandoned on the forest floor. We carefully follow the instructions on the map provided by Emmanuel. The map is very precise, with a wealth of details, and makes it really easy for us to find our way. Just as well as the Ardennes is crisscrossed with numerous forest paths and you can easily get lost, especially if you decide to follow you whimsy and take a ‘shortcut’…
In the heart of the forest, a muddy path adds a bit of excitement to the adventure. This is where we need to pay close attention and show patience in order to amble through with Marcel. Most donkeys dislike water and will try to avoid even the tiniest puddle of water at all costs. Thanks to Emmanuel’s precious advice we manage to guide the donkey through some of the trickier passages without a hitch. For the last couple of kilometres, the path winds its way through the countryside and quiet little villages. Our strange foursome surprises quite a few passersby.
The perfect place to recharge
Sleeping in an unusual cabin
After an 11km trek through woodland and rolling countryside, we reach our accommodation for the night, a cute wooden cabin. It is built on a wooded plot of land with several ponds as well as a waterway. It’s the ideal spot to recharge and enjoy some quality family time. Without further ado, we take shelter in the cabin. When we enter this wooden cocoon, we are charmed by each and every detail: the wood stove, the dining table in the middle of the room, some ancient objects scattered here and there... Our soon keeps a watchful eye on the petrol lamps and candles, he can’t wait for the night to fall and light them, so we can enjoy a candle-lit night without electricity! But the cabin offers so much more than just a comfy bed to sleep in. It allows us to go back to the bare essentials, so we don’t get distracted by the superfluous, and spend quality time together as a family. The only distractions we need are those our son unearthed when rummaging through the mezzanine: loads and loads of board games! Cradling a cup of steaming hot chocolate milk, time flies by as we enjoy fun and games together. When darkness falls, matches crackle and candles are lit, instantly creating a cosy, warm atmosphere…
The perfect setting for couple of bedtime stories…After which we fall fast asleep lulled by the peaceful sounds of nature.
When we wake up the next morning and take a look through the window, our eyes open wide with wonder! Right next to the cabin, a young roebuck is peacefully munching his breakfast. We soak up every second of this wonderful spectacle. Suddenly, he detects our presence and looks us straight in the eyes, seeming just as surprised as we are. Frightened off by the rustling of the leaves dancing in the wind, he gracefully flees, leaving us and our beatific smiles behind…
The time has come to leave this little corner of paradise. We have only one regret…we wish we could have stayed a while longer!