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Hannah and the Seaside Donkey

Let us introduce you to Hannah Engelkamp, our guest blogger and donkey-walking author [well soon to be].  Hannah Engelkamp is a travel writer and editor and specialises in sustainability, travel and anything to do with snowsports.  In May, Hannah decided to break from the norm to walk the circumference of Wales with a seaside donkey.  Why?  A few reasons apparently: firstly, Wales is the only country you can walk around thanks to the opening of a new coastal path, secondly it’s where Hannah grew up, thirdly she would like to write a book and this is as good an angle as any, and finally, she has her sights set on making a film. 

Hannah and Chico the donkey are a third of the way through their 1,027 mile trek at the time of writing.  Why are Nikwax involved?  We love Hannah’s quest, we are enthused by her enthusiasm for protecting our environment and – most of all – we knew she’d get very wet if we didn’t step in with Nikwax Fabric and Leather proof, Cotton Proof and TX.Direct. Read on to follow her journey… 

‘Walking around Wales with a donkey’ has some integral incompatibilities. One biggie is that we can’t go on the brand new, 1000-mile coastal/border path – the opening of which in May last year was the catalyst for this silly idea. Donkeys can’t do stiles and kissing gates, and there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them. But we’re five weeks in, and the route planning has been alright – the prevalence of old roads, green lanes, bridleways and forestry tracks is a real eye-opener, and in general I’ve been bowled over by what a beautiful, accessible and endlessly surprising country we’ve got here.

The second major incompatibility is that donkeys are desert animals, with no waterproofing oil in their fuzzy hair, like horses have. They really hate the rain, and if there’s one thing Wales is famous for it’s rain!

Chico, my dear and endlessly frustrating companion, does not appreciate the lush, verdant vistas, the layered misty mountain scenes, or the astonishing explosion of plants and flowers clambering and tangling all over place, encouraged by regular and thorough watering. Chico does not like rain falling on him, and I’m not a fan of the thorough watering either, although I am enjoying living outside where I realise that even a day easily written off as ‘rubbish’ from indoors is full of beautiful moments when we’re out in it.

So, thank you Nikwax – my clothes are holding up, and with them my spirits. An old jacket and Páramo trousers are doing brilliantly on a pre-departure re-waterproofing in my mum’s washing machine. Chico slows down in the rain – with no concept of the route, the distance left to go, or the weather forecast, he has no incentive to hurry to get to shelter. I am trying to cultivate a zen-like patience about often walking below my pace and stopping regularly for verge-munching breaks. I think I’m doing pretty well; certainly it would be a different story if the rain was running down inside my clothes as the stationary donkey eyes me with another unreadable expression.

We’re on a serious budget – it looks like this trip will take many months, much longer than my first estimates, which were based on a striding, constant, 15-mile-a-day optimism and absolutely no knowledge of donkeys. Thanks Nikwax for sending me Nikwax Cotton Proof which I used on the donkey packs – two used Norwegian army backpacks that I bought for just £12.50 each, a good saving when some purpose-made mule-packing bags can cost £300! Using old kit and second hand stuff suits the trip too – it’s a humble adventure in many ways. It’s long, for sure, but there are no million-pound sponsorship deals, technical pole-crossing kit requirements, world-record attempts, or satellite phones. We’re on the smallest, most British adventure you can imagine – a £2 donkey ride on the beach – taken to some crazy, but I think logical, conclusion. Simplicity and resourcefulness are big features of the trip so far, and reusing, mending and re-waterproofing old kit is necessary. So again, thank you Nikwax! Now if only you could figure out how to waterproof a donkey…



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