With sleep still in my eyes and a cracking hangover, on Sunday morning I was faced with an old Portuguese man standing outside my room who needed something. My Portuguese is still pretty bad at the best of times but could just about make out his mission. We could pick up the donkey! Frank had made a deal with him earlier this week. Getting Frank out of bed was pretty much impossible but after 3 coffees, he could just about stumble into the van. Tom and Sylvia piled in too and we set off up up up the mountains to find our new friend.
The farm was tucked into the mot beautiful nook facing south and a dog tied on a short lead greeted us in the usual way (Portuguese only use dogs as alarm systems, not as faithful companions) The donkey had lived its 10 years life roped up in pretty much the same way, outside in the summer and inside a tiny shed with goats, chickens and other animals during the winter. No wonder his eyes were numbed, cloudy, pools of tarmac. His feet too had nails growing like elf shoes. Don’t think they had ever been cut.
Sylvia led the donkey up the hill and the farmer instantly got out a bottle of modrono which we all had to have at least 2 shots of. He was christened Julio after Frank’s ex, Julia, whom he had always shared his dream of having a donkey with.
Sylvia and Frank smothered him with love and softly told him they were his owners now. He bowed his head.
Tom and Sylvia drove the van home and it was up to Frank and me to somehow get him home.
Leading him up the hill away from the land where he had spent 10 sorry years was something to remember.
Firstly we tried to lead him by the rope but he kept trying to bite Frank on the arm, arse.
Frank made a decision. ‘He is free. He can come with us if he wants.’ And he let go of his lead. And we walked off, like you would leave a toddler having a tantrum in a supermarket.
The donkey made his decision. Slowly, he started to follow us, 20m behind, but stopping regularly at the edge of the mountain to peruse his homeland. It was like watching sailors gaze at the shore for the last time.
And we continued like that all the way home. Julio, free for the first time. He feasted all the way home on new types of grass. Cars slowed down to see this strange sight – two foreigners walking happy and proud and a brave donkey plodding along behind.