Hola, Lachie here.
My knee was out of action from the snowmobile crash so once I touched down in Oslo again I had to pass a few weeks while it started to recover. But making the best with what I had it was an awesome opportunity to catch up with Paige in Sweden, Lloyd in Denmark, Ben and Tina as well as my Cousin and Uncle in England and finally Rowie and Mimi in Andorra. By this point I was back on track and able to have a few sick days skiing with them in a resort which basically spans half the country. I was so stoked to be back in the game again but felt a bit stuck because all the amazing hiking I wanted to do was still buried deep under snow and not very accessible.
It’d been over a year of travelling with no real idea of what’s coming next, but in this moment I felt like l was aimlessly bouncing around the pinball machine of Europe. It was enjoyable but I knew there was so much more I could have been getting out of my opportunity being over here. With most of the outdoor stuff I wanted to do not panning out, I changed my focus. I’d heard so many stories of people doing workaways and had always said that’s something I’d like to do. Well, here was a perfect chance. Having sifted through dozens of tabs with pretty cool looking places I found one in the North of Spain that struck a cord.
El Paraiso Del Burro
‘The Donkey Paradise’
Within 24 hours of seeing the ad I’d booked my bus tickets and had signed up to stay for a month. And the first impressions upon arrival did not disappoint. The best way to describe the place is through some quick stats: 26 donkeys, 7 cats, 4 horses, 4 dogs, 1 mule, 1 pig, and 13 killer volunteers. And yes, that’s a lot of names to remember.
It was chaotic to come in and see all the animals and people everywhere doing things but very quickly the routine settled in. As i expected, this routine and hard work was like a missing piece I hadn’t experienced for over a year since leaving home. It was really gratifying to be working hard and be part of a team again. And having always dreamed about living on a farm out of town I was loving everything about it. My home was an epic little caravan parked out in the apple orchard and really it couldn’t have been more idyllic. Everyday I’d wake to the sunrise pouring through my windows and listen to the choir of birds singing outside. We’d feed the donkeys, then ourselves, clean their stables then do some project work. The food was always unbelievably delicious and in such huge proportions that there was no other option then to have a lazy afternoon siesta until feeding the donkeys and ourselves dinner. I was skeptical about the warnings that time would fly but far out it just disappeared. Having a routine, each day just slipped away as we passed through the motions. It is a good reminder to be wary of this back home. In itself this isn’t a bad thing because everyday was seriously fun, but if a month just disappears and you haven’t made any progress towards your goals outside of paying the bills then it becomes a scary concept.
What was so beautiful about this place was that because we were working in return for our food and board there was no reason to head into town. This reduced our lives down to a very simple existence and the concept of money floated away. It was really refreshing to be in this kind of environment, a beautiful location, great people, hard work. A quiet little community uninterrupted by the world outside. We were there to look after the donkeys and property, so that’s what we did. It was incredibly joyful stripping everything back to a simple system for a month.
I’d thought donkeys were cool animals prior to coming. But leaving this place I’ve taken away so much love and respect for them. They are incredibly friendly animals and are so funny to work with. From the screaming and faces they pull when food is on its way to the moments of connection when they intimately rub their heads on you asking for some affection, they are just really great to be around.
In my month there I only took one day off because I loved the work so much. But with that one day I did manage to head off the afternoon before and sneak into the mountains for a night. As the sun began to disappear I set up my tarp in a sheltered spot from the wind and hunkered down with an insane view of the valley below.
In the morning I awoke and there wasn’t a breath of wind, it was completely silent and empty up in the mountains. The cowbells around the cows of the valley below jingled quietly as I set up a little fire to cook some tea and brekky in the warm sunlight.
From my spot I could see both the ocean and the snowcapped mountains in the one glance. On top of that the sunrise was beyond stunning. I had time so went back to the peak for one last 360 degree panorama. To make it even more special I climbed a few meters up this big metal cross on the peak. It was a killer view until I saw the monitor strapped to the structure below me with one word written on it……ALARM. Oh shit. The top of the structure a few meters above me was covered in scientific equipment, presumably for meteorological data so I hoped that if I climbed back down maybe everything would be fine. Before going up I actually had checked to see if there was a sign saying do not climb, but there wasn’t so you know, what was I to do. Half an hour later while I was packing down camp a helicopter came roaring over me and landed up on the peak. Oops. In the quiet morning air I could hear the angry voices of the men in the chopper presumably thinking someone had come to tamper with their equipment. So I threw the last few things in my pack and disappeared off down the trail not wanting to get stung with any trouble. I like to think I really just gave them an excuse to take a beautiful morning chopper ride to the top of a mountain but if I was to give out some advice for the future, I’d probably recommend against climbing things with important looking stuff on them ;)
Back at the Donkey Paradise we had many more evening fires, great meals, fun times and amazing experiences before it was time for me to cram everything back into the pack. I jumped on the bus to Bilbao and spent 2 weeks living with an epic friend I met in South America and her family. More on that soon.