Eselwandern im Kleinwalsertal | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus | Fotograf: Carolin Schratt

20 Aug. 2018 · Recuperation | Summer Activities
Carolin Schratt

Slowing down on a Donkey Trail Challenge

Serenity, enjoyment, surpassing comfort zones ... Five tricks that can be seen when leading donkeys through the mountains.

One day before the longest, hardest and fastest mountain run of Kleinwalsertal, I put my focus on a slow movement. While Herbert, Ida, Lilly, Milan and I meet for the first time and get to know each other, they already have a few days of altitude training behind them. They look strong, well-balanced and ready for any outrage. Four lowland donkeys and five donkey guides are off to hike!

Striegeln und bürsten vor der Eselwanderung | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus | Fotograf: Carolin Schratt

We decide on the adventurous variant. But will the path near Hölloch in the Mahdtal really lets us through considering that a day before Bernd has encountered an insurmountable obstacle shortly after the Hölloch when walking with donkey Herbert: A rock level was too high for the donkey. There was no chance to go over it, underneath it or around. So the only option was turning around and go back. We will see.

At least the wooden bridge, which the donkeys would not cross on the first day, is now feasible. The first hour of our trip is already the first stretch for the patience threads. It takes until a while the donkeys get into a routine and feel comfortable. If one of the donkeys stops, the rest of the group do so aswell. If you are inattentive, the donkeys immediately use the opportunity to graze. So pay close attention to the donkey on your rope. They feel your authority, and they also need it.

Begegnung mit Eseln und Pferden | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus | Fotograf: Carolin Schratt

After a while we are all alone on the forest path, which leads us constantly uphill. My donkey Lilly walks along, she knows Mama Ida is right behind her. She is the youngest, has a well-groomed brown-grey coat, an incomparably soft muzzle. The shaggy, white-furred Herbert leads the group. Milan likes it cosy and very slow-paced. He usually follows in some distance, dreams about mountain herbs, hills and gravel paths.

The instructions of the donkey leaders are calm but determined. You may give in occasionally, when the strong head pulls back towards the edge of the road. But not every time. Soon you will learn about their favorite foods: mineral rich Horsetail, crispy withered beech leaves from which they are almost as hard to break free - like me from a bag of potatoe chips.

Entschleunigung beim Eselwandern | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus | Fotograf: Carolin Schratt

When we take breaks, every quadruped has a special preference: One stretches for the juicy leaves on the trees, the other roams with his nose through the shiny-high grass. Lilly carefully picks out only selected stalks and tufts of grass. Noisily crushing the grass. Stripes, plucking, chewing - a recurring rhythm from which an unimaginable peace emanates. You could watch her for hours and listen.

Finally we reach more exciting terrain. This requires surefootedness, for all of us. But Ida gets nervous on the narrow paths. We are about to turn back, but then we make one last attempt: we let Ida walk off the rope. She likes the newly aquired freedom. She rarely stops, follows the others, has a good view of the next steps. It's so much fun!

Durch die Wildnis mit dem Esel | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus | Fotograf: Carolin Schratt

Then, however, near the Hölloch and after four hours of march, we have to poker. In the hope that the path will not become more overgrown and the karstified rocks will soon be over, we continue walking. But it is getting more and more difficult to find the path plus fallen trees and bushes don't make it easier. Then Lilly suddenly twists her ankle in an overgrown rock hole. Turning back and giving up is not necessarily one of my greatest strengths. But it is clear to me: We must turn back.

The donkeys take the 180° turn with stoic composure. Anyway, I have the feeling that the trip to the Walser wilderness was not so bad for them. Out of the comfort zone - off to new paths! I take an example from them and enjoy the last minutes through the exciting terrain, until we get back on the well known country lanes. And despite everything: Back at the Mahdtalhaus everyone seems very satisfied.

Esel zum Liebhaben | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus | Fotograf: Carolin Schratt

I too feel completely balanced at the end of the day, only very tired. Two days later - contrasting programme at the Walser Trail Challenge: cheering for trail runners at the Walmendingerhorn. Swift shoes instead of stubborn hooves patter past me. This, of course, is another way to relieve stress. Admirable! But to be honest: I only fell in love with the long-eared mountain runners. . .

Eselwandern im Kleinwalsertal | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus | Fotograf: Carolin Schratt

5 things we can learn from donkeys:

1. Awarness: Every hiking partner deserves attention. For example with conversations, while enjoying the view and with tender loving care. This also includes attentive observation of the surroundings: A chamois might be watching you . . . 

2. Slow movement: You don't have to set a speed record on every tour. Why not plan a whole day for only 8 kilometres, and dawdle a little bit. Take longer breaks than is physically necessary and enjoy. 

3. Get out of your comfort zone: New paths bring excitement to the hike and can be a push for self-confidence. He who never dares, will never know if he would have won.

Eselwandern im Mahdtal | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus | Fotograf: Carolin Schratt

4. Turning back: Don't be afraid to turn back! Safety always comes first out in nature. Uncertainties such as sudden changes in the weather or terrain that does not demand but overtax should be taken seriously. And the well-known way back can also offer new perspectives.

5. Allow yourself to enjoy: Whether a beautiful view, stroking horses or nibbling blueberries along the way - if you don't have an appointment, it's simply fun to give in to your own curiosity.

Many thanks to Neue Wege Mainz for the great donkey-hike experience!

Kneipp water-treading basin Kesselschwand | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Oliver Farys


NatureExperiencePlaces to relax 

The nature experience places are sought-after quiet zones in the network of hiking trails. Her specialty: silence thoughts, cool feet and head on hot days and direct the senses inwards. Get into it! Tours to the nature experience places