How not to ride a donkey
The worst equestrian experience, and hopefully the last, was in August 2009. On the second reading of News from Tartary, I was taken by the idea of seeing the first view of India that Peter Fleming had back in August 1935. So there I was in the company of two young and spirited lads, Aman and Irfan, from Misgar village on our way to Mintaka Pass on the border with China. En route Irfan commandeered a loitering donkey to carry our load.
When I took off my boots after the first six hours of walking, I found red sores just above the heels on the inward side on both feet. The next day these were bleeding wounds, a size somewhat larger than the British one pound coin. On the third morning, I was all but resolved to concede defeat and call for a return march when Irfan suggest I ride the donkey.
And so we set out for Mintaka Pass (4684 metres), but what a sorry setting out it was. I astride the little donkey, my legs hanging limply on either side and hands clasping the iron ring at the top of the surcingle. On the go, I could not afford to cast so much as a glance in any direction because I tended to lose my balance. All I could do was keep my eyes focused at some point in front through the angle of the donkey’s ears.
We made the pass all right, but the journey from our overnight camp back to Qalandar Chi, where I got a ride on a motorcycle, was a nightmare. For the first time in my life I learned that the manure of every other donkey is every other donkey’s most pressing interest. As we would be trotting along with me holding on to that single strap for dear life, the donkey, having spotted a load of manure on the trail, would suddenly brake and stick its muzzle into the heap. Done sniffing lustily, it would lift its head up to sneer at the sky before setting off again. At every unannounced halt, it took every bit of effort for me to prevent myself from somersaulting over the animal’s head and landing on the scree in front.
In one particular instance when I was lulled into somnolence by the mid-morning sun, the animal braked and I did actually fly off to land on my knees in front of it. Fortunately no patellae were fractured.
This is a guest post by Travel Writer and Author Salman Rashid, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society.
Top photo courtesy of Angeloux Flickr photostream. All other photos courtesy of Nancy D. Brown.
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