Navigating The Med On A Smile And A Shoestring: Part Five (A German And His Donkey)

Monday, January 21, 2013

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During this past summer Contributing Editor Hannah Bowman found herself on an island in the Mediterranean Sea. She liked it there, but didn’t want to stay forever. So, with a tent on her back, one month to play with and a handsome Flem by the name of P.J. in tow, she headed north. “Navigating the Med on a Smile and a Shoestring” is a travel series documenting their journey of camping, ferry boating and hitchhiking from Gozo to Ghent.

In a village called Scala, close to the mountain town of Tindari, lives a man named Christian.

It was upon a sweltering afternoon on the Sicilian coast that we first encountered him, sauntering down the road with his dog, his donkey and an air of someone who knew how to live from the land. They made a romantic sight, meandering between the parked cars, and so seduced was I that I made the mistake of raising my camera to my face and taking a picture.

“Would you like to make a donation to zee children,” he asked. Laughing and embarrassed, I wasn’t sure what an appropriate response would be. In all honesty, no, I did not particularly want to make a donation, feeling fairly impoverished myself at that moment and having had one of those days when nothing had really gone smoothly. Yet, this was obviously an inappropriate response. I therefore opted to divert his attention by luring him into conversation.

I went for the highly original, “Sooo, where are you from?” (Although, from the Bavarian twang, the answer seemed obvious.)

“My roots begin where your boundaries end,” came the reply.

Pause.

What to make of this? Had I been less aware of my initial cock-up relating to the whole photo-taking debacle,  my inclination might have been to wrap things up there. Thank goodness I did not, for Christian was to become one of the most fascinating and generous characters of my entire trip.

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After a few minutes of chatting, it was confirmed that we would accompany him to his farm in the hills and there we would spend the next few nights camping in his orchard.

The walk was long and on a sharp incline. And despite the fact that the sun was beginning to set, it was bloody warm. As we walked/clambered/climbed over the dry terrain, the bay spread out below and behind us; the cathedral on the cliff above cutting a dramatic silhouette against the beckoning dusk.

And, as we walked, Christian told us his story.

A few years ago, he had packed his possessions into a trailer and had cycled all the way from Munich, Germany, to reach this small Mediterranean island that had stolen his heart as a kid. He was now in the process of setting up an association with the aim of encouraging children to get in touch with nature and their sense of adventure. Eventually, the plan is that schools will send students there for a term, where they will spend the mornings in a traditional classroom setup and the afternoons exploring the land.

At the moment, he lives in a tent on a beautiful but entirely rustic plot of land, growing his own food and carrying water from a local well in order to sustain himself and his animals.

This coming summer he plans to travel with his donkey, Hercules, and his dog, Phoenix, around the entire coast of Sicily and, apparently, you are entirely welcome to join! He will be raising money and awareness for his project, and for anyone that has the time and inclination to do so, he his willing to allow anyone to travel alongside him.

I can assure you that not only is he an impeccable host, but someone who knows how to survive on very little and is an expert on stoves. This is a man at one with the elements. To find out more about his organization or to contact him directly, visit Eco-Avventura.it. Unfortunately, the site is currently only available in Italian and German, but hey, that’s what Google translate is for. Believe, it’s worth the investment of time.

By Hannah Bowman

Read the Entire “Navigating The Med On A Smile And A Shoestring” Series Here

TheExpeditioner

About the Author

HannahBowmanBioPicA restless Brit with big dreams and limited cash flow, Hannah is a freelance journalist and student. She is currently being sponsored by the European Union to take a Masters in Journalism and International Politics at the University of Amsterdam/University of Santiago, Chile, and the Danish School of Journalism. Check out her site DontDoNothing.com or follow her on Twitter: @Hannah__Bowman.

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