Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Donkey with a death wish

At the edge of the caldera, in the tiny town of Fira, on Santorini, my sister, Susan, and I peered out at the Agean Sea, marveling at a blue they created just for Greece. Our eyes traveled to donkeys ferrying people and things up from the boats docked at the old port below.

path.down

I don’t remember which of us thought it would be fun to hike the zigzagged path to the port, then ride a donkey back up, but it was a terrible, scary, asinine, stupid idea.

It was still fairly early in the morning when we started down the thousands of wide, uneven, cobblestone, horror-movie steps. But the sun that beat on the island in August didn't have a clock. We'd finished our water and worked up a sweat before we hit the half-way point.

At the port we poked into gift shops, bought a couple of trinkets and drank more water before seeking out our animal transport. We climbed a few steps, handed over our money and sat down on the next donkey that waited beside the top step.

path.up

A mother and her two teenage sons from Germany led our group, next Susan climbed aboard her ride. Our guide, a loose term since the donkeys all seemed to know the way to the top, would follow me. I watched Susan and the German family amble away as I sat down on the donkey from hell.

Before I could get a grip on the saddle horn, my donkey launched himself like a rocket. He aimed for the first zig in the zigzag path, slammed to a stop at the knee-high-to-a-donkey wall that bordered the path, hung his head over the wall giving me a donkey's-eye view of the edge of world, then turned sharply as if to scrape me off his back along the cliff, and raced to the next zag in the path. I clutched the saddle horn, my water bottle and my camera, with which I’d assumed I would take pictures from the back of the donkey, with one hand. The other hand held my hat on my head.

Moving at a gallop, we passed Susan on the second straight stretch. Her donkey strolled at a pace that allowed her to take pictures, enjoy the view, sip from her water bottle and laugh as I flew by on the demon. Once again, as he did at every zigzag in the path, the donkey stepped on the brakes with such force that I thought I’d be pitched over his head and crash to the rocks below.

On the third straightaway we passed the German family, who turned completely around on their nice, calm donkeys to point and laugh as the demon and I barreled by, doing what for a donkey must have been Mach 1.

Susan shouted from miles behind, “Take my picture. Turn around and take my picture.” Then she cackled, knowing there would be no turning around, no pictures on her placid critter as a reminder of how she’d lost her only sister in Greece: Death by donkey.

The demon slammed to its final (for my ride anyway. Despite its many attempts, it didn’t kill itself.) halt at the top of the path long before anyone else in our group rounded the last turn.

The Greek “guide” began to scream at me as he turned the final corner. I believe he was telling me to get off the donkey, but he was screaming in Greek, so I wasn't sure. And it didn’t matter. I couldn’t move. Somewhere around the fifth zig or zag, I had become one with the creature.

I sat, facing the cliff wall, trying to remember how to breathe, as Susan joined the yelling of the donkey man. “Take my picture, now. You’re sitting still, take it now.”

I managed to let go of my hat, grab the water bottle and saddle horn with one hand, my camera with the other and do as she asked. But I couldn’t turn. It was as if my butt was glued to that donkey. I aimed the camera behind me and without looking I took this awful picture.

Su.Donkey

Serves her right for laughing at my donkey with a death wish.

Don't forget to visit Angela Nickerson’s blog, Just Go. She's got goodie bags! From there you can visit other participating blogs.

29 comments:

Scintilla said...

What a nightmare for you - but it was funny to read!

Karen K. Kennedy said...

And because I survived, it gave us something to talk about the rest of the trip. Thanks for reading!

ICQB said...

Ha! My husband climbed those stairs because he was too cheap to ride the bus, or even to pay for the donkey ride up! And he wonders why I don't like to travel with him : )

Karen K. Kennedy said...

I gotta say, I was wishing I'd walked or ridden the sky lift (and I'm afraid of heights). There was no bus when we were there, though I don't suppose it would have been possible to leap from the donkey's back to the bus in mid-ride even if there had been one. I'd left my Wonder Woman costume at home.

Sara Cox Landolt said...

What a beautiful area to visit! I had a scary ride on a mangy pony once. It turned and bit my shoe.
I enjoyed your post.
Sara

Kate Lord Brown said...

I love that you became 'one with the donkey!'!! I remember them clearly from a 'cultural tour' when I was fifteen ... they made us walk - luckily!!

Karen K. Kennedy said...

Thanks for visiting and commenting!

Boy, I'm glad not to have had a biter donkey! That never even occurred to me.

I'm trying to picture in what universe donkeys would be part of a "cultural" tour. I wish we'd walked!

sruble said...

Oh how horrible! That's probably the donkey I'd get too, so now I know to never take the donkey ride. Thanks for the warning.

At least you got a funny story out of it.

TattingChic said...

ROFLOL! Forgive me for laughing, but the way you tell it is HILARIOUS!!! The pictures are great. THat was a wild ride!

Felicity said...

The combination of heights and a strange animal would have had me in tears. You must be a brave soul!

Karen K. Kennedy said...

Glad y'all enjoyed my misery! I have to say, now that it's over, I enjoy the story as well.

But, I am afraid of heights, and that path got higher and higher. So I was miserable and very scared on the donkey. Not brave at all.

Angela K. Nickerson said...

That is totally hysterical! I am glad you came through ok. Thanks for participating in Blogapalooza!

adrienne said...

That does sound terrifying! I've been to Greece but I didn't get to see Santorini - thanks for the pictures!

Mara from Motherofalltrips said...

Love this story! Glad you survived to tell it. DH and I honeymooned feet away from where this happened to you and I eyed those donkeys very suspiciously when we walked down and up - now I'm glad I did!

JES said...

Oh gawd this is funny... And from the other comments (and now this one), you'd have had to take pictures of a lot more people than your sister if we'd all been there. :)

I heard a standup comedy routine about Greek donkeys lying in wait for unsuspecting tourists with deep pockets. This is a much better tale to, er, pin on them.

Karen K. Kennedy said...

You guys are making me smile! Thanks for the wonderful comments.

Meredith Teagarden said...

Too funny and scary. Way to keep the tension at a minimal :)!

Virg said...

LOL. Oh my I so enjoyed this blog. Good for you for having a great sense of humor about it all! I'm a donkey rider/owner, and I've got to tell you that donkey was having a go at you. They have NOTORIOUS senses of humor and love to play gags on each other and especially on unsuspecting humans.

The guide was probably telling you to pull back on the reins to stop him/her. Of course, it sounds to me like this one was smart enough to launch before you could get a good/proper grip on the reins in the first place, right?

Think about it...day in, day out, hauling people (some of whom are no doubt a bit heavier than others) up and down the same trail. Over and over and over...donkeys are VERY intelligent creatures, I think they get bored. So what better way to have some fun with the same old same old than to bolt off and then alternate mach 1 with stop on a dime with some poor sap aboard??

It is EXACTLY the kind of thing I could see any of mine doing to entertain themselves. I'm sorry you were the butt (har, no pun in tended) of a donkey joke. ! :-)

Well written though -- an enjoyable, funny read.

Karen K. Kennedy said...

Wow! Virg, you have my respect and sympathy--a donkey owner and rider. I'm impressed!

I kept thinking they must get bored traveling up and down that path day in and day out, but it never occurred to me that he was having fun at my expense. Maybe they take turns being the prankster!

Brenda said...

Hubs and I took one of those horse rides through the woods...like your donkey, the horses knew the way and we only had a guide because the horses couldn't make change...grin...

I had never been on a horse before and they wanted to put me on this black and white horse that wouldn't stand still...I told them no way...Bring me old Betsy or something tamer...So out comes Buttercup...she barely moved...the horse behind me on the trail (which just happened to be the horse carrying Hubs) kept nudging Buttercup's bum and pushing her to go faster...Luckily for me, Buttercup listened to Hub's horse about as well as I listen to him...grin...

Glad everything came out okay for you...

Hugs, Brenda

Rosemary said...

Wow that is scary!!!
I would have freaked out!!
Happy Halloween,
Rosemary

annavhutchinson said...

What a great story! I could feel my stomach knot while reading about how the donkey kept nearly pitching you over the edge of the stairs.

*shudder*

Glad you survived - happy blogapalooza!

Jessie V said...

WHAT a great story! wow. glad you made it!

Linda Crispell said...

My husband wanted us to ride donkeys down the Grand Canyon and I have always imagined a similar death defying ride. I'm going to have him read your terrifying tale.

Kim Kasch said...

Death by Donkey - sounds like a book - hum . . . maybe you'll be my muse.

We rode the mules down the Grand Canyon - probably somewhat similar.

Green Girl said...

Oh how horrifying! But a good story now...

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Death by donkey! Ha! Awesome story, Karen!

Kelly said...

What gorgeous blue water!
That donkey sounds more like an ass...:0)

3rdEyeMuse said...

I am soooo sorrry that you landed the demon steed, but I have to admit your recounting has me in giggles. it's good to know that you are no longer one with said creature of hell.

thanks for sharing your tale.