Roya’s Travels: Donkey Jaunts

I walked over to the hill where we used to go and sled. There were a lot of little kids there. I watched them flying. And I thought that all those little kids are going to grow up someday. And all of those little kids are going to do the things that we do. But for now, sledding is enough. I think it would be great if sledding were always enough, but it isn’t.(The Perks of Being a Wallflower)

Four years ago, I went to Lindos in Rhodes and took the four-legged, furry taxi ride up to the Acropolis. The traditional donkey jaunt of Lindos is a must-do, where for a measly five euros, one is transported up the hilly village to it’s ancient ruins, providing both a historical experience and a phenomenal view. Instagram perfection.

=Four years later and I am taking the same journey up to Lindos’prized Acropolis with three other friends. Yet, something has changed. Instead of having that child-like, gleeful grin across my face as I’m hoisted up on the donkey, I feel awkward and even slightly ashamed. My thoughts fall directly to the animal panting in front of me. It’s a dank, sweltering thirty-eight degrees today and whilst I’m most definitely not the lightest passenger on this donkey, I’m by no means the heaviest either. I wince as I watch men and women, both twice my age and size, slum down on to the creatures’backs. Suddenly, this essential, touristic experience transforms into an exploitation of animal labour. I want to shout at one of the donkey owner’s, who slaps one of the helpless mutts across the face, but my mouth is clamped shut in speechlessness. All these thoughts flooding through my mind however, are fresh …why did I not think about this the last time I was here?

Re-visiting somewhere or even someone, is like re-reading a book or re-watching a film- every time your eye picks up new words, you read things divergently and address matters with a more experienced reasoning. The situation, event and place will never be exactly the same for the simple fact that you have changed. I notice it as the holiday progresses. Instead of wanting constant ice cream (although that would be an added bonus), I’m more interested in trying the local delicacies. Rather than mull at the pool all day, we start to take a ponder around the neighbourhood region.

My scepticism to return to the same place for a holiday in the worry that it would be boring, floods away as I gaze at everything I missed the first time round. Roya at 19 has seen Rhodes completely different to Roya at 15. Yes, Rhodes on first sight renders as an idyllic Greek Island, similar to the one depicted in Mamma Mia. Nonetheless, on closer look and further investigation the Island is not the paradise it appears to be; the majority of people are either unemployed or on seasonal contracts, worried about where they can find a winter income and the houses in the area are all unfinished so as to not have to pay housing tax, leaving properties looking scruffy and almost derelict.

When we arrive at the ruins, the donkey owner practically shoves me off the creature and starts pressing for another passenger. Once the money has been given, the four of us go from being prized customers to a pace of asses and mere inconveniences. As my donkey ambles away, I stroke its back and silently pray that the next passenger to be hoisted up hasn’t had a large lunch.

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