Eco Village Tour January-February 2017

This is the main post for my Eco Village Tour in January-February 2017.

 

This trip will take me to the southern tip of Spain. I decided against the Canaries to reduce flight times and hopefully be able to take the train in the future. Sustainability starts before you arrive!

I will add separate posts for each destination as I go along. For now the following villages and fincas have agreed to host me either as a volunteer or guest:

Eco Village Tour – Castilblanco/Los Portales

Los Portales is the last stop of my Andalucia tour and the first and only place where I will actually do some volunteering. My deal is to work at the finca for 3-4 hours in the morning and dedicate myself to my internet day job in the afternoon. That was my plan, but it turned out that neither the satellite-based internet, nor my health was up to scratch, so I ended up beginning my visit with a five-day flu break, during which my only contact with the outside world was the 5(!) meals per day and gathering wood for the oven in our shared volunteers accommodation.

At the beginning of the second week I was ready to be put into a team and help prepare olives for the mill

Los Portales are one of the oldest, longest standing communities in Spain, although they did start as an ‘intentional community’ rather than an eco village. The common thread is an interest in Jungian-psychology and interpretation of dreams. Over the last decade the project has taken on a more ecological vision and they now create most of their own electricity and food. (Self sufficiency used to be more of a necessity due to the very remote location rather than eco-motivated)

Los Portales power station (wind and solar)

It is quite impressive to keep a community going for more than 30 years, with many of the original members still living and working here. A good governance system has been put in place, with roles assigned to various departments. The most important issue facing the community today is to attract younger members (not just temporary wwoofers). Although many children were born at Los Portales over the years, most of them seem to have left the community in their twenties. While I was one of the oldest people in all the other eco villages I visited, the higher average age at Los Portales meant I was one of the younger ones here.

Although I like fact that this community provides so much stability, I am personally missing a sense of pioneering spirit – it seems most problems have already been solved and most houses have been built. I would find it hard to think of new ideas to contribute to this very settled community.

a cool hanger/workshop building (although not strictly eco construction)

Eco Village Tour – Molino de Guadalmesí

Initially, I didn’t have Molino de Guadalmesí on my list, as they need volunteers to stay for a minimum 3 (!) months and be fluent in Spanish. It was a last minute decision to book a 5-day stay as a guest, stopping over on my way from Ronda to Sevilla (via Tarifa). This eco village is centered around an old mill alongside the Rio Guadalmesí.

   

The landscape and atmosphere of the place are breathtaking. Where else can you have rolling hills, the Mediterranean, a crystal clear river and the continent of Africa all within arms length?

The Molino is also the first project on my trip that is actively converting from private ownership to a community-owned foundation. And in practice it can be felt that Johnny (who has been at the Molino for 12 years) is transitioning control to the ‘Molinos’ and ‘Aldeanos’ (those are varying stages of involvement/seniority). The first step to any of this, however, is a 3 month stay as a voluntari@. And there’s certainly enough work to do. On top of the 21 goats (see header image) there are chickens, a massive garden and various buildings to look after.

The mill building has an ancient oven which has been reactivated for bread baking, and Javi, one of the  Aldeanos, has made it his mission to tweak the bread recipe to perfection.

The Molinos don’t mind the guests getting their hands dirty, so I tried my best to help out with goat herding/milking, and building a contraption to save the trees from the chickens…

 

Community management seems to come naturally at the Molino. There is just a basic sense of mutual respect. There are also daily after-breakfast games and a talking session around the bonfire on monday nights.

All meetings are in Spanish, which – although tricky for my – is a good idea to help integrate the project in the neighbourhood and avoid ‘eco-colonialism’.

I had an amazing time here and am definitely planning to come back!

But for now it’s time to move on to Los Portales with a quick stopover in Sevilla.

Eco Village Tour – Mijas

This is the view from the terrace of Veintidos, a mini urban-eco-village-inside-a-house, where I am currently staying:

 

My host, Aimee, has two spare bedrooms and a living-room sofa, all of which accommodate a lot of couch-surfers all year round. Some of them are volunteering/wwoofing to help build up the garden in the backyard, which has seen a great transformation from wasteland to food-producing permaculture lab.

 

 

 

As well as the gardening, there are all sorts of donation/upcycling/freebox projects going on, and it could also be a great spot for digital nomads which are inclined towards permacultural ways.

For me Veintidos has been a haven of luxury, with my first hot shower in a week and a big sofa with WIFI connection to catch up on blogging.

Aimee makes it easy
to help out in the house
with this friendly list,
and most people are
happy to give a hand.


I used my last day to hike up the hill behind the house, quite a steep climb if you’re only used to walking up Hermannstrasse, but an amazing view which I used for the header image. I am getting ready to move on to Los Guindales tomorrow and am looking forward to my last night in a stone house for the foreseeable future.

Eco Village Tour – Orgiva

Orgiva is a village about half an hour north of Motril, which itself is about an hour east of Malaga.

I am here to meet up with Melchior and Amiel who are planning to start a new eco village project, Badulina.

They have not yet moved to the Badulina location, so I am visiting their current community in the valley of El Morreon, just outside Orgiva.

I get to spend my first night in ‘the Bubble’, and get to test my new high-tech sleeping bag at temperatures of 4 degrees inside a geodesic dome covered with plastic foil:

Having survived this, I get to hang out with cute swedish kids (who I think look a bit like Klaus Kinski) and also an upgrade to a heated campervan….

   

The days are filled with typical eco village stuff, like cooking, getting hold of water (neighbours tap for washing up, supermarket bottles for drinking), washing up, fixing stuff.

But I am also having some really good talks with Melchior&Co about visions for an eco village community in general, and Badulina in particular. Straight off the bat, I am in the middle of people who have the plans and resources (and experience) to make good communities happen.

Part 2

Unfortunately I was struck down with a little stomach bug and had to take two days off, including the day when they went to see the new land. This was somehow made up for with a google earth session, looking at a high-res satellite image of the entire new premises including installations, like the existing buildings and water well.

Meanwhile, I am struggling with the woodburner inside the van:
if things go well you end up with a cosy warm van,
if things go bad the place fills with smoke
and you need to open up all the windows.
With outside temperatures around 6 degrees
this is not a nice thing to happen
when you were planning to curl up with an (e-)book and a cup of tea…

 

 

 

 

I was able to sort my stomach out so that on Friday I could get a lift to Motril (and from there a bus to Malaga) together with Melchior’s mum, who has been doing some great cooking for all of us over the week.

I need to add that the reason for the stomach bug was not any of the great cooking, but rather the fact that the bug was already going around amongst the children and we had limited hand-washing facilities on-site. (i.e. no running water, just buckets out of barrels).

Time to leave El Moreon and Orgiva and head towards the next project: Veintidos in Mijas.

Eco Village Tour – Algatocín/Los Guindales

Los Guindales prefer volunteers that are staying more than a month and are fluent in Spanish. Currently, that’s not me so I decided to go for the full-board visitor option instead.

This got me a very nice room which I share with other guests and the volunteers currently working at the project. (A separate room is also available at a premium).

 

Los Guindales and Algatocín are situated in the Andalusian hills near Ronda, a fairly steep mountain range. You won’t find any barley fields, people are sticking to terraced gardens and sheep instead.

While the premium guests (me) are having their post-lunch sherry in the hammock, the voluntarios are working away on various projects. (I think it will be a dog shed…)

 

The cocina is bright, spacious and – once you get the ancient stove going – warm and cosy. If the internet wasn’t strictly limited (it is via satellite due to the remote location), this would be a great pace for digital nomads, with an amazing vista over the barranco.

My week at the Guindales included a blizzard, a sweat-lodge ceremony and a good-bye party, with my host Africa, the volunteers and a fellow guest. And some local eco vino. Time to pack the suitcase and get on the bus to Molino de Guadalmesí.