After volunteering for the past few months in various parts of Portugal and learning a lot about gardening, community living and most recently meditation, we were looking forward to working with Fiona and Nonu at Yoga Holidays Portugal for a new experience. Yoga Holidays Portugal is located near Pedrogao Grande, close to the central region town of Coimbra. As we drove through the beautiful pine tree clad mountains and cobble stoned tracks down to our new destination, we knew that we were going to enjoy our next two weeks in this area.
We were excited to find out that our accommodation wouldn’t be a tent, but a yurt! All of the accommodation there for guests is in either yurts or bell tents, and there just so happened to be a spare yurt for us for our two week stay. Our roles at our new digs were to cook and prepare all the daily meals, clean and prepare yurts for the new guests, gardening and strimming the grass, harvesting fruits from the gardens, and general help around the land. In turn we got to attend two yoga classes a day and of course we were fed (very well!) and watered. We also got to hang out with the guests during meal times and the yoga classes. Most importantly we got a really good feel of what it is like to run eco retreats far away from the maddening crowd.
Lots of vegetables were growing well in the veggie garden and our daily salads would mostly come from there. There were many different types of lettuce, rocket, various herbs, onions, and carrots. The raspberries and blueberries that we harvested were served at breakfast, and the rhubarb was turned into jam. All of the jam and marmalade is homemade and the gluten free bread was amazing which put a smile on my face in the mornings at breakfast.
Each yurt has a private compost toilet with a separate urinal, a solar and wood heated shower, a well equipped mini kitchen with gas stoves and a chill out area with hammocks and sun loungers. If you showered in the middle of the day, the water was heated in black pipes from the sun. If you wanted a shower at night or early morning, the water would need to be heated with a fire so we generally showered at lunch time to avoid using so much wood. It can also be quite time consuming to heat the water this way, so being flexible with shower times is essential if you want to live off grid. This is all good experience for Keela Yoga Farm and knowing what we are able to cope with before we get there is invaluable. For me, I have had to let go of many things including having the convenience of a hot shower. It is amazing what you learn about yourself when you are stripped of convenience, and how attached we can be to these modern day appliances powered by gas and electricity. I now have a new founded appreciation for hot water and if you had asked me three years ago if I would be ok with lukewarm showers, I would have laughed at you! We are so lucky to have these amenities in our lives, and getting back to basics can give you time to reflect and appreciate the world that we live in. Laurence has been investigating, researching and thinking up various systems so that we can try to use the least amount of wood for hot water, and when we do heat it up, it stays warm for some time. We also want to make sure that the hot water is used up and not wasted; for example saving the washing up for when the water is hot, or perhaps redirecting the water to the washing machine. Again, if we want to live off grid we need to be smart with our planning and plan around the resources that we have available at the time.
Our yurt was handmade by the owners and the wood for the structure was taken from their own land, which we were really impressed with. Even the bed and the shelves in the yurts were handmade using this same wood, which showed us that having established trees already present is extremely useful. They copied the structure from the main yurt that was originally bought, and then had wood fired heaters installed in each one for cold winter nights. There is something about sleeping in a round room. We slept so well every night, and for at least 10 hours at a time! Apparently this is something that is reported by many of the guests that sleep in the yurts, and we definitely want to have yurts at Keela Yoga Farm. Who knows, maybe we will be living in one for a while as we get things going on our new land.
The owners have three young children that attend local schools who love their life on this remote plot of land. They have lots of space to run around and their playground is just outside the main house so mum can keep an eye on them at all times. During the summer their dad puts a swimming pool up for them, and the trampoline gets well used on a daily basis. There are short walks that can be taken to the nearby reservoir for swimming, and the local village is not far away by foot. It is peaceful and quiet, and you really feel secluded as there is no light pollution at night which means we had fantastic opportunities for star gazing. Evenings were spent either at our private chill out area, or with Fiona, Nonu and the kids.
We really loved working at Yoga Holidays Portugal, and it gave us an invaluable experience and insight for what life might be like on our own farm in the future.