A week has passed since my adventure in La Muela, an impressive mountain in the south of Spain, near Veléz-Blanco. For three weeks I participated in a reforestation project that was co-organized by Ecosystem Restoration Camps (ERC) and Alvelal while being financed by the search engine Ecosia. During this time I dug many holes (500 is my rough estimate) and built check dams for soil loss prevention.
We spent the first week in camp Altiplano; this was an experience I was extremely grateful for as I have been a member of ERC since the beginning and have been following their every step on social media. Now, to live among everyone behind this project was a wonderful gift. Every single person had the most amazing, mind-blowing and inspiring backstory. In this short week I learnt so much and was so happy to see Permaculture being applied to a large scale. This was the perfect complement to my Permaculture Design Course (PDC) that I took in Terra Alta (in Sintra, Portugal) a couple of months prior. I was able to cover the swales with mulch and manure; we created an improvised sunken Hugel bed as an experiment; saw how to use heavy machinery to turn large amounts of compost efficiently; observed the key line principle through a series of ponds along a gully just to name a few. To top it all off we also had delicious meals everyday, cooked by alternating teams of two or three and I would like to make a special mention to Clinton’s epic cakes. Our Gremlins were kept very happy thanks to his great baking skills!
The last two weeks we moved to Vélez-Blanco to start the reforestation project in La Muela. My experience was a truly a rollercoaster ride. There were days when I looked around after a long day of hard work and I could visualize the future forest that will exist in La Muela in 20 years. This vision would fill me with a blissful sensation of self fulfillment. Then there were days that I would wake up before the sunrise, with my whole body in agony (especially the hands!) wondering how on earth will I be able to hike up the mountain, let alone dig any holes and curse myself for accepting such a crazy challenge. Nonetheless, I never once regretted my decision to volunteer. Even on the worst of days I would push myself because this is meaningful work that I believe in. Plus it was a crazy workout, way more intense then any gym program out there. I am so proud to have been part of this project and hopefully come back one day and see the fruits of my labor.
The people that joined in this adventure truly resonated with me. We shared so many stories, experiences and dreams. We sang together, partied together and cooked together. By the end we had formed a beautiful family and it actually made it hard to leave. But I know I made friends for life and my world has expanded. Many more cities to visit where I’ll be welcomed by an awesome human being. I could write a whole blog post on every individual I shared this experience with me, instead I will compromise and write a few words on each fellow Eco Hero (our very modest self-proclaimed group name). Justin from California provided endless entertainment with his love of the Ukulele, Cassandra from Miami/Mexico made me feel like her brother and was a pure joy to be around, Alex from the Netherlands was our father figure with his constant care over us, Octavia from Rome was the fire of group guiding us towards a more sustainable lifestyle on camp, Patrick from the south of Germany was always ready for an adventure and a great motivational element in the group due to his endless energy supply and finally Mahfuj, a true brother that I deeply cherish and am grateful to have him in my life. I will miss everybody, but this is not the end of our shared journey, some day the Universe will align itself for us to be together again.
All in all, it was an experience that I will always remember with fondness. I met so many amazing people and this is what fuels my hope for the future. Despite everything that is going wrong in the world there are so many people committed to fixing our connection with nature. ERC is a wonderful example for all Eco Heroes around the globe. A huge thank you to everyone involved in these restoration projects in southern Spain.