Portugal: Vida Pura

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Train journey back from Porto to Lisbon with mum, repeatedly we accidentally sit in the wrong seats, each time getting asked to move, each time start laughing and can't stop. While mum is in the toilet a man who we'd earlier thought was the ticket inspector comes grinning into the carriage at the opposite end. He spots where we're sitting and marches down the aisle, ignoring the other passengers. He stops and plants fat kisses on my face, and with no more of an explanation than 'Obrigado!' (Thank you) he walks off. 
Alright.

The rest of the day is with sad goodbyes to mum, getting in stupid dangerous situations at motorway/pigeon shit junction, sitting on my suitcase, lorry fumes and eating bran flakes for 3 hours, then catching a coach down the coast to Odeceixe (oh-de-say-eesh) as the sun sets. 

3 years ago two Dutch friends Robyn and Ole, along with their wives Bela and Valeria, bought a tiny ruined house in a valley and since then, with the help of a team of local builders and 15 workawayers at a time, working 7 hours, 4 days a week, they've created Vida Pura. The little house has been renovated to accommodate the volunteers, with a big kitchen and sitting room, and a massive pantry filled with every kind of food you could have a Sagres/hash fuelled urge for. There are also two yurts + 5 caravans on the land for workers. Ole & Bela and Robyn & Valeria are building a house each for themselves, on the hills either side of the valley. A HUGE vegetable garden run by lunar calendar, grows organic fruit and veggies for the two families and all of the volunteers. 

There's a compost toilet that is so OK you'd only know it wasn't a normal loo when instead of flushing it you put a handful of sawdust down the hole. AND it's used by at least 10 smelly workers. A combination of eco-energy sources from solar panels and wind-mills to black pipes running across the roof to provide hot water, allow them to be surviving entirely off-grid. The houses are built using the traditional Portugese method of clay-packing and straw bales, straw and wood can be found on the land, and clay in the soil, so houses can be made almost entirely from FREE STUFF. 

We start work at 8:30, and finish at 4, with a morning coffee break and lunch break. Lunch cooking is done on a rota, cooking for 16+ people on an old gas stove and a really crap gas oven is a fucking experience… But maybe you get used to it, and people are always around to help. Depending on the time of year, all sorts of work needs doing, from planting and weeding in the vegetable garden, helping with the construction of the houses, maintaining the land, looking after the rapidly breeding animal farm of chickens or 2 baby ducks or 2 huge dogs or 6 cats or 3 donkeys, or the giant cross-gender cockerel Rodney. 





















In the afternoon we swim up the river that runs through the farm, there's waterfalls and a dam, and misty flood-planes that look like they belong in jurassic park. Or hitch-hike to the beach. The journey is an assault course of hilly fields, pot-hole dust tracks, and some rivers to drive through. Sometimes Ole gives us a lift and we all pile into the back of his pick-up truck, speed-freak and aiming for the dustiest pot-holes, howling laughing from the front seat, and emergency stopping for a little green parakeet in the road that he tries to catch in his hat. Ducking from the police on the bridge. When we arrive we're 8 shades more filthy. Evenings are bottles of Sagres, watching the sunset on the beach, listening to the musically-able improvise hilarious and beautiful concoctions of guitars, bongos, violins, harmonicas. Weekends are Odeceixe beach and surfing and fancy-dress parties. The river that runs through Vida Pura runs to Odeceixe beach, it's a really incredible little bay of clear blue river, white sand, forest cliffs and Atlantic Ocean.



In return for work the volunteers get food and accommodation, but the 'work' has a worthwhile and direct benefit to the life you're living, eating, enjoying. I haven't before met so many kind, accepting, and generous people in one place at one time, everyone weird, everyone crazy, and all by-passing the shitty capitalist system in a farm of fun.



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