Before leaving England I accidentally came across information about ‘El Pardal’ while researching places I could volunteer in Spain, however, no amount of research could have ever prepared me for the experience that lay ahead.
If you’ve read the previous post about the journey to Las Sierras del Cazorla, you will already have some idea of much I fell in love with the beautiful landscape. Within this great big natural park, lies a hundred year old farmhouse, which is surrounded by 27 hectares of protected land , made up of alpine vegetation, pines, stone oaks, bushes and numerous other types of flora and fauna. At an altitude of 1580 meters, at El Pardal you feel like you’re about to float into the clouds.
Its one of those rare gems on this planet, where nature is allowed to do what it wishes with minimal human intervention. Amiro Woolfgang, its founder, and his family, who have lovingly built this ‘off grid living project’, live by their ethos of sustainability and self sufficiency, whilst using the land, sun, wind and water to its fullest and cultivating the land ecologically. Aside from growing fruits, vegetables and herbs, which can be used as food and natural medicine, they also look after chicken, horses, goats and dogs, to create a peaceful and tranquil life, one where there is harmony between humans and nature. Amiro also tells me that he practices deep massage combined with energy & inner work.
For further information see: http://pardal36.webnode.es/
The first day: After recovering from the initial shock that Amiro had left a city dwelling total stranger like me in charge of this lovely home and his animals, I set about trying to orientate myself. The building itself was extremely charming and had all the basic amenities. So there was an aga, which was heated by a wood burner in the kitchen. The ‘outhouse’ wasn’t just any old outdoor toilet, but one built into the side of a rock and consisted literally of two holes with toilet seats and a roof, but you were otherwise fully exposed to all the elements from the front, however, the breathtaking view below did make it quite an exhilarating experience !!
There were 2 bathtubs, one indoors with the sauna, and one outdoors.
There was no running water as the generator needed to pump water for two hours a day, so while it was raining or snowing we had to get water from a local tank. There weren’t any hot/cold mixer taps, but there were built in wood burning stoves under the tubs, to heat the water to the desired temperature.
There were stables for the horses, and a home for the goats and the chicken, as well as two dog houses, one for each of the lovely dogs.
After initially walking around the land and checking on the animals, I tried to source food, water and lit a wood fire in the aga for the first time in my life. I tried not to panic about the fact that I was in the middle of nowhere and approximately 1.5 hours from the nearest neighbor or shop, although I had no idea in which direction, but simply let go and tried to breathe in my beautiful surroundings and bask in the glorious sunshine. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to wait long for the cavalry to arrive. I was alerted to their presence by a very long , high pitched sound resembling a ‘wolf whistle’.
As I walked up to the perimeter fence to identify the visitors, a bit like Kevin Costner in the film’Dancing with Wolves’, I caught sight of the ‘wolf’ who had whistled. The man in question, who was sporting a mohoc hair cut and whose topless upper half revealed a lean looking sunkist torso in tight fitting lycra bottoms, was actually called Juam. Alongside him was his beautiful German Princess, Lheda, who resembled a sweet little pixie with golden dreadlocks. The young love birds, whom I nicknamed ‘Los Cariños’ because they started practically every other sentence addressing each other affectionately as ‘cariño’ ( which apparently translates as ‘honey’) explained that their home, which was approximately an hour away somewhere between the valley that lay yonder, was one without doors or windows and resembled a Yurt. Amiro and his son, Gerrardo, had asked them to come over and give me an induction, which was very helpful !!
They showed me how to milk a goat, which was another first for me, and I also got to ride one of the horses. Now, I have to admit that this was the first time I’d tried to ride a horse without a saddle, stirrups, or a helmet. Although the stoic Ruvia initially needed a lot of persuasion to get going, when she finally moved, boy did she move. Unfortunately, her rider wasn’t fully prepared for the impact of going into a sitting, or should I say ‘Cowboy style’ bouncing trot without a saddle, or more accurately was not prepared for the subsequent impact of the bumps on his own ‘bumps’ while trying to balance on a horse on a rocky slope. Well, by now I’m sure you can guess what happened. Yes, that’s right ladies and gents, during one of the rocky bumps the rider went flying forward and ended up with an additional bump, this time on his back. Apart from being slightly sore and embarrased, I was fine and managed to survive my initiation with the horses.
After sharing our first Indian meal and helping me to rescue Herbie from the spot where he was stuck, unfortunately, my companions eventually had to leave to return to their homes the following day.
Just as I was resigned to the fact that I would be on my own for the next few days before Amiro or the WOOFers (Volunteers from the Wold Organisation of Organic Farming) returned, I had another surprise visitor. It was around 6.30 p.m, when I was feeding the horses, that I heard a loud echo calling out “Amiiirroooooooooo”. Now, it was getting dark, so firstly, I couldn’t really see where the sound was coming from or who was calling. Secondly, I couldn’t tell whether the individual was friend or foe; and lastly as I wasn’t Amiro, how could I respond and provide a full explanation in Spanish from such a distance; so instead I decided timidly to respond in my bestest Spanish with that universal expression: “Holaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa ??”
It turns out that the stranger wasn’t Spanish anyway, but a Belgian lad called Vincent, who’d got slightly lost on the long trek from the closest town of Burunchel, and was equally as naive about rural life as me, however, to his credit he was great at lighting fires. Vincent, who had a burning desire to learn about Permaculture and healing massage had contacted Amiro ,asking if he could come and stay at El Pardal, but as I was unable to contact Amiro, I just had to take Vincent’s word for it. I followed my gut instinct, which told me that he was a genuine guy. Vincent had traveled down from Madrid the previous day, where he had been sleeping in the streets. He had barely enough money for his train journey and his sleeping bag was visibly wet as it had been raining the previous night.
I liked Vincent because he had a lovely sense of humor and seemed like one of those young men who have a special energy and a zest for life, and had endless tales of his experiences, especially young ladies he had become entangled with, but on reflection at his age, I guess most of us were probably charged up with extra hormones at 22. That was the first night in a long time that I had to share my space with another human being, but it was okay. For the subsequent few days we survived the howling winds, which at times felt like they were blowing through the house at 100 miles per hour and managed to smash a window pane; as well as the snow and the leaky roof(s), and we still managed to keep ourselves and the animals safe.
Luckily a few days later, Feli, one of the WOOFers (Volunteers from the World Organisation of Organic Farming), who had lived at El Pardal for some time, finally returned. She was like a breath of fresh air. One of those people with a very natural, calm gentle aura, who manages to laugh like a little girl and adores the Sierras. We also had another surprise visitor, yet another chap called ‘Antonio'(II), who also wanted to pay Amiro a surprise visit. Can you recognise a pattern here ? This Antonio also brought lots of goodies with him including Chorizo sausages, alcohol and cigarettes, which we had been deprived of for a couple of days. As it had been snowing and it was freezing cold, so he also stayed the night.
And then on Thursday, I finally got to meet the infamous Amiro Woolfgang, who was a very slim tall, gentle but firm giant, who looked like he had just returned from a 70s hippy trek from Goa. Unfortunately, due to the previous delays with my car at Castellon, we didn’t get to spend as much time together as I would have liked, but I promised to return, hopefully once the weather had improved. So I said my good byes to my new friends Vincent, Amiro & Feli and Antonio II, made a hasty exit back down the windy, rocky, skiddy dirt tracks on a very foggy afternoon and managed to make it to Alicante by mid night, where I proceeded to check in to the nearest posh hotel. Sorry Amiro, I couldn’t resist, but if its any consolation, each time I open a tap or turn on a light, I think about whether its necesssary and how much I can do without, thanks to my experience at El Pardal.
Shukriya ! 🙂
Next stop: Tango Alicante !
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