A hidden paradise
The Alpujarras always had something mythical for me and I really want to go and spend some time there. Historically they met me through my job as a tour guide in Andalusia. The legendary region where the last Moors hid from the Catholics. They were the ones who made this region fertile. They built terraces and irrigation systems in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. These are still visible today and shape the image of the Alpujarras.
It took some time but finally I had my first Silent Retreat in the Alpujarras, at Hidden Paradise. The place is situated on a mountain, which is typical for this region. Here Julia & Rupert have bought piece by piece land for over 20 years. They have created their own little paradise and completely “off the grid”. Little by little they built houses here, always respecting the natural environment. The crowning touch is of course the tree houses. A friend of them, an artist, decorated the property with huge carved wooden flowers. Every watercourse, every corner is decorated with love. The two round seminar houses offer the most beautiful view of the other side of the mountain. Nothing here is left to random chance, even if everything looks so natural.
In harmony with nature, that’s how I imagine it.
How it all began
The “Hippies” used to live down by the river, where Julia & Rupert arrived at that time. A small community called “El Beneficio” had settled on the right side of the river. The principles were very clear: the common good and life in harmony with nature. Julia & Rupert were almost too “civilized” with their Tipi tent. “Even the breaking of a blade was not tolerated,” said a former member of the community. Today he drives a 4×4 and leads hikers through the Alpujarras. He also no longer lives by the river, but in a formerly abandoned village, in a house.
I am very happy to have met some people from the “original family”. These are the “hippies” as I have always imagined them. I call myself a “Yoga Hippie”. This means for me that I take over the values of yoga and accept in my freedom those of others. I like the idea of community and non-consumption and living with respect for the nature.
Over the years Julia & Rupert moved up the mountain and built themselves a own hidden paradise. That’s where they raised their son. They took their time and let everything grow naturally. Bit by bit they bought the land and built new houses again and again. They have developed an almost independent infrastructure.
Favored by the region’s good spring water, they are independent of the water network. Lanjaron, the water filling station of the water brand of the same name, is located directly on the other side of the mountain. The water is drinkable and supplies the whole retreat. Houses, pools and plants are fed by the natural spring. In order for all this to run smoothly, there are a few rules to follow. For example: You should take a shower before using the pool because only minimal chlorine is used. What a relief for the skin to swim in such a natural pool.
The toilets should only be used for “poo” or flushed. The signs “let wee be, let poo go through” make it clear. Also in the “Hidden Paradise” one is asked to “give back the water to nature”. This is easy because it is a large area. You find enough possibilities for it. You always have the choice between nature, a compost toilet or a traditional porcelain toilet. Also here it did not smell bad anywhere. Is this due to the good cuisine?
In the “Hidden Paradise” lacto-ovo vegetarian food is cooked. The incompatibility or allergy of wheat is taken into care. Except for a bread in the morning or a muffin the food was always prepared without wheat products. Vegan was also no problem. The dairy products were easy to leave out. In addition, the products used are as sustainable as possible. Eggs, goat milk and cheese come from small farms in the surrounding area. All in all, food is a dream, Julia’s & Rupert´s Son is a gifted cook. Sustainability is not only important when it comes to shopping. The processing of food should also produce as little waste as possible. Perhaps there will soon be the first “cookbook of leftovers”, a project by Julia and her son.
The fruits of the land
There is a vegetable garden where salad, tomatoes, aubergines, beans and courgettes are grown. Depending on the season there are different vegetables, fruits and nuts. On the grounds themselves there are almond, mango, fig and my beloved mulberry trees. That’s what I call living “in harmony” with nature. It is a luxury to have your own fruit and nut trees.
Every building is equipped with solar panels. This provides enough electricity for lighting, Internet, refrigerators, cookers and water pumps. At night, the paths are illuminated with LED lights that store sunlight during the day. But the most beautiful light is still the sun during the day as well as the star and moon light at night. Especially in nature, sleeping times still depend on natural light. The first activities begin in the morning with the sunrise.
At night it is wonderfully quiet and you can only hear the chirping of the crickets. From time to time you can hear an animal. There are donkeys nearby. In general, however, it is rather quiet and one does not feel observed. Although there are direct neighbors, one does not see and hear them usually.
The dream of living in the country
For me, the “Hidden Paradise” is the perfection of life in the countryside as a retreat center. Here, two people with their ideas, their love for nature and their own hands have created a paradise that is very much about sustainability. In this way, they enable visitors to experience the original values of their life community. They share their life with that of the visitors.
You can feel the love in every detail.
They have been doing the retreat for about two years and are almost always fully booked a year in advance. I am so enthusiastic about the place that I asked Julia & Rupert if they would like to offer a retreat themselves. Julia used to sing in a band and came up with an idea: 24 hours Kirtan. That would be awesome! I would be very happy to be able to visit this place even more often. Preferably to give mantra singing & Kirtan there. The thought is already there, now I just have to wait until it becomes reality. Like I described it in my very first blog entry.