This is it, I am finally on my way to find various eco-communities and eco-build projects in southern and north-western Spain. Despite my research and travelling experience I have to admit to being rather daunted by trying to locate some of the places I am trying to visit. The instructions for Matavenero, west of Leon, are vague to say the least. Effectively you walk out of the village of San Facundo, cross a bridge, and take a left into the mountains. After 4km you should reach the village. I know I am a geographer and thus love to work with grid references and maps, but are the vagueness of instructions a deliberate act to restrict visitors and preserve privacy?
Places in Britain are similarly hard to find, few offer maps, just lists of turnings and then strong encouragement not to bring a vehicle – which is understandable. It is as if the act of walking for miles with little sense of direction is meant to enhance the pilgrimage of visiting these places. Unfortunately it increases the fear factor too. Walking without direction for miles in a foreign country in a foreign climate is rather scary, especially for someone like me who always knows where I am going. Despite avid use of Google map and satellite images I am no closer to knowing the location of my chosen destinations.
Yet taking the long route – train to London from the East Midlands, Eurostar to Paris, Trenhotel overnight train to Madrid, staying in Madrid a night, train to Granada, car hire for final leg to outskirts of Molvizar – does give time and space for reflection of our expectations of the speed of travel, of the importance sometimes of taking time, and of going beyond our comfort zone.
This long windy journey has many parallels to that of eco-building – it takes courage to be different, go an alternative way, and time to both build and prove it a success. We can´t always know where we are going in life or be sure that the result is what we intended. This trip is about visiting and understanding those who have travelled without a map to create new ways of living and building in an uncertain future. Part of me want to maps and understand these projects, but another part wants simply to cherish the opportunity to join them in their experiments into the unknown, and not necessarily tell the world where they are. Tommorrow I head into Las Alpujarras.
(Madrid, 3rd June 2010)