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How to find … Casa Tierra, San Franciso del Monte de Oro, Argentina July 30, 2010

Filed under: Argentina,How to find .... — naturalbuild @ 8:16 pm

Casa Tierra accepts visitors for tours, and volunteers through the WOOFFing network. If you would like to visit be sure to contact them in advance rather than simply arrive as they often have commitments. They also run workshops on natural building; details are on their website. Contact via email:, or via the website:

1. Get to a regional city

Casa Tierra is located in the small town of San Francisco del Monte de Oro in the San Luis province. To get there you can fly to Cordoba, or from Buenos Aires catch a 10 to 11 hour bus to Cordoba or San Luis (which is closer but smaller). There are tens of bus companies in Argentina and many operate out of Buenos Aires, so there is always a huge choice of buses out of the city. The biggest companies include Chevillar, Fetcha, CATA, and General Urquiza.

It is best to book a couple of days ahead as the buses are quite busy. If you are outside of Buenos Aires the Omnilineas company offers a booking service in English. Expect to pay between 100 and 250 pesos (20 to 50 British pounds) for a one way ticket. If you go overnight then you have have a sleeper seat (Cama Suite) or in the day time a reclining seat (Semi Cama). The buses are very comfortable, with large seats, curtains, toilet and often a 15 minute break along the way. You can put your luggage in the store at the back of the bus when you board. You are given a receipt for it and you let the guy know where you are getting off. On the more expensive buses (like Cama Suite) you get meals included and free drinks, but on the cheaper ones you need to take your own food with you. There is, however, always water available.

All buses leave Buenos Aires from the Retiro Terminal de Omnibus, a large three storey bus station with about 75 platforms.

2. Getting to San Franciso del Monte de Oro

If you are coming via Cordoba you need to take a bus to Villa Dolores with companies such as COATA (which leaves at 12.30 everyday), but there are also minibus services like Sierra Las Bus. You cannot buy this ticket in Buenos Aires but have to buy it on arrival in Cordoba from one of the many ticket desks. The journey takes between three and four hours as it involves slowly snaking over the Sierra mountain range – but has stunning views.

Route to San Francisco del Monte de Oro from Cordoba [click on map to enlarge]

Once at Villa Dolores you need to buy another ticket (again you cannot buy this at Cordoba) to San Francisco, which has the destination San Luis. There are far fewer buses a day from here. If you take the company Autotransportes San Juan then buses leave at 4 am, 12 midday and 5 pm everyday. It takes 2 and a half hours to San Francsico.

Map of route to San Francisco del Monte de Oro from San Luis [click on map to enlarge]

If you are coming north from San Luis the journey is only one and a half hours, but again there are only three buses a day and San Luis is not very big. In other words it is not the best place to get stuck for too long.

3. Getting to Casa Tierra

The bus station in San Francisco is a new building to the north of the town. This is a very small and rural place and the ticket offices only open an hour or so before each bus. In between each bus all the shops shut. When you arrive it is easiest to get a taxi to Casa Tierra. However, there are not many in town. It is best to try and catch one as it drops someone off. If you need to call one there is a list of numbers next to the red public phone in the station. However, to be honest I stuggled to get the phone to work, and when I used my mobile none of the taxis answered the phone.

It is possible to walk to the house. It is only about 1 km north along Sarimento street. You walk west one block, then north to Plaza San Martin then keep walking straight up the dirt track until you think that the road is going to turn into a path and you will see the house on your left. But there are a lot of dogs around and if you are in any way worried about free roaming dogs I would suggest it is worth waiting for a taxi. A taxi only costs 5 pesos – less than 1 British pound.

Location of Casa Tierra once at San Francisco del Monte de Oro [click on map to enlarge]


How to find … Panya Project and Pun Pun, Thailand July 12, 2010

Filed under: How to find ....,Thailand — naturalbuild @ 8:18 am

[Maps to be added soon]

Panya Project and Pun Pun are near the village of Moo Bahn Mae Jo in Chiang Mai province about 2 hours north of Chiang Mai city. The cheapest (and most fun) way to get there is on the daily ‘veggy’ or market truck that leaves the city every day except Sunday, at 12 noon. It returns at 6 am in the morning.

1. Get to the truck departure point

To catch the bus from Chaing Mai first go to the Wararot Market in the north east of the city by the river. Once at the market walk to the river that is next to the market, when you are facing the river, take a left and walk up the road about 100 metres. You see see lots of trucks and red and yellow trucks (song-tao) lined up on the road. On your left there is a parking area for pick-up trucks between some shops. Take a left down the ally on the far side of the parking area. Look up and see a sign on top of the building that says Narkorn Ping Bazzar. You are in the right spot. (If you hit the Red Cross building, or the US Embassy you have gone too far, missed the left turn). You keep walking down the ally past the trucks for about 100 metres until you find a white truck that is slightly bigger than most of the others. Here is a photo of it (courtesy of Panya):

2. Take the truck north to Moo Bahn Mae Jo

On a window of that truck is a sign that says: Jon Jandai’s Farm: Pun Pun And a sign that says The Baan Thai Project. This is the truck. It will be full of bits for the markets up north. When it sets off (at noon) it visits other markets and picks up further supplies. It is useful to help the loading process. The trip all together takes about 2 hours, and on the way you stop at various markets to drop off the deliveries. You will ride the truck all the way to the last stop and it costs 50 Baht (about 1 British pound).

3. Walk up the track to Panya or Pun Pun

The truck will drop you at a dirt track near the entrance to the village. There is a sign that says “Panya Project” on your right. Follow that road for about 750 metres with views across rice fields on your left. The track forks and to the left is Pun Pun and to the right Panya Project. You are almost there. As you walk towards Panya you will see a thatched house on your right and then a big open air building that is the center of the project on your left. This is the Sala (communal space) which is the best place to find people.

Instructions on how to get their by driving or from Pai are on the Panya website.


How to find … Matavenero, Spain June 23, 2010

Filed under: How to find ....,Spain — naturalbuild @ 6:18 pm

If you enjoy the majestic mystery of heading off into the wilderness not entirely sure of where you are going, then do not read on. Simply head to San Facundo and walk into the mountains.

If, however, you like a little more substance to your itinerary then here are a few details fleshed out about how to get to Matavenero. Do be aware, however, that although I got close I did not ultimately make it to the village, but I got to within a few kms.

Contact the community first:

They ask that you contact them at least two weeks before arriving. You can write to: Consejo, Matavenero, Lista de Correos, 24300, Bembibre, León, Spain. Or call on (+34) 987 693 216 between 19.30 and 20.20 in  evenings.

1. Getting to Bembibre:

Bembibre, just east of Ponferrada on the main road (scale 1:400,000)

Bembibre is a small town near Ponferrada in León province, in the region of Castilla y León, north west Spain. The easiest way to get there is by bus. There are several daily buses on a very good network. The best way to check out what buses there are and to book them is via the Movelia website. Through this you select your bus and even your seat number. Simply print off the receipt and this counts as your ticket. You just show it to the bus driver on boarding.

If coming from Madrid it is about 5 hours on the ALSA buses – very comfortable coaches which stop for a toilet and food break after a few hours. It costs 25 euros one-way.You need to get this from the Méndez Alvaro (Estación del Sur) bus station in the south of Madrid. It is not a direct metro ride and a taxi costs about 14 euros from central Madrid. The bus departures are only advertised by their final destination, in all probability this will be Santiago de Compostela. Once the platform number is advertised on the display boards you can check on the list at the front of the bus that Ponferrada is listed as a destination. That means it is going past Bembibre too.

2. Getting to San Facundo:

San Facundo is a small village to the south east of Bembibre. It consists of a few houses, a bar and a public telephone. You need to get a taxi. When you get off the bus at Bembibre walk east (ahead as you get off) for two blocks. You will then see a taxi rank on your left. The telephone number for the local taxi is (+34) 987 510 580. Alternatively you can call Cesar direct on (+34) 629 449 580. Ask to be dropped off in the village.


Bembibre, San Facundo and Matavenero (scale 1:200,000)

3. Walking to Matavenero:

From San Facundo it is about a 4 km walk into the mountains along the Rial river (or arroya del Rial, stream of the Rial). Maps of the area are hard to find. A reasonable one is the Mapa Provincial León, 1:200,000 published by the Centro Nacional de Informacion Geografico (, but it is still a large scale to walk with.


Map painted on the wall [click on image to enlarge] and the start of the path out of San Facundo

In San Facundo there is a route to the village painted on a wall opposite the bar and pictured here. You need to head south out of the village past a children’s play area on your left until a large grassy track takes you into the woods. At the end of this track there is a concrete footbridge on your left. Take the bridge and then almost immediately the track goes to the right and a steep rocky path is straight-ahead and up. Take the path up.


The path

At various points on this path there are signs that say Matavenero, or rainbow paintings to indicate you are going the right way. You need to head south as your general direction. Be warned, it is a rough, narrow, steep and overgrown path. You need robust footwear and to be able to cope with wet rocks, scree and snakes. There are some lovely views of wild mountain flowers, the river and steep mountain sides. But it is also a tough, vertigo-inducing path. You follow this path for 4 kms and over two bridges crossing the river. With a backpack it should take about two hours to walk – so make sure you have given yourself enough daylight to get to the village.

4. Alternative route, driving with shorter walk:

If the walk from San Facundo is not possible then you can drive to the ‘car park’ of the village and walk the short 1 km down to it. Sometimes this driving route in is closed because of snow or rain damage. If you are thinking of hiring a car León is about 70 km to the east and has a couple of car hire companies next to its train station. If taking this route you approach the village from the west. We you can see on the map below the way the village advise is to drive to Foncebadón which is on the well sign-posted ‘Camino de Santiago’ (a long distance popular pilgrimage walk) route. This is either west out of Astorga or east out of Ponferrada. just west of Foncebadón take the untarmced track north through the pine trees, when the track forks take a right, and at the crossroads take another right and after about 1.5 kms you reach the village car park. Then walk north east down into the village.

Matavenero in relation to Ponferrada and Astorga


How to find … El Valle de Sensaciones, Spain

Filed under: How to find ....,Spain — naturalbuild @ 6:06 pm

All visits must be pre-arranged and they would prefer you to attend a course or workshop (see listings on the website) rather than just do a tour. However, email them and let them know your interests.

El Valle de Sensaciones is just south east of Yátor in the Alpujarras in Andalucia, Spain. If you are coming from England then it is possible and pleasant to catch the train as far as Granada and then take a bus, and a taxi for the final stage. You take the Eurostar to Paris, then the TrenHotel to Madrid. You probably have to stay overnight in Madrid, or else Granada as there are only two trains a day – one at 9 am and another at 6 pm. It takes about 4 hours to get from Madrid to Granada. The best travel website for working all of this out is The man in seat 61

Las Aplujarras between Granada and Almeria [click on map to enlarge] (scale 1:400,000)

A good website about Spanish buses is Movelia, where you can find out exact bus times, book a bus (and even select which seat you want to sit in) and then print off the recipt which counts as your ticket. You can catch a bus from Granada to Ugijar, which is the most local big town (costs 10 euros and takes about 4 hours).

Yátor identified by red underlining

Yátor identified by red underlining (scale 1:400,000, 1 cm: 4 km)

You then need to travel west for about 5 kms either by walking, getting a lift or by taxi. Once in Yátor you need to go south out of the village and under the new road, see sketch below for route.

Sketch of route from Yátor [click on image to enlarge map]