Tomorrow morning, Sebastian and me are starting a big road trip. Two other lads and us will be driving all the way to a very remote area in the South of Spain, close to the ancient city of Ronda. Why? For the past few months, I’ve voluntarily helped the EcoVenture Camps with all sorts of public relation, coordination and planning tasks. They are an ecological, non-profit travel agency and offer some great adventurous outdoor programs. I was instantly hooked:
So after a hopefully awesome 3day road trip through France and Spain, we’ll be preparing the camp for the first participants next week and probably stick around for a bit longer to help them settle in. After that, we still have a few days left for private travels. Maybe to the Algarve, maybe deeper into the Sierra Nevada. We have the luxury of spontaneity and are determined to make the most of our 10day holiday!
The EcoVenture Camps about themselves…
“The camps take place in a 450ha large, remote valley in the South of Spain, about 130km West of Malaga. This unique area belongs to Theo, who’s been living here as an ecological farmer, architect and entrepreneur since decades. He mainly cultivates his own fruits and vegetables. To keep the grass short and prevent erosions he keeps about 20 horses who are allowed to roam freely through the land. We are combining this way of living with sportive activities in nature to enjoy a life as sustainable as possible: As an EcoVenturer you will be sleeping in a tent, do fun outdoor activities like climbing, hiking and yoga, go exploring all day, learn about alternative lifestyles and eat mainly vegetarian/vegan dishes. We want you to go out and reconnect with nature, but the camp is also meant to be a retreat for you – giving you the chance to unwind and relax: In between the activities, there will always be enough time to chill out, laze in the sun and bond the with other participants (…)”
chill pout and cooking area
rock climbing camp
Oh yeah, I almost forgot… The brilliant weather forcast!! 🙂
When I told some of my friends about this roadtrip, some mumbled: “Mhhhhh I dunno, that sounds like more work than fun…” When learning about our route
BERLIN – BAMBERG – (MUNICH) – VIENNA – BUDAPEST – PRAGUE – BERLIN,
they exclaimed “What the heck… U guys hyperactive!?” And when I pointed out that we would drive these more than 2,000km by car in only five days – well, then the reaction strongly depended on my friend’s nationality. People from huge countries such as the USA, Canada or Australia were like “fair enough” – the Germans, however, … they kept silent but probably thought that my travel bug had had some offspring…
So, let me convince you that it was totally worth it.
A long day lay ahead of us. Our long descent back into civilization was additionally slowed down because we just couldn’t walk past all these bushes full of juicy, ripe blackberries before we had picked a good couple of kilos of them. A rare treat before autumn!! Eventually, we hitchhiked to the campsite at Lake Mergozzo because we figured it might be nice to spend the last night of our trip in our tent at a lake.
We were wrong. It was horrible. Truly horrible.
Route: Cicogna –> Valley Val Grande
We started the final part of our trek on a crisp and sunny morning. And I’m glad we did because in foggy conditions, I would have been really spoked out by the spider-webby ruins we encountered soon. Over the last few days, we had already seen quite a few of them but the old village of Montuzzo was by far the largest and most impressive sight of our trek.
Before going to Val Grande, Sebastian had told me that exploring some old, abandoned villages in the mountains had always been one of his childhood dreams. And here we were, carefully opening crooked doors on squeaking hinges, peeking through dirt-smeared windows, scrambling through collapsed stone huts. If you are into these kinds of treasure hunts you will have the time of your life in Val Grande, especially in that area. While Sebastian clearly enjoyed the exciting site, I was rather busy making myself think of anything EXCEPT vicious killers hiding in those ruins… Although these villages are long abandoned, there are still many signs of their former inhabitants: old pieces of furniture, broken tools, rusty crookery, … Sebastian’s #GoBackpack video really catches the scary atmosphere.
Due to these explorations, it was already past midday when we finally reached the junction into the wild heart of the National Park: The actual Val Grande. This valley truly lives up the reputation of the National Park. In fact, the path was blocked with this big sign:
Mh…. bugger. We discussed for a bit and then decided to keep going to see just HOW difficult it was. After all, we both are quite experienced hikers and felt sure-footed and fit after our first week of hiking. So, off we went. Down the forbidden path.
Route: Agriturismo „Valle Loana“ –> Cicogna
After this delicious break at the restaurant, we went back deep into the National Park. Stuffed indeed, yet ready and motivated to tackle our next summits after the rather miserable weather at the beginning of our trek. The storms from the days before were not truly over though and we had dark clouds gathering in our backs for most part of this hike again. But sometimes, travelling fulfils the cheesiest sayings… “Ohne Regen gibt es keine Regenbogen” – indeed. And we spotted a truly stunning specimen: A perfect, uninterrupted half-circle in the most vivid colours. It even turned into a double-rainbow for a bit. Amazing!
We arrived at the next shelter (A. Cortechuiso; 1,883m) in the afternoon, unfortunately it was a rather miserable and drafty thing. We really had to do some laundry though so decided to stay and make ourselves comfortable. Little did we know that we would have to share the view and the shack with 8 other hikers soon… After the first few days of almost complete solitude, we felt like we were sleeping in a crowded hostel 😀
Tour: Premosello-Chiovenda –> Agriturismo Valle Loana (close to Malesco)
After a 16h bus ride to Milano and another 2h journey on a hot and crowded train, we finally arrived in Premosello-Chiovenda which is one of the possible starting points into Val Grande. The clouds already hung low and heavy on the mountain tops, reminding me of tropical regions rather than the Italian Alps. We were both super exhausted which is why we decided to spend the night in a local B&B. That night, the thunderstorms raged violently for hours and we were glad to have a proper roof over our heads. The next morning, however, we couldn’t wait any longer. The forecast had predicted bad weather for the next three days but since we had appropriate gear and experience, we decided to start our trek despite the rain. We then hitchhiked to Colorro, the last small village before Val Grande’s borders.
And here’s the odd thing about trekking: It usually requires a decent chunk of work beforehand (researching, planning, booking, shopping, packing, …) but once you’re at the beginning of your trail, you set foot on it and your duties immediately shrink to the very basics. And the main duty of course is to walk. One step, two steps, three steps. And 5minutes later you look back and the forest has already swallowed all signs of civilization. I love them, those first few minutes on the trail, they are magic and smell of adventure. Less magic was the sobering fact that we were walking right into a storm.