We are about to mark our 2-and-a-half-years-on-the-road anniversary and this trip was filled with pretty amazing stuff, unbelievable experiences, magnificent places, at times challenging situations and wonderful people. One thing we’ve never been short with was Time. We were given the bliss of time for relaxing and enjoying ourselves on sunny beaches or breezy mountain tops and everywhere between the two for as long as we wanted, so at this point we decided to dedicate some of our time to some people who don’t have as much of it and need help.
Ok, here is the less sublime version what I’m trying to say; we decided to sign up to the workaway website where people, families, organisations are looking for help for building projects, usually organic farming, animal care, wine making, beer brewing, business help and so on. The basic principal of it that travellers (usually backpackers) sign up for a week or few to help with whatever need to be done on a farm or small business in return for accommodation and food (sometimes absolutely delicious local delicates and home-made wonders) Most of the time, the main reason at both sides is to gain cultural experiences, learn the language, make friends and enjoy life while giving/getting help. This felt perfect for us and after a few weeks searching, exchanging emails with a few people we finally found our place and agreed to come to the Cordoba sierras.
The farm was owned by a young family of Italian husband Michele, Argentinian wife Michaela (Mice and Mica!) their twin 5 year old girls and many animals including llamas, horses (one of them Roma thinks she is a human!), dogs and cats and lots of chickens, ducks, turkey and geese. Mica is a herbalist and works with the plants that grow wild on their 2000-3000 acre land at 1600m altitude. She makes tisanas (a sort of dried leaves for tea), bags them and sells them to markets and shops in town. So basically she needed help with this process amongst with odd jobs like fence fixing and building, solar system fixing, help with the animals etc.
In emails we agreed to do a week or so worth shopping (the shopping list was full of many kilos of pasta, pasta sauce and rice -which made John worried slightly as he/we cannot eat wheat or have a heavy carbohydrate diet) also to pick up two other “workawayers” from the last town and bring them up to the farm as well. We reached their farm with a whole day drive from the last town, and when we got there we found out that Michele (the husband) with the twins going away for a week. This took us with a bit of a surprise but what can you do, Micaela is still on the farm and she was going to coordinate us what to do.
When we reached the farm gate she was waiting for us with a warm welcoming smile and was very happy to meet us all. The two workawayer girls (A Scotish and an American gal) were accommodated to a cosy wood cabin overlooking a gorgeous river while John and I choose to stay in Burt and parked up at a good spot not too far from the main house. As it was pretty much the end of the day we just piled in to the main house making delicious tisanas of Mica’s herbs, cooked some dinner, cracked open a bottle of Cabernet and chatted away in to the late night hours.
I fell in love with Micaela almost instantly as we met her. She was so friendly and fun and her love for nature, the animals, the plants radiated through as gentle kindness. I spent the first week with her out on the fields collecting medicine plants, bringing back to the large garage (or galpon as they call it) and prepare them for drying. I was learning more and more Spanish and she was gaining her English. The dry plants were ready to peel and put them in to small teabags. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Las-Tisanas/353551018055582?fref=ts
As days were going by we found out that Mica has a very similar taste and diet to ours -no wheat, no dairy, no sugar, lots of fresh plants, vegetables, eggs, meat and some wine! So she radioed her neighbours, a gaucho family who keep cows and ordered a leg! Two days later Julio appeared with a back leg of a cow, skilfully cut them up and from then we were sorted. Every evening we had an amazing royalty supper with meat, flame-baked pumpkin, fresh green leaf veg from the garden or quinoa. Just as we were running out of our wine supply, Michele returned with more. For the second week Mica had to leave. We had a different experience this time. As “work experience” concerned I enjoyed the first week with Mica’s energy and enthusiasm, her teaching me about the plants and their healing properties all were priceless for me but this week we had some great hiking with Michele who showed us around their enormous land. He is passionate about outdoors and lives and breaths for paragliding
John re-wired and boosted their batteries and built a new stand for the solar panels for more effective charge, plus built a fence for the llamas and fixed the stone fence for a horse Killa that need to be separated from the others.
Once Mica returned we still had a few days together. She and I got in to the habit to walk up to the top of a nearby hill at sunset with their dog, Diakonos, light a pipa and smoke away some relaxing herbs while quietly sitting and watching the orange sun setting behind the distance hills. I loved this time.
In the last couple of days on the farm Mica taught me about the basics of making wine and sugar-free marmalade and how to make our own tincture of medicine herbs. It was some of the best days of this travels.
Mica and Mice packed us up with all sorts of goodies, jars of jam, pig fat(!) (which we learnt to love for cooking) bags of Algarroba (a natural and traditional in this area substance made out of the seeds of algarroba tree and used instead of flour -makes heavenly pancakes) and our beloved bitter tinctures of anti-parasetic drops that we started having while there. As we were leaving they said to go to Capilla Del Monte a quirky, small town at the feet of the sierras, about a day drive where they have a small land with a house and we can park up in their garden (the gate is unlocked)
(Mica and Michele built a wonderful mud house as a guest house about 500 meters from their family house. In case you want a quiet, peaceful and extraordinary experience you can stay at their guest house.)
Capilla Del Monte is actually somewhat a famous town for… brace yourself… UFO landings! According to the stories being told by normal looking locals, Uritorco the nearby peak is an active landing spot for spaceships and such. The stories go way back in the 1930’s where people were spotting strange beings dressed in tight-fitting suit or seing strange lights and objects and regularly spotting them ever since. There are also large burnt circled areas (some 122m diameter, some smaller) in Uritorco. One occasion there were more than 300 people witnessed a “landing” and found burnt marks the following day at the location where they measured that the nearby rocks have been heated to a temperature of 3000C. Hm… Though the official explanation is the good ol’ meteorological phenomena caused by super-charged ions or something.
This was certainly a place we wanted to stop by and look around! So we appreciated Mica and Mice’s offer and headed to Capilla del Monte. We found their property, sqeeeeeezed Burt through the gate (I mean 5mm each side of the gate) and parked up. We though we could stay for a night or two. (we wanted to catch up with emails -no internet for about a month) The town centre was a short 8-10 mins and was cute as a cupcake. The main shopping street is full of trendy or hippy shops, cafes and bars. In each shop window there are little green aliens waving at us and we couldn’t help ourselves and bought UFO T-shirts. It is really a must! We also found retro-looking grand cafe. High ceiling, coffee and tea served in lovely china by appropriately dressed waitresses (white blouse and black skirt) Very friendly people, good atmosphere and Mica’s land is further enough of town that it was peaceful and quiet at nights. We loved it here and eventually we stayed for 10 days!
After our month in the sierra and around, we finally had to leave to meet our friends, the Brit family at the Uruguayan border to say goodbye to them before they leave the continent for Africa.
(unfortunately we lost these 2 months worth of photos so no pictures of Capilla and the aliens…. Spookie, huh?)