I listened as the rumbling grew closer, then the rain began to pour, hitting the palm trees and bouncing onto the garden below. I was all alone on a Colombian mountain with only a cat for company and as the sound of thunder exploded across the sky, I found myself wishing… that I had gone with the others.
After two weeks of permanent company and talking to random strangers about where I’ve been, where I’m from and where I’m going to next, it was time to take some drastic action. I felt the need for something different and when a random poster caught my eye in a hostel in Medellin, I emailed and within a week I was sat in a Colombian mountain alone, deserted by my new amigos who had ventured off for the weekend.
Medellin is an amazing city but if you take a bus just one hour south, you’re near the Andes in an even more tropical climate. This was to be my home for the next two weeks: an organic farm or eco retreat known as Eco Hotel Medellin.
Run by a local Colombian lady, the eco hostel promised two weeks of yoga, intensive Spanish lessons, and organic food in exchange for a bit of gardening and teaching English in the local school. Wanting to improve my extremely poor Spanish, get some quiet time and actually start working again, I jumped at the opportunity and after a week of staying in Bambu, a city glamping hostel I was on my way there.
The eco hostel is relatively new and was only opened eighteen months ago. With just a few acres, they grow practically everything themselves from potatoes, mangoes, pineapples and avocados (including many unusual veggies that I had never clapped eyes on before).
Sustainability is the key here and the farm is nearly self-sufficient. Using the art of permaculture, everything here is interconnected and there is no waste. Even litter is stuffed into plastic bottles to be used for bricks at a later date.
After just one night I began to ease myself in. Spanish classes were at 7am to 9am (so early), followed by an hour of gardening which was anything from picking up cow manure to planting unusual trees in the forest, then it was time to teach in the afternoon and the walk to school wasn’t a very flat one.
Teaching a mixed class from 9 to 15 year olds was definitely an experience and being the only gringos in town, people were so incredibly friendly, inviting us to their houses for dinner and taking us out dancing, (for such a small town there were nearly 20 bars!)
I grew used to the cold showers (great after an hour in the sun) and my squeaky bunk bed and embraced eco living with open green arms. I cooked for 17 people, learnt about each vegetable and made some amazing connections, and with weekly workshops from making organic soap to creating jewellery made from grass, I actually learnt how we can practically recycle anything and gained invaluable knowledge, not to mention additional weight from my daily caramel donut in the nearby town (they’re lush).
I came away from my two weeks with a new appreciation for farming, more Spanish vocabulary than when I started and ready to integrate myself back into society.
But with views like this, I'm going to miss Amaga…
Eco Hostel Medellin is also part of Workaway, a site which helps travellers looking for work in exchange for accommodation on organic farms, with local families and other varied volunteering placements. In exchange for teaching English and working on the farm, I received free Spanish lessons for two hours a day with the weekends off. Contact Paola at Eco Hostel Medellin for more info.