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10 Days at the Edge

When Pete & Cynthia invited us to stay in the Yurt, we welcomed the opportunity as it was a chance to find out, first hand, something we had only imagined doing, when we found our land. It was also time to get to know Pete & Cynthia some more.

So it was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that we descended the path to Quinta da Mizarela, carrying what we could from our parked campervan. We guessed that life in a yurt in the middle of winter might be challenging.

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First we found that there was some drying out to do as water had been creeping in under the edges of the canvas. There was a fire to make and we quickly learnt about the idiosyncrasies of the woodstove installed in the heart of the yurt. Wood sawing one of my favourite occupations took up the remainder of that first afternoon, while Emma sorted out the food and cooking utensils and made our beds.

Those first days or more correctly those nights turned out to be the coldest period we had yet experienced, with temperatures dropping to -10. Even with all our bedding and hot water bottles, we felt like Eskimos cocooned under the circular dome of the yurt. It was a major effort to get out of bed and get that stove lit and make a hot drink. Still during the morning the sun rose in a clear sky and we sunbathed out on the surrounding decking as the peaceful life around us at the Quinta unfolded.

There were the donkeys Mingo and Nuno who lived down on the flat plain below us, grazing on what they could find. Later on during our stay we helped in leading them up to one of the upper terraces where they feasted on fresh greenery, kept in by the electrified orange bands that defined their boundary.

It was quiet that first weekend, the builders away, Pete was suffering from an agonising toothache and while Cynthia attended, we didn’t see much of either of them, except for the porridge delivery. We became café Yurt each morning as the bleep beep of the mobile phone relayed text messages between the Quinta and us in the porridge department. With Pete’s toothache, porridge was all he could manage to have for breakfast, abstaining from his usual crunchy raw diet. Our sympathy went out to him those first few nights as the pain reached fever pitch while Emma administered what first-aid she could.

After some days of the extreme cold the wet windy weather replaced it. We had one night when the wind swept through the valley tugging at every loose piece of the yurt. We were relieved to be still attached to the platform in the morning. Quite sleep deprived we snuggled into the yurt and toasted our feet around the stove only venturing out to make our deposit in the nearby compost loo, which had stood up well to the ferocious winds. Even the builders didn’t appear that morning.

I became a path builder during our stay with Pete & Cynthia, making first a pathway of stepping stones from the yurt to the compost loo using the flat shist slates that litter the area, carrying them down the steep slopes and bedding them in to the levelled area I had dug using that ever so useful tool the ‘enxada’. More path building followed as I made a schisto stairway that completed the connection from the houses above to the compost loo. I was especially proud of this as I cut and shaped all the stakes that secured the boards that were placed in front of each step.


While I was busy doing my job, Emma was busy picking up as much donkey dung as she could load into a large bucket, and piling it on to some palettes. It was hard work, but she enjoyed it. The donkeys would follow her around, thinking that she had food in the bucket and at times stand right in front of her while she tried to scoop up the dung with her spade.

On some of the very rainy days we simply enjoyed the warm ambience of the yurt, lying back, gazing up at the orange wheel in the centre, like a mandala with its colourful swirling Mongolian designs.

Danny, whom we had met once before at Pete & Cynthia’s showed up one day, fresh from a 2 month stay in Costa Rica, and very synchronistically it turned out that he was on route to stay at a Cortijo in the Alpujarras, Spain that is owned by a very good friend of ours. Small world indeed! Later the next day after he had caught up with sleep, he described some of the life and adventures, he and his partner Anna experienced in that tropical landscape.

One lovely morning I took a walk out along the schisto path towards Sardal to explore some of the quintas hugging the steep slopes high above the gushing streams. The sound of flowing water was an ever-present accompaniment to our stay. Pete & Cynthia are close to installing a ram pump to fill up their tank above the Quinta and soon hope to harness this raw energy to power up their home.

Emma wanted to mention the incredible sight of the stars at night as we ducked our heads, through the low yurt gateway and stood on the decking watching as Orion’s sword & belt rose up above the wooded valley, finding that little cluster of stars the Pleiades, tracing its position from the hilt of Orion’s sword.

On one of our last days I took off with Pete to clear brush and help light an enormous bonfire. Unfortunately even with the help of gasoline the branches were much too wet for the fire to take off. While I was thus occupied Emma was helping Cynthia clear the little triangular area, created by the new pathways, and planting a variety of bulbs there. We look forward to seeing the feast of colour to come in the spring.


On our last evening together, we all gathered for meditation sitting in candlelight, with cats and dogs in the timeless present. A lovely way to end our stay.

Our time in the Yurt and on the land was an experience of complete immersion in the elements. The Earth beneath us, the Sky above us, the Fire that kept us warm, the all pervading sound and presence of Water and the ever-changing voice of the Wind. This Vastness, of which we are a part, fully enriched and refreshed our souls.

As we all stood gathered at the doorway of the Quinta saying our goodbyes the last thing I heard Pete say was; “Every day here is like a rite of passage”.

River & Emma

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