Amongst sheep and donkeys
At the foot of the Picos de Europa massif in Northern Spain, a Dutch couple, Astrid and Thomas, are living their dream of running a campsite, far away from the hurly-burly of daily life. They’ve built a place of extraordinary beauty with the help of volunteers from all over the world.
For a long time, Astrid and Thomas had conceived the idea of dropping out of their daily lives, putting their jobs behind them, and finding a place where they can live a life close to nature. They wanted to spend most of their days under the open sky, work in the garden, and build something special by using natural materials, with the help of traditional techniques. They finally found a piece of land near the village of Infiesto, not far away from the Atlantic Coast and near the Asturian mountains. The property was called Fontebona (‘good spring’), named after a spring from which drinking water bubbles into a tiny mere on the hillside. After buying this beautiful and absolutely overgrown plot, they began to clear the land of the bracken, flatten some spots for the tents of the camping guests, reconstruct the old stable at the foot of the hill, and improve their own little home on the top of the hill.
Cut off from most of the normal infrastructure, Astrid and Thomas are producing the bit of electricity they need with the help of solar panels, heating their water for the panoramic outdoor shower with the help of a compost heap, and using the water from the spring for their daily needs. Even though they can’t produce all their food by themselves, the garden is a good source for some of the essential vegetables, and their chickens provide them with fresh eggs. They also produce sidra, a sparkling apple cider typical of Northern Spain. Sheep and donkeys are helping Astrid and Thomas clean the place of weeds and compress the soil on the parking lot. And, if you like the company of donkeys, they will be pleased to go with you on a hike in the surrounding area whilst carrying your hand luggage.
As the reconstructed stable at the foot of the hill is mostly used as a common room for their guests, even though Astrid and Thomas have built a big kitchen, the two of them are using an old trailer of the Deutsche Bundespost (the German Postal Services) from 1951 as their little nest at the top of their land. They don’t use the stable as their home, since a fog sometimes envelops the valley on winter mornings. Volunteers are put up at Fontebona in Astrid and Thomas’ old red camper van, using it as their home during their stay.
It was a conscious decision on their part to move on from their normal lives and swap a secure income for their dream. While they spend most of their time developing Fontebona, they also do some smaller jobs such as translating, programming websites, or developing hiking routes for a Dutch travel organization.
You don’t need much to be happy in a place like Fontebona: a glass of homemade sidra, fresh lettuce from the garden, and the smell of nature all around you. So, pack your tent and come to this wonderful place. Thomas and Astrid love sharing both their cider and knowledge with you. But, please, ask them if there is a place available. You may not be the only one seeking tranquility and pristine nature!
Visit Astrid’s and Thomas‘ website:
Many thanks to photographer A.Saylor: