Peaceful Rejuvenation

After six and a half months of intense traveling, we were all in dire need of some serious rest and relaxation; however, it took Josh bringing it to our attention that we never actually take a day off for us to react to our exhaustion. Sure we break from hiking often enough, but our time in towns is spent writing the blog post, contacting family, uploading pictures, planning our next route, backing up files, etc. Although initially the words "volunteering at an Organic farm" did not exactly elicit an immediate notion of rest, we decided that a quick two-day stint at Aldea Luna would be a nice change of pace before we continued on north to Bolivia. Twenty-four hours in, we realized that this was more than just a farm stay; this was an entirely necessary rejuvenating experience for our bodies, souls, and bellies, and two days was simply not enough. We laid out our options: a) stay one extra day then bus from Jujuy to Purmamarca, then through Humahuaca to Iruya - places of renowned unbelievable beauty - in order to explore and hike for about a day, then bus on to Bolivia, or b) stay three extra days, bus directly from Jujuy to Bolivia and have something to draw us back to Northern Argentina in the future. We easily picked option b. It is always difficult to pass up seeing areas that we know will be impressionable; however, we have not had a shortage of phenomenal sights and our recent bus/traveling experiences have been nothing less than extremely exhausting. The decision was made - we would spend five days at Aldea Luna before making the trip to the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia.

What a great decision it was. Our days at Aldea Luna were filled with goodness. From the incredible people filling our soul, to the cuddly dogs filling our laps, to the delicious meals filling our stomachs, we were overflowing with happiness. If not for having to keep to a schedule who knows how long we would have stayed. Each day was a blessing, and we savored every minute (and bite)!



The sunrise and morning mist over Aldea Luna


Life at Aldea Luna

As the alarm goes off at 7:15, the deep blue hues blanketing the world and dense fog circling the lush mountains tempt us to stay curled in our comfy beds for hours. However, we know a warm and hearty breakfast is awaiting our arrival, so we step out into the mist and begin another day. As we walk down to lodge, the chickens peck at the bugs brought up by the morning dew, while the roosters sound the alarm of the sun and the two horses leisurely wander over the grassy knolls. We converse with the other six volunteers and slowly arouse our minds and bodies with breakfast of hot tea, mandarin infused polenta porridge, and steaming, soft whole wheat bread with delicately cooked orange marmalade. Then, with pants and rubber boots on, machetes, trowels and pitch forks in tote, we head out into the warming day, ready for work in one of the many massive gardens. There are a variety of tasks for us to do: prepare garlic for planting, weed the beds, machete the overgrown surrounding areas, or plant carrot seeds. Yet, no matter the task, we are more than happy to do it as gardening is immensely therapeutic. The morning passes quickly and soon we are cleaning up and preparing for lunch. Sometimes we help out in the kitchen, other times we simply set the table, but all the while our mouths are watering with anticipation of the meal to come. With all eleven volunteers, the owners, Martin and Elizabeth, their son, Matias, and friend, Gerardo, the dining room is bustling and energetic. A hush settles in as the food is served, the explosion of smells permeates the room while the burst of flavors dance in our mouths. Everyone savors every bite of the freshly prepared and delectably sapid vegetarian fare placed in front of them. Seconds, thirds...we eat until we feel we will burst.

Working in one of the gardens
Elizabeth cooking up a delicious meal
So happy to be in a family kitchen environment!!
The table all set for an incredible lunch of bean-based veggie burgers, complete with 3 different sauces, tomatoes, corn on the cob, potatoes, and leek rice. SOOO good!!



Trinity enjoying her veggie burger - homemade pesto, mayo, and chili sauce oozing out

Now in food comas, some people choose to immediately lay down for a siesta while others have maté and play a game of "Toc" (our new favorite board game). The afternoon is spent oscillating between reading, journaling, and partaking in games of Toc. Every now and then there are leisurely afternoon tasks such as stringing peppers for drying or preparing seeds for planting. On the rare dry days, we take afternoon hikes on one of the many trails meandering throughout the Nature Reserve, hopping through the rivers on rocks or slipping down the muddy paths. However, we don't mind the dreary mist - in fact we embrace it, letting it wash over us and calm our souls - it completes the peaceful energy surrounding this place. The melodic music seeping out of the cracks in the walls constantly draws us to the main lodge where we mingle and enjoy each others company. Later, the heat and scents radiating from the kitchen strongly beckon us to join in the pleasures of cooking. We chop and grate or just sit and talk, letting the hearth bring us together. The familiarity and camaraderie that the kitchen brings is one of the feelings I have longed for the most. Finally, we again set the table and sit down for what is bound to be another mouth-watering, savory meal. The freshness of ingredients, simplicity, and love that goes into the food here has a nurturing effect on all who consume it. This is by far the best food we have come across since arriving in South America and our bodies are readily accepting the plethora of vegetables flowing in, albeit struggling slightly to digest the surplus of fiber. We clean up, embracing the household chores we haven't had in half a year, and settle in for whatever nightly activity seems to be of popular vote: games of Toc or Mafia, maybe a movie or just some reading and bed. However, on Friday night the main lodge turns into Disco Aldea Luna as Martin brings out his inner DJ, setting the place alive with loud music and dancing. We go to bed, tranquil and content, eagerly awaiting the next incredible day at Aldea Luna. No matter what the day brings, whether rain, sun, hikes, naps or dancing, this place is full of a heavenly energy and positive vibe that makes you yearn for more. 

Shelley and Trinity returning to Aldea Luna after an afternoon hike
The table set for lunch - such a beautiful place!
Sonnet cuddling with the sweetest dog, Dorita! That dog got some quality love from us
All the volunteers on a hike

We have said our goodbyes to all the remarkable people at Aldea Luna, feeling so grateful to have stumbled upon that little piece of paradise outside of Jujuy, and have made our way to La Quiaca, an Argentine town at the Bolivian border. We are spending our last few hours in Argentina eating alfajores and planning our future adventures in Bolivia! Tonight we will (if all goes as planned) arrive at Uyuni, Bolivia where we are meeting Shelley's friend, Sydney, who will be hiking with us for a month! After spending an amazing six and a half months between Argentina and Chile, we cannot believe we actually made it to Bolivia! 

The Aldea Luna gang (minus Gerardo, Matias, Martin and 2 dogs)
 Highs
  • We can't wait to get back home and make our own "Le Toc" board games and teach everyone how to play! NFT!!!
  • Sonnet's tennis skills came in handy - her calluses were perfect for using the machete
  • Snuggling with the sweetest dogs! We were so tempted to smuggle the little one out.
  • Sitting inside during a rainy morning, shucking corn and picking kernels for planting next year
  • Learning about gardening with the moon. Elizabeth only plants with the moon, so since it was a "black" moon, we planted all the "below the earth" vegetables
  • Getting to read and research tons about Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador through their library
  • Garlic, garlic and more garlic!
  • Watching Elizabeth cook and seeing that she hardly ever adds spices or herbs - all the fantastic flavor comes straight from the gardens!
  • Fresh, hot (whole wheat) bread at every meal
  • The blinking light setting on the headlamps provided the club strobe light effect for the dance party 
  • Not feeling the least bit guilty about eating until we could barely move 
  • The four of us were served up special small portions of dinner because apparently we "eat like birds" - I think that is the first and only time I have and will ever be told that I eat like a bird!!!

Lows
  • Realizing just how deprived our bodies have been. It took about 5 days of bloated, distended bellies to adjust to the healthful, vegetarian diet
  • Within about 30 minutes of heavy machete use, I had a hot spot, blister, and burst blister
  • Getting down and dirty in the garden with massive spiders crawling all around
  • While weeding, Shelley grabbed onto some cactus-esque weed and had tiny little thorns in her fingers all day
  • On our last day I had a huge spider bite on my neck - creepy! 


Le Toc and maté - best way to spend the afternoon!

Perfecting my machete skills (also a great way to take out any frustration)
Working in the garden on a misty morning

Seeds drying - they will be planted next season



Gardens, lush mountains and fog - tranquility at its finest



Teamwork while planting garlic
Shucking corn for lunch...Sonnet's really quite excited about it

The kitchen was so beautiful with the peppers hanging everywhere





Gerardo with the dogs - they are very well behaved


Leftover dinner is turned into a fabulous side dish for lunch
More veggie burger love! They saved the house favorite for our last meal and wow did we eat our hearts out!!

4 comments:

  1. Now that's my idea of a perfect day!
    - Marg

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  2. I just discovered your blog a few weeks ago and have read every entry. I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying your journey. Thanks so much for taking the time to post your adventures so that we can enjoy them with you.

    You inspire me!

    Mary

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  3. Thank you for posting!You guys are amazing, brave, and smart. The food looks beyond fabulous!I always look forward to your next leg of your epic adventure!

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  4. The fog and the lush green mountains are so beautiful!!

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