“Eco” has become a bit of a buzz word in today’s society. With the uprising of the “greenies”, we have seen movements and causes having more of an impact than ever. Restaurants are abolishing the use of plastic straws. More and more people are moving toward a more organic lifestyle in an attempt to repair some of the human damage that is being done to the planet.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m right behind all of this, waving my pom-poms. I am aware that there are alternative options out there for all the “pampered” things that we are used to. Honestly, I just haven’t been motivated enough to educate myself on it.
When we were invited to spend two weeks in Haga-Haga, at Khula Dharma Eco-Village, Tarryn nearly died of excitement. She saw the food forests, veggie gardens and the thriving nature surrounding the area and was sold. This was her element! I wasn’t exactly jumping up and down, but I was open to the experience.
After being slightly horrified by the concept of a compost toilet, I was relieved to find that there was indeed a working, flushing toilet in the main farm house.
I’m not exactly a princess. Generally, I can rough it with the best of them. Dig a whole, do the business, wipe with soft leaves, bury the business… WHY do you want to keep it in a bucket for six months and then put it on your food!?! No. Just no. I’d rather flush and have it go off to some magical land where it will never go anywhere near someone’s food. You can’t have my poo!
The second thing I discovered was that everyone on The Hill (the main camp, where the volunteers and guests stay) looooves to hug. Like proper bear hugs. They hug you for hello, goodbye, good morning, good night, thank you, you’re cool and any other flicker of a reason. For someone who doesn’t generally hug hello and goodbye outside of my close circle, this was definitely going to take some getting used to.
Running on solar power would also take some getting used to. For someone who is most productive between 8pm and 2am, this meant that I would be losing out on a lot of valuable work hours. It also meant I would have to get out of bed before 9am to make up for it. Ugh! Mornings!
The team of volunteers was busy building some new outdoor showers and planting zen gardens. They were building the donkey geyser out of cob and eco bricks. Eco bricks are basically plastic bottles filled with anything that is not biodegradable. Khula Dharma is a no-waste venue, so this was what they did in place of rubbish bins.
After having three good-morning-hugs forced upon me, I made it to the communal dining room table with my cup of coffee and scrambled for the single plug, before someone plugged their phone in to charge. With the WiFi speed operating at just 180 bits per second (FYI: that’s SUPER slow), a job that usually takes me 20 minutes was now taking me hours. Then, sunset would arrive and it would be time to unplug.
The power preservation issue was to ensure that we had enough power to cook in the light and to relax in the house. The people in the community would gather and chat in the lounge, cook a meal together and even start a didgeridoo/ drumming circle around the outside camp fire. This all taught me a lot about balance. There are times to relax and times to work.
Surprisingly, this lack of connection started offering me a better connection with my new surroundings. I found myself enjoying slow walks through the forests. At lunch time, Tarryn and I would venture into the food forest to pick our own greens, for lunch and dinner. I even got stuck in to some cob building activity.
We had lunch with Tim Wiggly and his wife, Anne, at their homestead. Tim is a renowned expert in food forestry and sustainable living, so it was such a treat to sit down with them and hear their story. He gave us a tour of their food forest and I got to taste a variety of things I never knew existed.
The outside showers are finally done! I jumped at the chance to be one of the first shower testers. I have always loved outdoor showers and I was dying to enjoy a hot shower. Being the “late riser” that I am, I couldn’t quite seem to catch the shower at the main house at the right temperature. The new showers were amazing! I couldn’t believe what a few willing hands had accomplished in a few short days. Just the week before, these showers consisted of a few bamboo sticks. Now, they offered a beautiful and refreshing experience, under the stars.
I quit smoking… It was inconvenient to be the only smoker in this community. This, and you were exiled to the workshop if you wanted to get your nicotine fix. It felt like the naughty corner. It’s for the best though. We want to climb Kilimanjaro, when we get to Tanzania. It will be hard enough without the smokers lungs.
An international group of young adults had arrived for a sustainability retreat. A mix of 20 Germans and South Africans would now be joining us on the farm for the next week. We enjoyed what was left of the silence, while we could.
After living on vegan food for the past week, I was secretly hoping that they would bring some form of bacon or some tasty meat that I could scavenge. The vegan food had been awesome. I’m talking “most amazing lasagna I have ever tasted” awesome, but… biltong would have made my life! No such luck though… the group was all vegan and vegetarian.
While the group sharing the communal area did slow down plug point access a bit more, they bought a great sense of community to the village. It was great to speak to so many different people who care so much about others and the future of our environment.
Sunsets started to become my favourite. With the sun no longer powering the solar panels, I would unplug everything and join Tarryn for a sunset walk. We found the perfect hill as a view point. One at the top of the village. From there, we would watch the last remnants of the day as they faded into oranges, pinks and reds. The sky looked like it was burning with fire, as the sun set behind the tree lines.
I have been taught a variety of some of the most amazing vegan recipes. Among these, are vegan beetroot burgers (thanks, Earth Forest!), the most amazing home-made dark chocolate, the tastiest dahl and a beautiful cacao for the coming winter. I still crave bacon…
I have learned to hug, among other things. Everyone got so excited to get a “proper” hug goodbye. I wouldn’t say so, but I will miss this lifestyle and it’s greenies and hippies, that I now call my friends. In fact, I may even choose to live in a place like this, if I ever choose to settle down.
I have planned my future house. It will be a beautiful, hobbit-like cob building. I will have a bigass satellite in the garden, to pick up a good internet connection, and a ridiculous amount of solar panels, so that I have constant power supply. I will make my own gooseberry moonshine that I will trade for food. I killed a cactus once, so the likelihood of me being able to grow my own food forest is not looking good…
And… I will hug my visitors hello, because I have learned to hug. And balance. And connect.