Feature

Spain's Simple Life

G Magazine

For the ultimate relaxing eco-holiday, discover southern spain, where you can spend your days working on a sustainable farm and taking in the simple life

Tarifa, Spain

Boats on the shore, Tarifa, Spain

Credit: John Treadgold

Tulips on a hill in Tarifa, Spain

Tulips on a hill in Tarifa, Spain

Credit: John Treadgold

John Treadgold on a horse in Tarifa, Spain

John Treadgold on a horse in Tarifa, Spain

Credit: John Treadgold

Village path, Tarifa, Spain

Village path, Tarifa, Spain

Credit: John Treadgold

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I take a moment to rest and perch on a rock jutting across the path. I grind my feet into the dry earth to steady myself and watch a cascade of pebbles roll down the steep hillside.

Taking a deep breath to calm my vertiginous nerves, I look out across the valley and through a gap between the adjacent hills. I can see ocean-going tankers chugging patiently through the surging straits of Gibraltar, where the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean merge. Across the blue, I see the northern tip of Africa and the mountainous shores of Morocco.

As I ponder this ocean border my thoughts are interrupted by a bleating sheep streaking past me, followed by a frazzled Spanish farmer. “Venga, vamos! Corres al otro lado!” (“Come on, let’s go! Run to the other side!”) It’s a desperate plea for me to help him drive the sheep into a pen at the bottom of the hill.

Four of us have been dashing around on this sheer and rocky hillside for half an hour, cursing, shouting and stumbling to the ground in fits of laughter. The deceptively nimble pair of sheep has outwitted us more than once but we eventually encircle the jumpy animals.

Finally they turn tail and flee between the open gates that we have cunningly left as their only escape route.
I came to find myself sweaty and exhausted on a remote Spanish hillside through the WWOOF program. World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms is a system that connects willing travellers with organic farms that need a helping hand. The organisation is essentially a database of country-specific divisions where organic farming projects can advertise the nature of their property, the type of help they are looking for as well as the spirit and intentions of their project.

Ever since I studied Spanish at university, Spain has always held a romantic and adventurous air of promise. So I told myself I would see this culturally and geographically diverse country from a fresh perspective, resolving to steer clear of the tourist trail. Reliable word-of-mouth pointed me in the direction of the WWOOF program, where volunteers (or WWOOFers) work on farms around the world for payment in kind: hosts provide food, accommodation and opportunities to learn the language and culture of the country.

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