Nature Lodge – a bit of Mongolia in Portugal
A guest contribution by Carolin Frühauf
I get out of breath at the entrance to the Portugal Nature Lodge in Portugal Alentejo region at. Riding up the muddy road on a bike was more difficult than expected. But it's worth it, because the lush green of the garden shines through the gate. I'm visiting Peter and Joke from Holland, who founded Portugal Nature Lodge ten years ago. You sleep in yurts, safari tents, tents you have brought with you or your own camper. Glamping means glamorous camping, with all the amenities like breakfast service, private bathroom and kitchenette.
Experience pure nature in the middle of Portugal's cork oak forests
Joke and Peter, who were born in Holland, are experienced hosts and have a good network in the region. Peter is a passionate gardener and Joke is committed to animal welfare. They live with their three dogs in the Southwest Alentejo Nature Park where the famous one is Rota Vicentina hiking route leads along.
Right at the beginning of our tour, Joke shows me the natural pool that was inaugurated this year. He cleans himself with water plants and the two sell mineral sun milk to keep the water quality in balance, because conventional sun milk would cause the water's ecosystem to overturn.
You live in tents with a kitchen and bathroom
One of the two safari tents is surrounded by enchanted cork oaks. Up to five guests can stay here and from the small veranda you can overlook the whole valley to the sea. “Enjoying this view in the morning with a cup of tea or coffee must be fantastic,” I say to Joke and discover an exotic flower that has a strong scent next to the tent.
The two yurts are originally from Mongolia, but Peter bought them in Germany and England. It wasn't that easy to get hold of, ”he says and shows me the wrapped pieces of wood, because the yurts are stored in winter. In Asia, yurts are the traditional dwelling of nomadic peoples. They are made of lightweight materials and are quick to assemble and dismantle. Air conditioning is not needed in summer, because if you raise the tent walls, you create natural ventilation.
The lodge is completely self-sufficient with groundwater. Peter shows me the water filter system that goes through the chicken coop. The remains that hang in the filter are used as garden fertilizer.
Back to the cycle of nature with permaculture
The idea of permaculture is to use already existing ecosystems of a landscape directly or to imitate them in newly created cycles. Many more generations can thus be supplied sustainably and in harmony with nature. Peter tries to implement this in his garden. Peter points to one Medronho treethat he recently trimmed and the remains of which are now used as mulch opposite the walnut tree. “Of course, we can only do this on a small scale here,” he says.
The rainwater should be used as efficiently as possible in the garden
In Portugal, there are often long periods of drought in the summer. That is why it makes sense to create small catch basins. They are arranged in steps on hills. The water flow is slowed down and the water seeps evenly into the ground instead of just washing down the hills. The wastewater is filtered and used as fertilizer. This in turn is used for the small orchard with its fig, pear and apple trees.
Coffee grounds as an excellent fertilizer
Peter is already known in the small town of Troviscais, because he fetches the coffee grounds from the two cafés there in order to use them as fertilizer: "Otherwise you would throw the coffee grounds away anyway and my plants are happy about the fertilizer!" The coffee grounds provide the soil with important nutrients such as potassium, phosphorus and, above all, nitrogen.
Peter and Joke run their lodge with great passion and you can see and feel that when you walk across the site. Accompanied by frog croaks and singing chirps, we walk to the exit with a dog tour. I'm happy that all I have to do now is roll down the hill on my bike.
You can find more information about the Nature Lodge here