HelpX has been on my list of things to try ever since my CouchSurfing host in Vancouver, BC last summer told me about it. What is it, exactly? A work exchange: help out on a farm, resort, hostel, etc. and receive accommodation in return. It’s a great way to get to know a local culture, learn a few new skills, and meet other travelers who are also volunteering. And after trying it out this past weekend, I’m pleased to say that I’m looking forward to building more HelpX stays into my future travels!
I’m still in Almuñécar, but since Laura’s family came visit this past weekend, I got out of the flat to make it slightly less crowded. Laura was quite adamant that I go visit Granada and the Alhombra, but honestly, I just wasn’t in the mood to play the tourist! Instead, I decided to browse through the nearby HelpX hosts and came across La Casa del Viento, a resort in Lanjarón. The owner, Ann, had just gotten back from holidays (she’s English) and needed to get lots of random jobs done. Although she preferred to host long-term helpers, she approved my request to come for five days, and I hopped on a bus that wound up and around more switchbacks than my stomach had ever encountered. Lanjarón is a quaint village located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It’s famous for its spring water, and tourists flock to the town to experience the mineral baths and the Moorish architecture. I loved the view of the valley and town below that we had from up on the hillside!
Is it bizarre that I chose to work on a mountain instead of relax in Granada? It must have been a combination of excessive computer usage and bustling city life that pushed me to leave town and get my hands into the Earth. I weeded, planted, and stacked, cooked, swept, and dug. I was attacked by more than one cactus in the process. (Thankfully Ann’s aloe vera plants came to my rescue.) And there’s even something new for the résumé: collecting composted horse manure to be used in the veg garden. For my last job, Ann put me on something she knew I’d enjoy: cutting and hanging mint leaves to dry. Fresh mint tea accompanied by oranges I picked off of her trees was a one of the highlights of my stay! Her cherry trees and lemon trees were also delightful, but to enjoy her almonds and olives, I’ll have to go back when they come into season in a few months!
HelpX isn’t slave labor; helpers still get time off! We worked from 8-2 and had the entire afternoon to do as we pleased. I hiked down the mountain into town with the other helpers, went swimming in the pool, meditated by one of the spring waterfalls, did yoga on the patio overlooking the valley, wrote in my journal, studied Spanish, and took some photographs. Enjoy!