Laurence Manchee - Yoga Teacher, Permaculture Consultant and co-founder of Keela Yoga Farm

Saturday, 27 September 2014

A Visit to Rainbow City in Portugal

Two Domes at Rainbow City's Sustainably Yoga Farm.

With a vision of the world living more sustainably and one day starting a self sustainable yoga health retreat centre, I paid a visit to Rainbow City in Portugal to have a look at the local area and see how this newly established settlement lives.  
Overall I found it a positive experience and I think more people should take the plunge and make the move to countryside to live sustainably for a healthier life for themselves and the planet. The success of Rainbow City is due to its two yogi vegan residents, Anth and Dan's leap of faith, love and hard work. Anth has the ability to get 'World Peace Warriors' as he calls them, to come and experience living there while helping build the settlement, and Dan has the ability to build, make or design anything. These guys lead an extremely healthy lifestyle, which are very similar (but even more tried and tested) to my philosophies and their guests leave changed for the better to lead a healthier lifestyle. Visitors to their home are guests and are treated so and are expected to chip in and treat it like their home. I imagine as they get more established they will be able to reduce the use of plastic down to zero, switch their store bought herbal tea to ones that they grow and stop start making their own cleaning products instead of toxic store bought ones as it goes back into their water system. Any how they are the healthiest people I know, healthier than any other retreat centre or community I have been to. 

The tent I stayed in at the vegetable garden
Day 1
Got straight through the airport quickly, I had to take a taxi to the train station, where there are three trains a day which take more than three hours followed by a 30 min drive then up a mud track to Rainbow City, which consists of a double decker bus, an old ruin, vegetable patch, lots of fruit trees, wild land a hill and two spectacular domes. I dropped my bag into the teepee tent and went up to the Dome to meet Anth and Dan who own and started the project, Sergio the local laborer turned resident who knows everything about everything when it comes to the land and living on it.
I was greeted with a healthy dinner and tea and we chatted on the balcony on bean bags with a beautiful view of the countryside. They chose this land as it had the best view out of all the ones they saw and there were no buildings nearby with people living so they had complete prevosuy. Apparently a lot of the others would have people overlooking them or the view was not so good but the land had more buildings or more fields. 
I was a bit scared when I got into my tent as I was a few 100 meters away from the domes where everyone else was staying, no electricity, just wild and some vegetables and fruit trees. Once I manned up and fell asleep I had the best night sleep due to the fresh air and silence. 
I was impressed at all the work they had done to accomplish what they have in just 8 months. They had pipes pumping water from a water source at the top of the land going to all the crops for automatic watering. They had a bore hole that pumped water to a water tower, through a filter for fresh drinking and cleaning water. They had an outdoor shower with a boiler and gas cylinder for instant hot water and a solar panel water heater at the water tower for stored hot water for the inside shower.
The electricity comes from solar panels and powers all the phones, lights, fridge freezer, water pump and anything else you need. As long as there are not too many people or someone using a hair drier then they have enough for everything they have their such as fans and Anth's DJ equipment.

Collection of Fruit from local fruit tree
Day 2
We each got up naturally around 9am, chatted for a while and had a breakfast smoothie. Later in the morning we did yoga in a Dome and drove down to a small lake where we swam around, then walked back and collected fruit from the neighboring land. We collected figs, plumbs, pears and grapes, well first i stuffed my face full of fruit, then i actually managed to collect some to take back.
In the afternoon we all did around four hours work. That days project was to drain and empty one of their water sources so they could clean the bottom and remove all the foliage around to prevent it getting dirty during the winter rainy months. This was a big pond at the top of the land which they had pipes running off to irrigate their farm. In the evening we had some heathy food and lovely raw brownies made by Simon and then we all relaxed under a beautiful view of the Milky Way and millions of starts in the peaceful, tranquil location of Rainbow City on a side of a mountain. 

Rainbow city's ruin (to become a home soon)
Day 3
Simon and I drove round with an estate agent to look at land to see what is out there and available to buy. (if anyone is interesting in teaming up to buy please get in contact) The plots we looked each come with a ruin that may have been lived in or were used by farmers. All of the land had been used as working farms at some point, some more recently than others. The ones that have been farms more recently have more open space and less growth and rocks which not only makes it harder to see the land but also would require more work to clear the land for building and farming. That said the growth and woodland gives it more of a rustic feel and it's nicer that they are hilly and have seperate plots. It seems that the land that has been worked more recently is flat and the wild land is hilly. All the plots have some trees like cork, eucalyptus or pine. They usually have fruit trees like oranges, figs, pears and grapes. Most have wells. So the choice would either be somewhere clear with characteristics but ready to start a project and make it as we want it. Or somewhere with more character that needs more imagination that might end up being nicer due to views and hilly parts but may require a bigger leap  of faith and investment in tome and money. All of the plots of land are 2 to 5 min away from a local village by car and about 15 min to the station and 30 min to the nearest city. Access to the land is usually a few minutes drive down a mud track that may be hard to drive during rainy season with a small car. 
There are springs everywhere and it's normal to fill huge containers with water from the public fountain in the village and then use that as your drinking water at home on your farm. One can have a bore hole drilled and a pump and filter that will give the settlement unlimited supply of drinking water, the limit depends on how much electricity you can generate from your solar panel.
There are electricity lines that can be connected at around 10 EUR per meter to some of the plots but for 5k to 10k GBP you can get a full solar panel system for all your power needs. I have since got solar lights for my rooftop in Singapore.
Compost toilets can be built at remote parts of the land as well as normal toilet systems with a septic tanks that will cost more. Im getting exited about one day setting up a community in Portugal.

Land up for sale with a small house

Day 4

On my last full day after yoga I stayed in the Dome as my eye was scratched while picking a pear and was hurting more in the sunlight. So I cleaned up the dome and organized it a bit while preparing smoothies for everyone working outside and later a soup for dinner. (Try freezing a handful of grapes and then blending that with one peach and four ice cubes, that makes a lovely cold refreshing and healthy drink.) I learnt that these guys lived in tents when they first moved here, they were rained on hard for weeks on end with an oven for a toilets and no electricity, it really sounded very hard and now their dome has heating and hot water and so they can be comfortable next winter and focus their building efforts on clearing up and the finishing touches on the inside of the spectacular domes.

Relaxing after an afternoon at work
 Day 5

On the way home I got up in time for sunrise and got a lift to the station with Anth who was on his way to they gym. He pointed out the highest mountains which has ski lifts and ski slopes which are not open during the summer months. I grabbed some delicious pastries from a cafe and got back on the three hour train to Lisbon. 
A huge pumpkin just ready to be picked
I am heading back to Portugal in March to visit some more self sustainable communities as well as an updated on Rainbow city's progress. Also check the blogs on the sustainable yoga farm in argentina and school in Bali to be posted shortly.

Visit for more info on Rainbow city or on Vegan health living
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