Wandering through the streets or rather grassy gravel tracks of Beneficio, we passed by the craziest and most eclectic selection of homes we'd ever seen in one place.
There were tree house balconies, shacks built high up on a mountain ledge, buildings made of stone from the valley, buildings made of tarp, wooden huts and purple-and-pink striped trees, outdoor kitchens, the odd nylon tent and even an enormous teepee, which we later found out served as the "village hall" of sorts where daily activities take place, complete with a free library.
There was a school, a marketplace, a swap meet, compost toilets, a bakery, a stream for water, a waterfall for washing and wood for fires. Kids' bikes lay abandoned on the grass, rope bridges crossed the stream, hand-painted signs reminded people to collect their litter and to please not light any open fires among the Eucalyptus trees.
Outside their homes people were meditating, practising yoga, cooking up big communal meals on outdoor kitchen decks. We parked among a cluster of vans at the bottom, where the stream poured freely through the centre of the car park, wandered up and bought two beers from a guy who'd somehow hooked a full size freezer up to his caravan.
It was an idyllic community, one which had its beginnings rooted here around thirty years ago when the land was left in a will addressed "to everyone" and the first settlers arrived, a gathering of people that didn't belong in and had no desire to join the outside world. They'd built their own world among the Eucalyptus forest, shrouded from the real world, from the very materials that surrounded them.
We wanted to interview these unique and curious people but sadly we only had enough time to stop for one day, as it wasn't really something we'd planned, and in any case we weren't sure how open they would be to talking on camera, as the whole place has an air of secrecy about it which perhaps is what lures so many travellers to it- they don't give away too much, you just have to come and see for yourself.
#Follow the hashtag #Fromrusttoroadtrip to follow our van conversion project and our travels around Europe! 🌍