There were many occasions during my time in Buenos Aires when I just felt the need to get out of the city and spend time with nature, something which wasn’t always easy to do. During a particularly bad period, after losing my first job and being kicked out of the apartment I’d moved in to just ten days earlier (long story), I decided I had to find an escape. A simple Google search for nature reserves lead me to discover Velatropa, an eco-village hidden behind one of the campuses of UBA, where a small community resided.
Velatropa was started by students from the urban design faculty in 2007 and is now dominated by young porteños and travellers, many of whom sleep in tents and treehouses. Members of the community live off what the city throws away and there are several permanent eco-buildings on-site, including a meeting space, library, art studio and kitchen. I was fascinated by this concept and eager to visit the community to find out more, but I’d heard it was rather tricky to locate, so I decided to tell a few friends about my new discovery and hope they’d join me on my mission to find it.
It wasn’t actually until a few months later that we finally got round to visiting this intriguing place, but we certainly chose the right day for it, for the sun was shining and it was lovely and warm outside. We had printed a map and directions off the internet, but still struggled to find Velatropa after getting off the bus; all that seemed to lie before us was a large wood with a few odd signs and bits of material. Once delving a little deeper, however, we came across something that began to resemble the pictures I’d seen and noticed people wandering between the trees in the distance. It wasn’t long before we caught up with these people, who introduced themselves and welcomed us to Velatropa.
Some of the community members had been there only a few days, whilst others had been living at Velatropa for years. They showed us around their eco-village and explained what everything was and why it was there, along with the different ways in which they each contributed towards its development. We sat with them chatting and drinking mate in the sunshine, then spent a short time helping them out with some gardening. They told us they hold a series of workshops, whereby they teach others how to make art from waste and build structures using discarded materials, amongst other things. Towards the end of the day, they asked if we’d like to take part in a ‘sex education’ workshop, which sounded interesting so we thought “why not!” and went along with it.
The workshop was basically a conversation about sex (in Spanish) that resulted in everyone giving each other massages, which was a bit odd but also quite amusing. Gradually, the sun began to set and the air turned cold, so we headed back to the centre of town, bidding farewell to our new friends. A few weeks later, I discovered that a winter solstice festival was taking place at Velatropa, with food, music, and more workshops (woohoo!) This time, I dragged a different group of friends along and we explored some more, stumbling upon things I had missed the first time round and chatting with new members of the community.
At one point, I spotted a giant hammock hanging high between two trees, with a rather sketchy rope ladder leading up to it, and decided it would be fun to go up there with some wine and watch the madness from above. People were dancing and playing drums beneath us, young children ran around freely and wafts of marijuana continually drifted through our nostrils. Then came the vegan dinner – no idea what it was, but it tasted good! After that, we decided to leave Velatropa, this time for the last time; we could have stayed and slept in the trees, but our comfortable beds were beckoning (plus we’d run out of wine). If, like me, you find city life rather suffocating at times, it’s worth taking the time to find places like this- who knows how many Velatropas there are dotted around the world…