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  • Writer's pictureemma beckett

Adapting to Wilderness Life in Orgiva: A Story of Music, Community and Transformation

Updated: Sep 19, 2023


Finding Our Footing in Ciggie: The First Steps

On the second day of being in Ciggie after Debs had popped round and told us she would help by bringing us some groceries, ice, and a new cooler, things started to fall into place.



It’s funny how you can be in the middle of such adversity, and suddenly things just start to flow. The ebb and flow of life constantly surprises me and a lot of times in adversity we have to just submit to it and then it's easier than fighting against the current.

River, shirtless, gazes at a dramatic orange sunset over mountains from a dry riverbed, his long hair flowing down his back.
Gazing at sunset over the mountains


I didn’t have my phone because it was still in Danny's van, and I had no way to get to town to retrieve it. So I was put in a situation where I had absolutely no choice at all, but to focus on River, safety, and relative comfort.


My leg was still very sore so I placed chairs strategically around the place while I did some cleaning and figured out some systems to make life easier.


The night before as I lay looking at the ceiling, wondering what the heck we were doing, I had figured out some practical things that I thought would bring us some comfort and help us to start adapting to wilderness life in this heat.


I managed to get a hold of Wibbs, who told me to go talk to the gardener José who had come up from town to use the hose pipes fed by the acequia to water the plants on the land.


He was amazing, humble, and kind - to be honest - my entire day was littered with absolute angel souls coming into my life.


He helped me to understand where the hose pipes were and how they worked. When he had finished with the hose pipes, I repurposed them as an outdoor bathroom by dropping a hose over a tree to make a mini shower.


Creating Comfort Amidst Chaos: The Outdoor Bathroom

We then ventured into what is usually an outdoor bathroom, but it was currently colonised by angry wasps, and retrieved a mini tub which we put under the hose pipe to work as a mini bath and standing area for the shower.


I was dive bomb attacked by one ring leader wasp and 'ran' on one leg into the school house to find vinegar to ease the stinging on my arm. Never moved that fast on crutches over completely overgrown dusty land! 😂


I had brought with me solid products like shampoo, conditioner and shower gel, and a shower gel coconut bar. The bar of shower soap had a hole and a ribbon wrapped around it.


We searched the area and found some string that we hooked over a different branch of the tree and tied to the side. So now, we had running water, a tap to collect the water, and easy access to a solid bar of shower soap.



Then I found some terracotta pots and a piece of wood, and I displayed our bathing products, including a toothbrush, solid toothpaste tablets and our flannel. I tied a lightweight towel to the branch too.


"Emma, bathed in sweat and wearing glasses, illuminated by a ceiling light in the school room during a warm evening."
Sweating at 9.30 pm

The heat was so incredibly overwhelming that we chose to rinse ourselves probably once an hour to get rid of the thick layer of sweat that would build up the second we were dry.


This was a complete game changer for us – for River, particularly. It gave us a level of comfort you can only imagine.


Unexpected Angels: Sage, the Guide from the Dust

As I sat in the kitchen, trying to work out where I could find cutlery or another lighter for the oven or pans that we could cook with, a lady called Sage walked in from between some trees and straight into the school - like another angel out of the dust.


She greeted me with the warmest smile and explained that she was surprised to see me as she had been feeding Willow, the temple cat, while there had been nobody around.


We had a beautiful conversation and exchanged details. She told me that she lived a short distance away in her van, and although she didn’t drive often, she was very happy to help me with any local quirks. She offered advice on where I needed to go to fill up the bottles for drinking water when we ran out.


Falling in Rhythm with the Mountains: Hours of Quiet Contemplation

At this point I started to feel very humble and very warm and fuzzy inside from the amount of love being radiated by every human we came across in this crazy Mad Max territory.


After 45 hours of hard work, my leg was becoming painful. I left River watching show after show on his iPad on a mat in one of the rooms in the shade, and I went and sat on the steps to the school.


From here I could gaze at the surrounding mountains, and I honestly fell into some kind of communion with them. I stayed there for 2 to 3 hours, forming my own rhythm with nature and the land.


"Emma's bare, sweaty legs in the foreground as she reclines with a green coffee mug inside a mosquito net, overlooking handmade graffiti-adorned buildings and a dramatic mountainous backdrop."
Enjoying the mountains with a coffee

The Warm Glow Even A Tiny Community Brings: Gifts, Dinner, and the Communal Space

Debs came back in the evening with cordial, watermelon, fresh cheese, fresh milk, and a pack of ice to put in the cool box. They felt like the best gifts in the heat that we were dealing with, and I finally started to feel like this was something we could enjoy.


We cooked dinner that evening around 9:30 at night when it was still 38° and sweat was running down our faces.


"Butler sink filled with dishes, featuring a draining frying pan and a faucet, set against ornate tiles and a wooden window ledge. The window offers a view of lush greenery."
The school house sink

After this we walked / limped with crutches to the 'communal space' we had been told about because on a Wednesday Tim runs the generator and there is a bar! With lights and music and cold drinks. Old car seats are scattered around the place and various pieces of graffiti art and furniture made from anything that could be used.



I sat at a bar stool with Debs and Tim and met my now friend Cormac who was visiting Ciggie but lives in the town.


My friend Janna who I had been messaging with after we were connected before I left drive up to make sure we are okay because I hadn't answered her messages! (Phone still at Danny's in town). It was incredible to meet her and cuddle her and we arranged she would come get us tomorrow to bathe in the river and go to town.


What an angel 😇


I went to bed that night feeling much more confident that this was going to be the transformational trip that I had been expecting.


River decided that night to sleep separately from me, because sharing a bed with me the night before had been simply too hot.


I made River a bed on the mat on the floor in the library of the school, closed all of the shutters, and gave him the two rechargeable fans we had brought with us as well as a small bottle of water. We had to constantly spray ourselves to help wick away the heat from our bodies.


"River, visibly sweaty in shorts, sitting on a floor-level bed against a whitewashed stone wall. He gazes at the camera with his laptop open, juice placed on the rug beside him."
Rivers bed on the floor

I went to bed next door with the same setup: a fan and a water spray bottle, and actually got some sleep despite the relentless sweat.


When Debs had come back earlier in the day, she had given us the terrible news that the car we were due to use while we were here to get supplies was actually not working.


This meant we had no way off the mountain into town to get fresh food and I had no way to take River to different areas for entertainment, education, a change of scenery, or supplies.


I slept that night with an open mind, a pure unbridled love for the land building in my heart, and a humbleness from the kindness we had been shown by strangers who were fast becoming friends.


First Taste of the City: A Trip to Orgiva

The next day, our wonderful friend Janna came to pick us up and drove us into town for market day. It was incredible to be in town among regular people and facilities, and it was several degrees cooler off the mountain.


We sat and ate lunch together, and Janna helped me navigate with her fluent Spanish, while I listened, trying to catch some familiar words from my three months of Duolingo that really had not prepared me for this situation at all! My new friend Cormac strolled by and joined us for a lovely chat while River drank his ice cold Spanish chocolate milk and ate a tostada with ham and cheese.


After we finished, I was keen to have some time with River to take in the city and had arranged to get to Danny‘s to retrieve my phone. This would mean easier communication with the world, and of course, I could start taking photos, videos, and documenting this experience.


"Emma and River, smiling for a selfie in front of the metal-cut 'ORGIVA' town sign. Laid on tile flooring, surrounded by trees, River sports a vibrant red bucket hat."
Walking around Orgiva


Finding Music and Solace in Danni's Sound Healing Room

Danni walked to meet us, helping me with my bag as I navigated the streets of Orgiva on crutches. When we reached his place, he guided us downstairs into his basement, which he has transformed into a sound healing room. Walls adorned with gongs and tongue drums he crafted himself filled the room, ready for healers around the world.

The basement was pleasantly cool, and River was mesmerized by the drums and gongs.


Danni generously allowed us free rein to explore the space however we pleased. After disappearing for a moment, he returned with iced coffee, leaving us to soak in the serene environment.


"River, seated before a hanging array of gongs in a basement adorned with white walls and rugs. With healing drums surrounding him, he plays, his back turned to the gongs."
River discovering his Gong playing journey

River spent an hour in a trance, playing the tongue drums and gongs for the first time in his life. This resulted in a powerful sound bath. It was awe-inspiring to witness River's spiritual journey with music, one that I always knew he was destined for. Yet, seeing him experience a deeply meditative state was profound.



Overwhelmed with emotion, I watched as Danni returned to offer River some technical advice on allowing the instruments to guide him.


Following this, we headed upstairs to the pool for a swim. The refreshing water was an incredible contrast to the dry, dusty environment of our temporary home at Ciggie.


We attempted to use the telegram groups to arrange a ride back to Ciggie, but it was too late in the day. With Samantha not around, there weren't enough community members to maintain its usual operations.


Once again, Danni drove us up to Ciggie, generously offering us keys to a friend's flat. We could use it and pay by donation, allowing us to spend some time in town, closer to people and facilities, and importantly, with our own facilities. We needed to go back to Ciggie though in the wilderness because all of our things were there and with Rivers autism we needed to then spend some time processing the upcoming change.


This at time would provide me with time to heal and simplified our lives while waiting for our car to be fixed.



Sleeping Under the Stars: Embracing the Mountain Night

That night, we returned to Ciggie and decided to create a bed outdoors, under the overhanging roof of the temple. We had discussed this plan the night before at the Ciggie bar, and now we maxed it happen in the hot evening heat while we still had light.


We found a beam with a hook, attached a rope to it, and hung a mosquito net from the rope, creating a makeshift bed. Using a torch and a citronella candle, we settled River between me and the wall. The cool mountain breeze helped him fall asleep quickly.


I lay there, alert, staring into the pitch-black mountain night, listening to every frog, cicada, and slight rustling from the wilderness. The wilderness sounds so loud when you are fully exposed and the intesme energy from the mountain and the woods takes some getting used to.



Around 4 am, I decided to trust in the process, closing my eyes to sleep - the temple cat Willow came and curled up by my head and I found her rising rib cage and purring soothing. I woke up around 10:30, having had the best night's sleep, even if it was brief.


Janna had agreed to bring us to town and drop us at the flat where we planned to stay for a few days. Despite having only met her two weeks ago through Vanessa, I was deeply touched by her kindness.


Janna is the type of warrior woman who inspires me, both practically and emotionally.


She had advised against us coming when I injured myself but offered her full support when we decided to come anyway. I hope I've made a lifelong friend because she is a wonderful person.


Returning to Village / Town Civilisation: Transitioning to the Flat

Though sad to leave the wilderness, I knew it was the right decision. Janna also took River to swim and cool off on the way into town. We stopped at a stunning place where the river is dammed, allowing people to swim and cool off communally for free.


Despite vague instructions from me, Janna drove us to the flat. We ended up in narrow, steep Spanish "roads," but she remained calm as we tried to turn her van around towards the marketplace where the flat was.


Janna also took us grocery shopping at Consum. I delighted in purchasing bags of ice cream, fresh milk, cheese, and other perishables that would have spoiled within hours at Ciggie.



After Janna dropped us off at the flat, we brought our belongings and groceries upstairs, switched on the fans, stored our shopping, and collapsed into the simple yet beautiful and secure space.


"Emma's thumb up in focus, while River relaxes on a red-draped chair, savoring an icy drink. A cooler between them reads 'Good vibes only'. Their flat, with vibrant green walls, houses a prominent houseplant."
In the flat in town

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