Mas de la Fargassa
Mas de la Fargassa, Montalba, 66110 Amélie les Bains, France
Organic living and river swimming in France’s sultry and sun-baked Languedoc-Roussillon region.
An organic fruit farm that lives off its land – selling plums, apples, strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, pears and 120 kilos of organic bread each week – needs some assistance, and the Dutch–English proprietors get it by offering work placements to young travellers. In exchange for free accommodation and food, the land is cultivated, the donkeys and horses walked, brushed and fed, the bread kneaded every Tuesday (ready to sell at a co-operative of local farmers) and the fires are lit at night.
Watching workers from all over the world busying themselves and relaxing so well together lends a really cool, traveller vibe to this location. Actually, the location is cool enough without them, and turns over as a family-friendly business in the height of summer. But anyone who’s trekked to far- fetched lands will be impressed with the journey to get here. Don’t even think of turning back along the windy 51⁄2 mile (9 km) path that cuts through the mountains: once you’ve started, there’s nowhere to turn around. Some people rate the view of the Gorges du Mondony as their holiday highlight, others will always regret having looked down. On a positive note, the smaller the vehicle, the less your vertigo-induced fear (mobile homes are a definite no-go).
It took the owners two years of travelling down never-ending roads to find their dream home. One day 20 years ago, they caught a glimpse of chimney smoke rising through a clearing in the trees. The proprietor of that particular home wasn’t selling, but next door they spotted an isolated, dilapidated forge that had been uninhabited since the ‘30s. They snapped it up along with the surrounding 600 acres then set to work transforming rubbles of stone into fully functional, modern accommodation. Nowadays, they hire out a gîte, a chalet and a pigsty, which in total sleep 18 people.
The owners launched the camping bow in their arrow some 16 years ago with their Dutch designed De Waard Albatros tents. Six equipped tents named after the trees they’re next to (holly, plum etc.), sit by the stream or on a raised level overlooking the garden; plus, there’s space for people to put up their own canvas. They built a covered eating area where 50 people have been known to crowd around dining tables for the vegetarian evening meals. You can also swim in the river – making dams is apparently the holidaying proclivity of older Dutchmen – else just sit back and cook breadsticks over the fire.
It feels quite exciting to be so near to Spain in dense woodland. Whenever you fancy a change of national scenery, just hike over the border; there are two- and five-hour organised walks available. If you came in your own 4x4 you’ll be able to make it over rocky terrain by car, maybe passing a few wild boars on the way. Johan arranges regular group outings where you can hike to a Spanish restaurant for lunch, after which cars will bring you back. These trips are usually snapped up as it’s good to stretch your legs without the worry of getting lost.
Lately, after finishing the second pigsty (perhaps better described as a two person, one room studio), Johan has been overseeing the restoration and extension of the Mas, with natural stone stairs, two wings and a extra balcony on top of the old bread oven. Future plans also include a second gîte in the mas, overlooking the riverside. In the meantime, they continue living a peaceful life with their six homeschooled children. Their amazing, combined feat borne of patience, hard labour and assiduous planting enables them to sustain a living in this remote, unusual borderline setting. Hats off to them for living the (self-sufficient) dream.
The Owner Says
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A Perfect Hiding Place
We stayed here one week end of May with our own tent. The site is absolutly idyllic, located remotely in beautiful surroundings. The pitch provided a lot of privacy. At the same time, you can always join the owners and other guest at the communal place, there is always someone to have a nice chat, especially in the evening.
Don't expect fancy facilities, however they are clean and totally fulfilling their purposes. The shop looks small at first sight, but actually has most basic stuff that you need, at reasonable prices.
Our children enjoyed playing with the owner's kids a lot, which are very welcoming and approachable. The owners were very hospitable and could give good advice about what to do in the area, especially regarding hiking trips.
The road might be fear inspiring to some, but if you are used to mountain roads, it's not that bad. Most people drive there very considerate, so after two times driving the road, you get used to it. However, you need to consider that it takes you always half an hour driving to the next village, so it's quite remote. Besides hiking, there are some nice towns and other activities in the area, but be aware, that it always takes you around an hour to get to these places.
Why just 4 stars? - We are normally looking for quite and remote places, but this site was somehow too remote for us. Maybe it's a different story, if you are there on high season, when there are more people on the site and more activities are offered. After one week there, we had the feeling that we need a little bit more action.
If you are looking for a place to calm down, this is perfect for you! Plenty of tranquility and great opportunities, for nice conversations and beautiful hikes.
We spent 2 weeks here in May - the first week was still quite cold, but the whole trip was amazing. After driving up the road, I didn't want to leave anymore, at least partially because the road was so ... stunning. The place is as close to wild camping you can get. Behind our tent, there was nothing than forests. First we were worried that our 3 children wouldn't find anything to do and get bored. But the river is excellent, for swimming, jumping, hiking, and the quiteness calms everybody down. At some point it felt stressfull to drive to the valley and meet so many people... Definitely want to go there again!
A perfect retreat
I stayed at this campsite for one night this summer whilst hiking across the Pyrenees from Perpignan to Barcelona. It is ideally situated along the GR10 route, and is a peaceful haven away from the modern world.
The pitch I was given was a lovely spot overlooking the river, but still private. Swimming in the natural pool under the waterfall was the perfect way to relax after a hard days hike followed by some wonderful homecooked food by my hosts. It was the perfect sized camp to get to know the other guests and the owners were very generous with their time in offering me advice on the next leg of my adventure.
This really was the highlight of my trip and I hope that I have the opportunity to return again in the future.
Away from it all in the Pyrenees
As there we no reviews for this site we weren't sure what to expect but having spent 3 nights here in September we want to let people know about it. The pitches are idyllic, the countryside stunning and the rock pools refreshing and beautiful. If you're looking to get away from it all and enjoy hiking and nature, you will love this place. The facilities were fine, 2 showers and 2 toilets, plus sinks for washing up. The hosts were welcoming and happy for you to share the unique space they've created here. Small shop with organic and vegetarian food was a must because we arrived without supplies thinking we'd set up camp and then go back out to stock up. However, having travelled on the road to this site which took us 30 minutes to do 8k along the cliff edge single track, we couldn't face doing it all again! If you do decide to visit, be prepared for the hair raising road that takes you there and bring supplies with you.