As I descend down a rocky incline towards the welcoming sight of smoke billowing from a chimney, mountain air scented with wild pine trees tickles my nose and the rush of fresh water from a nearby stream drowns out the sound of my rickety wheelie case. It has taken all of two minutes for my senses to be jolted out of their desensitised state.
The canopy of stars is a clue to the remoteness of my location – some 1,500 feet above sea level in one of Europe’s largest pine forests. Light pollution is not exactly a problem in Beira Baixa – home to an average of one person per 6 sq.km, who live simply in the foothills of the Serra da Estrela Mountains. It’s the perfect setting for a blissful refuge away from the trappings of modernday- life. Or at least so thought husband and wife team Vonetta and Andrew Winter, who six years ago transformed an abandoned farm into a yoga retreat, in this very wilderness.
The story of how the Winters’ stumbled across Vale de Moses is quite serendipitous. After packing up their life in London in 2007, the adventurous duo embarked on a family road trip through Southern Europe in a motorhome, along with their two teenage children, Josh and Eloise, and loyal pooch, Moses. It was their beloved golden retriever’s nose and uncanny intuition that led them down a dirt track to a cluster of stone relics called Vale de Moses (Valley of the Millstones) – their very own promised land.