Sigrid’s Story: Ecolodge Sol y Luna
Three hours from La Paz, in a town that outsiders might undoubtedly refer to as the middle of nowhere, Bolivia, is a small village called Coroico. Two kilometers up from this point, deep in the tropical forest, there is an open air hotel that Sigrid Fronius came to in 1983, when she first made the pilgrimage here in an effort to live a simple, quiet life in the countryside.
Lush vegetation welcomes the visitor of Ecolodge Sol y Luna, which today offers seven cozy cottages, apartments, and rooms for Bolivian travelers to stay in houses spread over two hectares of land. Sigrid also lives in one of those houses: an adobe building from the 1940’s with two palms stationed out front. When she first came to live here in the 80’s, the garden was partly planted by the people who owned it before. Eventually, she came to add her own twist.
Fronius had never a garden of her own, neither in Berlin, where she studied history and participated in the 68th student movement, nor in Buenos Aires, where she wrote a book about Argentinian Peronismo, a political movement that transpired around 1940’s Argentinian politician Juan Domingo Perón. Since being a child, Sigrid dreamed of a flower bed of her own, and when she came to Bolivia she soon found herself with two hectares at her disposal, and soon started getting creative as a gardener.
Sigrid wanted to live with a commune and, as much as possible, to live sustainably and independently, off the land. When more and more people came to visit her because of the beauty of her place, Sigrid bought the surrounding property and started to build up a hotel in piecemeal fashion. For over 25 years she has managed this same land, which is now known as the Ecolodge Sol Y Luna (over “Sun and Moon”) under ecological conditions.
Today, Sol y Luna is more like a small village with huts spread out in a huge garden than it is a common hotel (though, like a hotel, visitors can stay there). Her own house and garden is located in the middle of the property and looks like a baroque pleasure garden with a mix of tropical and European plants: parrot pecker, amancaias, banana palms, coffee, mandarins, avocado, lemon, mulberry trees and flowers like marguerites, angels trumpets, busy-lizzies, and forget-me-nots. She says her favorite place is the throne at her terrace, which overlooks the garden, the alignment of the paths, the turf stairs, and a bow of laburnum.
At the first sight, the garden looks disordered– as if the natural chaos of the jungle has crept its way in– but soon one detects a creative system in the mix of cultivated and wild. Part of her garden is untouched forest, then comes the fruit trees, a coffee and coca plantation that gives way to bamboos, sugarcane, flowering bushes, lilies, and marigold and roses, just to name a few. Those interested in names and scientific description of each plant will find a folder for guests at the reception, which contains a listing and detailed information for about 60 native plants. This is available alongside photos of the many birds that frequent the property.
Under the huge centurion conifers where no light touches the ground, Sol y Luna offers benches, logs, and rocks for guests to sit down near a small pool and admire the Andean mountains far off in the surrounding valleys.
For Sigrid, the Sol y Luna garden is synonymous with calm and peace— a place where one goes to be shielded from disturbing city noises and smells. In the garden one feels the wind in the air, senses the freshness of the water from the natural founts on the skin; smell emanates from the blossoms and taste pours from the fruits, herbs, and vegetables she grows on site. A colony of bees produce honey within the mix.
Sigrid enjoys working in the garden, especially in the late afternoon, when the sun is ripe and golden. She will not increase the cultivated area or the many paths bordered with almost untouched nature. Her planted garden oasis requires enough attention as is, and the raw wilderness has its own complimentary charm.
Sigrid points out that the garden is even more impressive by the high green mountains in front of Sol y Luna, where the visitor is mostly at eye level with the constantly-changing clouds. Day and night, the free view on the valleys, the light of the sun and the moon, and the gorgeous Amazonian cloud cover create a special mood that envelops the garden– the perfect place to relax and dream.
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