• Spain's adventure guide who puts love for nature at the heart of her practice
  • Bierge, Jun 24 (efe-epa).- Laura Ventura, the manager of an adventure tourism company, bucked the trend by moving from Barcelona to one of the areas of Spain most affected by rampant depopulation, but she has no regrets as here she has found a deep personal connection with nature that gives her peace and freedom.

    In 2003, she moved to Bierge, a tiny village in the northeastern Sierra de Guara Natural Park, and she now manages a company that places social responsibility and ecological education at the heart of its work, guiding some of the 80-90,000 canyoners that flock to the area annually to tackle the myriad gorges that twist through the mountain massif.

    “When I’m in cities, all the lights and sounds, the inputs, they’re artificial, so they’re multiplied by billions and I get overwhelmed and tired. But when I go back to nature I recover some of that peace and sense of balance,” she tells EFE.

    She now combines her love of nature with her work duties, presiding over the Sierra de Guara business-owners’ association, which gathers over 100 local businesses to promote a park that has become one of the best places in Europe for adventure tourism.

    The connection between humanity and nature in Sierra de Guara is ancient. Many rocks are still decorated with prehistoric art and dolmens are dotted across the landscape.

    For her, the way the people of the land have all become guardians of the territory and its natural resources is magical.

    “What I least get tired of seeing every day of the year is the sky. Any sky- stormy, starry, at dawn, at dusk,” she says, adding: “It makes me feel small and connected with nature.”

    She trained as a social worker and educator and likes to blend her guided tours with raising awareness about the environment.

    Laura applies this same philosophy to everything she does, from coordinating waste management in the area to clearing out old mountain paths and making them usable again, or even the cabin she has made her office, which is a restored hayloft surrounded by flora she has planted herself.

    She has weighed the advantages and disadvantages of living and working in such a quiet area and came to the conclusion long ago that this is the life for her, though she acknowledges there are some problems with it.

    “The area I’ve chosen to live in is affected by depopulation. We don’t enter into the profit ratios for a lot of services or political decisions that can be taken,” she tells EFE.

    But she insists her way of life has brought her many beautiful things and is convinced she chose right.

    “If the sky is your cinema, then this is the place for you,” she says.

    By Raul Casado