Our second week in El Airo was great, despite the fact that it rained everyday.We worked with a local farmer woman called Orfa, doing some weeding on her farm and planting of coffee. After we finished planting she told us we could come back in a couple of years and harvest the coffee that we planted. After working we had the opporunity to swim in a natural pool in the creek with some of the kids from my host family: Pedro and Victor. Perched just under a waterfall in a section of primary forest, it really is a magical spot.
I found it really neat how the coffee plant grows out of the bean. It is so perfect!
After swimming we picked some huge bananas, which we topped off with some handfuls of blackberries picked by the path. Back at my host-families house we ate some mangoes and listened to the song “Bailando” by Enrique Iglecias a few times and had a fun dance party. After supper be busted out a microphone and sang, played guitar and did some beat boxing.
We started the next day with some “cafe con leche” and a big breatkfast. Then our community guide Lenin arrived with a horse to go riding on down to the river. The first time I tried to mount the horse it bucked me off! I was a bit scared to get back on but I did and it ended up being a lot of fun. We rode down to the river and basked in the sun for awhile. Then Marie rode back up to town. After luch I rode down to the next town on the horse. After that we dropped off the horse at its owners house and Lenin drove us back to town on his motorcycle. Then he let me drive, and I ripped around on this motorcycle for awhile. I had almost forgotton how to drive a motorcycle but it came back quickly. Some kids asked if I wanted to play soccer, and so I did! When it gets hot in the town the boys all fill up water baloons and buckets and chase aroudn the girls. Not so different from how I remember waterfights in Canada.
Soccer with the kids.
We left La Guaca, El Airo in the middle of the night, as the only bus that leaves town departs at three in the morning.There is something so disorienting about leaving somewhere in the middle of the night, but thats the way it goes. We arrived in the city of Loja in the morning and had a hearty breakfast at the bus station. We then headed over to the house of Andrea Alvarado, a woman we had met and arranged to stay at her house through the website ´¨Couchsurfing.¨” We went out to get some hamburgers and fries with cola! Funny that that was what we were craving after eating simple, but healthy, Ecuadorean fare for 10 days. We then made dinner for our hosts, a meal of spaghetti with box wine, a Canadian classic. I then played guitar for them and they were very nice and applauded after each song I would play.
That Night we went out to see a Salsa concert with our hosts. It was a big salsa band at a swanky night club. We danced salso well into the night before going back to our home to sleep. We really enjoyed being able to start off each day with a mountain of fresh fruit and coffee. That was special, and helped us to feel healthy.
We went to Vilcabamba, the sacred valley, to do a little bit of mountain biking. The guy who worked at the bike rental place, whose name was Chino, told me where I could find a man at the town hall of Loja who could give me a bunch of coffee connections for organic fair-traide associations through out the South. Then we went for our bike ride and it was beautiful. The next day I followed Chinos advice and went to the town hall in Loja and sure enough they gave me a lot of really useful contacts of people to talk to if I am interested in buying coffee. The whole experience seemed so right that it makes a person want to believe in fate. So before we knew it we were on a bus bound for Olmedo, where several people had told me they had the best coffee in Ecuador.
We arrived in Olmedo not really knowing what we were going to do. I had the name of a couple that supposedly had great coffee. We were pleasantly surprised when the first person we asked in the town knew exactly who we were looking for, and even had his daughter show us where to go. The woman with great coffee – Elizabeth – was incredibly nice. She welcomed us and gave us honey and coffee. Then she brought us to the only hostal in town, Hospedaje Olmedo. The owner, Don Luis, was incredibly nice. He took time out of his day to drive us around the town and show us some coffee farms. He also gave us a free breakfast on the morning we left. We ate and played guitar with his family for a few hours and had some good conversation. If you go to Olmedo stay at with Don Luis!
This is a coffee farm!
The morning arrived soft and gently in the pleasant town of Olmedo. It was a sunny day and we had a big breakfast and then went for a hike in the mountains. After lunch we drove up to check out Elizabeths farm. It was very beautiful, with rows of coffee plants mixed in with the trees. It looked less like a farm and more just like a forest. Afterwards we headed to the pool and had a refreshing swim, complete with a water slide. We went back to Elizabeths house and she roasted coffee for us and made cappucinos. She also showed us her bee hives, which she has many of.
After leaving Olmedo, we hitched a ride to the next town, Chaguarpamba, in a truck. I called the coffee contact I had there, more as an after thought than anything. But boy was I glad I did! The woman there – Bionay Bravo Fernandez – promptly brought us some coffee with milke/sugar/cane syrup. She then went on to explain everything I need to know to import coffee. She had a frenetic energy and kept on running back and forth to show me different types of coffee. It seemed like a really fateful meeting. I feel really thankful that I have had all these wonderful people to meet and talk with. She gave me a parting gift of panela(raw brown sugart), a map and a tourist book. That was a little bit about our coffee fueled adventures in the South of Ecuador. Until next time!