Update from Mashpi

As I write the blog post, we are riding the bus 5 hours down to the coast at Rio Muchacho. We are all excited to get there and jump into life on the farm! Since our last check-in, we have had quite a busy schedule! The last two nights were spent in the community of Mashpi. At an elevation of 1800 feet above sea level, Mashpi sits in the southern reaches of the Choco tropical rainforest. Extending from the Caribbean coast where Colombia meets Panama, down the western slopes of the of the Andes, the Choco bioregion is known as one of the wettest ecosystems of Earth! Suitably, it has rained every day we were here, but that didn’t stop us from getting outside.

When we first arrived in Mashpi, after introductions and a hot meal at the only restaurant in town, we put on our rubber boots and went for a night walk, looking for frogs with a local guide. The next morning, we were up birdwatching at the crack of dawn with that same guide. After breakfast, we walked down the road to the Mashpi cacao farm to see how they grow the ingredients for their chocolate using complex agroforestry systems which mimic the functions and ecology of a native forest. Then, they explained the process of making their chocolates, followed by my favorite part, tasting their delicious products! Wow, that chocolate was amazing!

In the afternoon at Mashpi, we visited another farm/environmental education center and harvested coffee beans, learned about processing the beans and then drank a delicious, hot cup of their farm’s dark roast brew. Hardly a moment to rest, in the late afternoon, we played a lively soccer match against the women of the community and topped it off swimming in the cristal clear river that flows from the highland rainforest above, down through the community, towards the coastal plains. Whew, what a whirlwind!

Now, we are looking forward to getting to Rio Muchacho and getting our hands dirty, learning some practical skills in the garden and on the farm. We will write another post when we can!

P.S. Did I mention we hiked down to the huge, green lake in the crater of Quilatoa Volcano?! And Thanks, Javier, Fernanda, (their tiny son Gael) for your exciting lectures in Quito and at the Black Sheep Inn! We will miss you!

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