10/20: The week began with an early morning to help on
the farm. We weeded the butterfly garden and the lettuce beds and gave everything in the greenhouse a nice drink. There are these very very very hot peppers on the farm. At lunch, the cooks had pickled them and in my naivety I tried a big bite of one. It took lots of gallo pinto and several bananas to wash away the burn.
The highlight of the day was a trip to another sustainable, organic coffee farm in Atenas. The coffee is shade grown, which lent itself to an agroforestry lecture. We saw the green coffee beans go from berry to bean to roasted light-medium-dark. It is important to consider locally roasted coffee when buying organic, because the quality of the roast decreases the longer the beans sit after roasting. So, while unroasted beans can be shipped via boat or in large quantities in a more leisure manner, roasted beans need to be expedited to their location, mostly via air, which is less environmentally sound. Take home message: either roast at home (new project!? The farmer said it was possible to roast as you would cook popcorn) or buy locally roasted organic beans. Or a simpler message, quality is higher closer to roasting time, so if subtleties of coffee are important to you, make sure the beans were roasted recently.
After three days of classes and hanging out with some local university students to do an English-Spanish exchange, we packed up again, this time for El Sur. By 7 a.m. we were on a bus up and down mountains to the southern portion of Carrara national park to stay in an eco lodge situated between the national park and another protected reserve. We tromped over cattle pastures in the blazing heat, and with sweat pouring down, we escaped into the cool refuge of the national park for an orientation hike. The trail was the least well maintained of all of the trails we have been on, but it was the most fun hike by far. Especially hiking at the end of the line of 30+ people, the muddy trail was very slippery and it required tactical, ninja like skills to move down steeper slopes. We exited the jungle after two hours, some with muddy butts as evidence of a great hike.
The next day we visited a local sugar cane farm and processing location. We squeezed sugar cane with a machine powered by oxen, and then boiled the sap down to a syrupy consistency, where we then took it off the heat and stirred and stirred and suddenly there was brown sugar in block-form. It was woody and delicious and still warm and we all left on a sugar high.
Also in El Sur:
- Night Hike (saw tree frogs and glass frogs and a snake and a kinkajou)
- Teaching local kids about insects
- Scarlet Macaws flying overhead
- A secluded swimming hole that was a 10 minute walk upriver through the water and rapids. Moss-covered rocks provided the setting and churning rapids rinsed the sweat off from activity in the tropics.
- A bonfire with fruity flavored marshmallows and a camp-like vibe
- Morning birding and saw a pygmy owl and toucans and macaws and kouati
- Ample discussions about how El Sur can continue to grow in a sustainable manner while still bringing in tourist groups such as us students.
Came back in time to start worrying about finals, which are this next week. Or maybe just more time to get excited for Directed Research!