This morning, we woke up to no rain. Hurray! Yes, it was cloudy, but cloudy is good for photographs, especially when you are going to visit an organic cacao farm.
“Stop,” we all cried to Antonio, our wonderful guide from last year, as we saw a group of small school children gathered along the road. Antonio asked if we could photograph them. They were adorable, and as soon as we showed them the photos, they crowded around, all wanting to see at once.
One has to be careful of one’s camera, because they all want to press buttons.
As we piled into The Jungle Bus, a young man came by carrying a load of wood on his very muddy bike.
We jounced along on the dirt roads, enjoying good conversation, telling jokes, and generally having a good time. After heading up a narrow track, we arrived at our host Eladio’s Agouti Cacao Farm.
Eladio is one of those amazing people knows so much about the symbiotic relationship of creatures and plants. He is considered a local legend for the way he does companion planting and organic farming.
Machete always in hand, Eladio showed us his farm that he carved out of the jungle. With the blade, he would cut down a cacao pod here, “mow” the grass around his hilltop camp, keep the jungle at bay, and transplant seedlings.
After our tour, he led us down the hill to The Jungle Bus so we could go dine with his family. It was relaxing to sit down after hiking up and down the steep slopes through the jungle. We were, after all, in the Mayan Mountains.
There were the traditional tortillas with black beans, tomatoes, and yams, along with juice made from his Jamaican limes. It was delicious.
Virginia and their eldest daughter, Adalia, showed us how they roast the cacao beans over the comal to a dark brown. Then, we took turns crushing them with a pumice-like stone and watched as Adalia tossed the cacao beans in a pan so that the feather-light skins floated free, leaving only the beans in the pan.
They put the beans through a mill that resembled an old-fashioned meat grinder. The beans came out as a paste that hardens overnight and lasts for months. When mixed with water, however, for the traditional chocolate drink, it apparently lasts for only a couple of days.
We were served this hot liquid, and it was very tasty. In fact, many people came back for seconds.
Virginia had worked hard to organize the meal, and went over to the hammock to relax. Two of the youngest of her 15 children came over and snuggled with her, and we were all struck by the closeness of this large family.
It was hard to leave, and we dallied, buying their chocolate (wrapped neatly up in a piece of a certain jungle leaf) and their finely woven baskets. We had enjoyed such warm hospitality with this fine family.
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