Day 43: the Chocolate Hacienda

Trip Start Sep 02, 2007
Trip End Dec 25, 2007

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Wednesday, October 17, 2007

For our last day in Ecuador I had a shore excursion to the "Chocolate Castle." It was a two-hour ride and the place wasn't a castle so much as a plantation, but the first thing that happened when we got there was we were served orange juice and cocoa juice (I know, weird huh, it really was pretty weird too) and given a little tour of the house ending out on the balcony/patio area in back. There was a great view of the plantation and about 8 hammocks hung around the place along with several tables and benches. Of course I commandeered a hammock and fell asleep - would you expect anything less? and I don't know how long I slept before they got us up for a tour of the plantation. I just know it was a long time and I kinda wished they'd just let us have siesta all day!

The walking tour was another matter entirely; it was interesting to see how they grew and harvested stuff but it was bloody hot outside and we were all dying by the time we got halfway through the thing. I don't actually remember the second half of it really because I was so out of it and it was way past time for lunch and none of us had water and it was so hot I thought I was going to melt. We saw greenhouses with growing cacao plants and full-grown plants with fruit about ready to harvest and everything in between, mango trees and plantain trees and so on and so on and then we got back to the homestead part of the plantation and visited the animals in grungy cages that everybody thought were so exciting but actually just made me sad and walked past cacao seeds that were spread out drying over meter after square meter drying and past rows of farm equipment I couldn't name or describe. When we finally got back to the hacienda, they had more drinks for us and we sat around some more, waiting for lunch. I almost fell asleep again, but then lunch started being served and I had to drag myself out of my hammock and sit at a proper table.

Lunch was amazing - grilled outside where we could smell it for half an hour and get thoroughly hungry and really enjoy it. It was like three kinds of meat and salad and this awesome casserole thing. But then came the dessert - fresh fruit with chocolate fondue to pour over it. I was pretty much in heaven, yeah. It was sooooo good. Andy and some other people were pouring the fondue right out of the pot and into their mouths. It was hilarious until they'd eaten all the fondue that way and the rest of us didn't get a second round... anyway it was good.

Then we had some more siesta time and I took another nap. I don't know how I kept ending up in the hammocks because I sometimes had to force myself to let someone else have them for a while, but no one took them so I just kept getting back in the same one. It was so nice after a long week of walking around the city (especially the day before with the stairs and the cemetery) to just lie in a hammock and be served really good food and smell the flowers growing everywhere and sleep in the shade on a breezy day in Ecuador. Wow... how did this happen?

Then we were shown the chocolate "factory" - which I can't believe was actually the factory but when I saw the limited supply of chocolate from the actual plantation in the gift shop I guess it made some sense - it amounted to a chocolate grinder and some milk and a spoon, pretty much. The guy cut the top off the cocoa pod and pulled the seeds out of the inside for us to see; they're actually covered in white fruity stuff that tastes really really sweet and amazing and that's what they made the juice out of except the juice was too weird for me. The fruit is really really good though; you just suck on it and chew the fleshy stuff off without chewing the bean and then chuck the bean. For chocolate, they dry the beans instead, like we saw before, and then of course grind them up and add this milk and voila! Chocolate. It was wicked good chocolate too but my favorite was actually the cocoa fruit stuff.

After that we went to the little tienda giftshop thing and six people got to buy chocolate because that's all there was that was actually made at the plantation from the chocolate that was grown there. It's mostly an export plantation and not a factory which explains the "factory" business that we saw. After that it was just wrap-up time and back on the bus for a long ride home.

That evening Liz came by my room and we were both feeling a little nostalgic so she played John Denver music and we looked at her pictures of Colorado mountains and rivers and snow and had a good hard cry. It was my first good hard cry about being homesick, actually, so clearly it was time. It was good to be able to share that with somebody who really understood not just the feeling of being homesick but the specific nolstalgias and what I was homesick for. That was really nice, and Liz copied that John Denver cd for me after that, since my computer ate mine when its hard drive crashed a month before this trip started.

Well that's all from Ecuador, everybody. Muchisimo Gracias por todo y te extraños mucho! Te adoro!
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