Our reason for staying in a bigger city like Atacames was to be closer to the food markets and Ecuadorian culture…
Right away, Captain and I were given the opportunity to meet “our neighbors” and tour their farm. I’m from the Midwest so I know farms but I was sure this farm wasn’t going to look like any farms back home! Our goal is to grow all of our own food and serve organic foods to our guest so I was so excited to see farming in Ecuador.
The drive to The Farm was longer than I had expected for people to be considered “our neighbors”. But nonetheless, it was great to meet someone who speaks English that lives within 25 miles of us! After the main turn off, we drove Old Yeller for what seemed like 30 minutes. I thought we were off the beaten path! It was a dirt road all the way and when I thought we couldn’t get any further into the boonies, we were greeting by a village! Sitting on a creek, the tiny village welcomed us as we went deeper into the hilly farm land.
“Our Neighbors”, The Farmers were a newly married couple and had quite a love story. The two met on a Galapagos Islands tour. She was an US tourist, he was a Ecuadorian boat captain. It was love at first sight. She moved to Ecuador shortly thereafter. They got married and built their dream home with one another. Their tale was awfully familiar to my love story with Captain…
They welcomed us with open arms and began giving the full tour of The Farm.
Their home was simple yet luxurious at the top of a hill and with an epic view of the inland. This was the first time I had seen a home in the country that was similar to the house I grew up in: electric kitchen appliances, washer, dryer, two bathrooms and screens!!! What a great experience to meet two brave souls who started from scratch in the middle of nowhere!
Cocoa and plantains were growing on most of their land which is their cash crop. In their gardens were beans, peas and peppers. Fruit trees surrounded the garden. I started making a list of what I would be planting in our garden. Fresh herbs, fruits, vegetables, and beans-all which will be served in our eatery!
Many farms have a family who live on the land in exchange for working the farm. The five children of The Farmer’s family were at home in the Farmer’s household. As we were given the tour, the kids followed closely behind, observing us “big kid” gringos.
Next was our tour of the old-growth jungle! We put on our new boots and off we went on our complementary jungle tour! Just following the leader, we headed deep into the jungle. Climbing steep hills, dodging giant leaves and crossing creek beds, a smile never left my face-like a kid in a candy store!
I am at peace when I am in the forest. Virgin forest is magical, massive trees with intricate trunks, interlaced with vines and many defending themselves with long, sharp spike-each tree holds wisdom beyond its years.
With five of us pounding through the jungle I didn’t expect to see many creatures but…from monkeys to toucans, wildlife flourishes in the Esmeraldas Province. The closest thing I saw to a monkey was Captain. He was following the girls lead as they swung on the thick vines. But the vines couldn’t withstand his extra 100+ pounds. As Captain’s vine reached its peak, it slipped from its support and Captain came crashing down onto the jungle bed on his back. The girls were giggling watching Captain, a big kid playing in the jungle. I was thinking, “are you kidding?! Now we definitely scared all the wildlife away!”
The forest was untouched except for the path The Farmer was slashing down with his machete. With a quicker pace, The Farmer made his way up the hills with more ease than me and Captain. With his machete moving to and fro, we were sure not to follow too close!
Prehistoric ferns and enormous leaves lined the walkway. Birds of paradise flowering around every bend. The jungle was thick with greenery and vines. Hiding in the treetops were birds singing their tunes.
When we came to a fallen giant tree across the path, surely we would be turning around. I thought wrong because The Farmer held up his machete and started whacking the tree truck. He chopped right through the tree and we kept moving forward!
Captain and I were trucking through the forest in our rubber boots and the girls were following closely behind in their flip-flops. At first, I was amazed these girls had on sandals for ‘the wild jungle tour’ but then I remembered this is Ecuador. I have seen children doing outrageous things. Flip-flops in the jungle were nothing…
By the time we headed back, after an hour of serious hiking through the jungle I didn’t know if I could make it to the top of another one of the hills where The Farmer’s home resided. Farmer grabbed a stalk of one the plants growing at the edge of the creek and chopped it at the base. Sugar cane!
With his machete, The Farmer was peeling the 5 foot long stalk. He instructed me to hold one end while he chopped off chunks for each of us. I saw this guy swinging his machete in the jungle and was impressed. But now he was chopping something in my hand? “You gotta be kidding me?!?”
There was no need to worry-Farmer probably had a machete in his hand since he was 3!
Raw sugar! I chomped down on the stalk and the pure goodness dripped out. Next, I sprinted up the hill that minutes ago, I was dreading…
Often I think about raising a family with Captain here in Ecuador. I question what kind of life they will lead compared to growing up in the US. They will probably run around, playing in bare feet and feel at home in the “wild” jungle. It seems my motherly instincts will be used more in civilization than in the wild! I will definitely be saying no to this…
Riding on top on moving vehicles!
Riding in the back of a propane delivery truck!
Riding on the outside of speeding buses!
Riding motorcycles as toddler. “I don’t care what your dad says!!!”
When I asked Captain about child safety and parenting in Ecuador he said, “That’s why they all have eight kids, so they have a few to spare!” He is kidding, of course…