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The South American Dream A long time coming...

Farmer Carolyn...Rio Muchacho!!

ECUADOR | Saturday, 28 May 2011 | Views [2588]

So I arrived in Cañoa in order to be picked up and taken to the farm with half an hour to spare...great timing on the buses and a crazy ride with copious amounts of coconut water to keep me company!

There was time for a quick cerviche before heading off to my vegetarian diet....I went to the beach shacks, no walls, straw roofs and a small hut for a kitchen...the cerviche was the best I´d had yet on my travels...mmm!

Arriving back to the Cañoa office, I met up with three other people who were also going to the farm, our pick up truck took us off, away from the town, along the main road and then off roading and into the jungle, bumping along in the back of the truck, standing up and clinging on so we didn´t fall off as we went up and down some small hills, crossed a couple of rivers and headed deeper into the unknown, the scenery was immense and when we eventually arrived at the farm, it was picture perfect!

After being shown to our quarters; the penthouse in the farm house, we had a quick tour of the essentials, the only drawback I discovered was that it took about 15 mins to walk to the toilet from the penthouse!  Not something you want to do in the middle of the night, or at 3am or 4am or 5am or 6am in the morning!

We had dinner soon after, it was unfortunately one of the few times they served pasta, which I can´t eat, so was left with salad and pesto...obviously the message hadn´t been passed on that I can´t eat wheat so it was a good job I had the cerviche! The owner did come to the rescue later offering to cook me fried plantain, I was fine though as the cerviche saw me though...mmm...so good! The food on the farm was generally pretty good, although, as with everywhere in Ecuador its very heavy on the carbs and light on the salad and protein...opposite to my diet really, and most others too.  It was all vegetarian too, which I don´t mind, as long as there is some protein!

That evening we had our introduction and briefing for the farm, we were assigned our morning routine for the week and found out a bit more about the plan of each day which was...

6.30-7.30am  Morning routines
8am          Breakfast
8.30-11.30am Morning gardening
11.30-1.30pm Lunch break
1.30-4.30pm  Afternoon projects/course
6pm          Dinner

Both weeks on the farm I had great morning routines.  The first week I was on chickens and harvesting.  This entailed feeding the chickens:

Chicken feeding...

Baby chickens...

and then going up to the garden and harvesting the food we needed to eat over the next few days...

Really hot chillis:

The harvest box....

We had a great team...

The second week I was in the kitchen, preparing the food for breakfast which involved wiping down the tables, cutting fruit, making bread and other wierd and wonderful foods, like peanut and plantain balls.

Again, we had a great team...unfortunately I don't have a photo...one to hopefully follow!

Other morning jobs were:

  • Pigs - cleaning out the pig pens and feeding the pigs
  • Cuy - cleaning out and feeing the guinea pigs
  • Caballos - horses, clearing out the stables and collecting new hay as well as washing the horses

Anyway, I think you´ll agree I got off pretty lightly!!

The rest of the morning was spent in the garden...off to work we go...

we prepared beds, and re-planted some food e.g. lettuces

planted new seeds...

watering, raking, hoeing and generally helping out the farm workers to the best of our abilities!  The farm boys were ledgendary, their skills and helpfulness was amazing, whilst our skills and helpfulness varied, I of course, probably sat somewhere near the bottom as I hadn´t really done much gardening or farming before, I got better over time though and have learnt some new skills as well as increased my strength...although people still laughed at me near the end when I was trying to big up bags of manure!!

The afternoons were taken up with project, there was updates to the school that were needed and we spent a lot of afternoons doing our apprenticeship course (and some mornings).  The course was really good and really interesting, we learnt a lot about the methods used in organic farming including the main principles, the importance of the moon, composting and worm farming to name a few of the topics.

The setting was great too:

We also got the chance to see a whole heap of films about sustainability and agriculture, they are mostly American based but I would suggest watching all of them, they are a real eye-opener:

  • The story of stuff
  • The Story of bottles
  • Food Inc.
  • The Future of Food
  • Dirt
  • The Power of the Community (based on Cuba)
  • The Nature of Things
  • The Farm of the Future

Wednesdays were cultural afternoons, unfotunately I was ill the first week and couldn´t attend the shrip fishing, but I did get involved in the face-painting:

x face-painting

In the second week, we went off in search of monkeys!  This involved four wheel driving further into the jungle for about half an hour and heading up a vertical cliff into the jungle (with one of the farm guys)..it was great fun and we found them after getting covered in dirt!

More monkeys...

The rest of the farm guys worked hard and cleared a massive area of grass and other plants in the shortest time...these guys are machines!

On the way back we stopped off at a lagoon for a swim, perfect after the trek up the cliff!

The farm didn´t have internet or phone access so it was pretty chilled in the evenings which was nice, films and reading and making rings were the main activities in the evenings, as well as walking 20 mins to the local shop (someone´s house which looked like a shack) for a beer and a muffin. I didn´t partake in the shop walk usually as I was detoxing!  The ring making was great and I made a ring from a coconut shell.

We also got the chance to make organic chocolate, it was great fun and really tasty..

1. Roast the cocoa beans

2. Peel the bean shell off

3. Grind the beans

4. After melting them down, enjoy!

On the weekend we were desperate for the internet and protein so we headed into Cañoa for some cerviche, ice creams, an internet session and some beach time.  On the middle weekend there happened to be a party in the local community, it was 3 people´s birthdays so they were having a joint celebration!  We were invited so we dressed up in our finest gear

and walked the hour it took to go down the dirt track to the party.  Being foreigners we turned up way too early at 9pm but hung out with the small ones..

before the rest of the community came along and took to the dance floor to show us how it was done

I retired early, about 3am, after falling asleep (I wasn´t used to staying out so late, usual bedtime on the farm was about 8.30-9pm!). So a couple of us walked the hour back before raiding the garden banana stash for a midnight snack (sorry, it was only a few we took).

The final Saturday we also had an internet session, and I managed to have my first red meat in 2 weeks in the form of a cheeseburger (very bad but I was in desperate need of protein and we all started craving cheeseburgers!).  There was a local football game on between the communities and we managed to catch part of that (they play on hard ground, which seems crazy) before I jumped on a bus to Quito.

At one point I was going to need to get a bus from the next town but further investigating, an Ecuadorian managed to by-pass the scary shop assistant in the pharmacy, (where you buy your bus ticket) and bought a ticket directly from Cañoa.  I then managed to do the same thing, with a little help from my friend, which meant I could travel with someone I knew and stay in Cañoa to enjoy my last night with the great friends I´d met at the farm.

Tags: cañoa, ecuador, farm, rio muchacho, volunteer, volunteering


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