What’s good friends?!! Our first night at the Iyarina lodge was definitely an adjustment. We went from the comforts of a Quito hotel to an environment that was per se… more connected to nature. Said nature, however, completely made up for the lack of the comforts that I am used to in my day-to-day life. I woke up to an enormous river appearing outside of my bedroom window, which was actually surprising since it was too dark to see anything the night before. And man was it roarin’ – I thought to myself “Is that really the river we are canoeing down later in our trip?” And luckily for my safety, it was not. But it was still very pleasant to admire from a distance (although I low key still wanted to swim in it).
We started our day bright and early per usual, and ate family style above the compound kitchen. Ecuador has yet to miss on breakfast, or any meal for that matter, which the heavily picky eater in me is grateful for. Enough about the food though – I walked around the lodge to explore with a few friends, and saw a lot of cool different plants and bugs that you definitely do not see back home.
Today was a chill day since the river was too rough to do a river hike. With that, we started our day by walking across the street to a forest filled to the brim with cacao trees and pods. This was our first exposure to the actual live pods of the entire trip, and it did not disappoint. We started by each picking a cacao pod. We were told that the best ones to pick are the ones with bright colors shining through the seams. After that, we broke them open and tried the delicious white fruit that coated the beans inside. I then went for it and scooped all of the seeds out with my hand and put them in a bucket that would have to sit there for about a week before the next steps of the chocolate making process could be carried out.
However, we simply did not have a week of time, so when we went back to the lodge, we were shown the rest of the process using beans that had already fermented. He started by roasting the beans in a large pan over the fire for about five minutes. After that he placed the roasted beans on the table and showed us how to peel the skin off, which we then tried for ourselves. We then grinded the peeled and roasted beans in a manual grinder before putting the powder in a pan of water and sugar. The resulting melted chocolate was for us to try on some delicious bananas… it was YUMMMMM to say the least.
The last part of our day involved us getting a visit from Kallari chocolate, who taught us a lot about not only the chocolate making process, but the importance of giving back to the land and involving indigenous people in the making of the chocolate. We even had a chocolate tasting that gave us really cool insight into the minute differences between different bars of chocolate. And of course, we got to buy some (my personal favorite part)!
Tomorrow, we will be up bright and early to canoe into the Waorani nation. Trust me, you are not going to want to miss this blog.
‘Till then, peace out!