15 May 2017
Another crazy, dangerous minibus ride took us to Quillabamba where we spent the night in a local hostel. Three friendly American ladies shared the first part of our ride. We talked non-stop and exchanged detail and experiences. During the final leg of our journey, there was very little conversation. We were exhausted. A quick meal at a local eatery, followed by a cold shower concluded a long, eventful day.
Early the next morning marked the start of our jungle adventure. A drive in an old 4×4 truck – kids and backpacks on the open back – took us into the jungle where we would spend three unforgettable days.
We were dropped off on Goyo’s farm. Here we met Vicky, our lovely hostess, her old mother, her sister, her brother-in-law, her nephew, two dogs, four cats and a kitchen full of guinea pigs. A whole new world opening up to us in the hours and days to come. Shocking, fascinating and beautiful.
We visited different farms and families on foot. Each receiving us with great amounts of foreign food and drinks. Each struggling to make a living, yet willing to share all they have. Nobody speaks English, but we somehow were able to have long conversations around many a kitchen table. Each with a fire for cooking and guinea pigs for food. And cats to catch the mice and rats and dogs to sound the alarm upon unwelcome visits. A different world! Nothing is wasted and nothing is thrown away, not even the pellets in the gut of the slaughtered guinea pigs.
Mother’s Day in the jungle was a very special occasion. Families go from house to house, presenting and receiving food. Every new guest or home implies a massive plate of food. And you can’t refuse. You have to eat and drink it all. Stretching, humbling and totally wonderful.
At home I had to help prepare our special meal. I had to hold the bag as Vicky and her sister grabbed six guinea pigs from the kitchen. I watched as they were put to sleep and then had the “joy” of dunking the bodies in boiling water before stripping off the fur. A more difficult process than you might think. I also learnt how to take the entrails out and clean and cook these. The guinea pigs were marinated in the special mix of garlic and spices which I was grinding and mixing between two large stones earlier that morning. This was preceded by a breakfast of home made hot chocolate (we did everything from getting the beans out to grinding and boiling the cacao) and hairy potatoes.
Three of our guinea pigs were roasted on sticks and the other three were fried in a pot. All on the fire in Vicky’s cozy kitchen. We also boiled potatoes and rice and green bananas.
In the jungle we got to harvest coffee with big bags tied around us. It was rather difficult trying not to slide down the muddy slopes while pulling down the branches to get to the coffee. Loads of fun, though. We then emptied our bags into a large trough where we washed the beans before putting it through a mechanical peeler. From here it goes into another trough where it ferments overnight. The next day it is spread out on a slab of concrete to dry in the sun. Every afternoon it is scooped up and stored, just to be spread out again to dry the day after. This process goes on for three to five days, depending on the weather.
I really enjoyed the roasting process. This is done in a ceramic pot over an open fire. The smell is to die for! Then, as soon as the beans are sufficiently cooled down, the hand grinder turns those dark brown beans into rich grains of coffee. Hot water is filtered through the grains in a special coffee pot to produce coffee extract. This black liquid is added to a cup of boiled water to create the perfect cup of coffee. Rich and delicious! I had way too many of these!! Coffee in the jungle is all but instant. I loved the process as much as the freshly brewed coffee.
For three precious days, we were lost in a world previously unimaginable to us. For three precious days those jungle families worked their way deep into our hearts. We were sad to say goodbye and very sad to leave. Our lives have been enriched and our hearts have yet again been extended.
– Mariza –