The price of coffee in Peru

Author: Jarik

We met Grandma Thomase during our stay with the Andean family in the Peruvian highlands. Actually, we stayed in her house and on her farm as we were hosted by her daughter and her family. No one is sure of her age, but everyone agree that she is around ninety. She and her husband have been part of the activities on the 6ha farm perched on the forested slopes for as long as anyone can remember (seventy years or so). They started as hired hands in their twenties, working the coffee, cocoa and pineapple plantations and staffing the kitchen of the hacienda. Around fourty years ago, they became the owners of the land – purchased through hard work. They have invested a lifetime in these steep fertile slopes.

When we were introduced to Grandma Thomase, she was busy skinning coffee beans with the manual husker/grinder. She was processing her harvest that she hand-picked earlier in the morning. Later the afternoon we saw her wash and select yesterday’s harvest that has by this time fermented and is now ready to be dried in the sun for a couple of days. She produces about 50kg of dried coffee beans per week during the harvest season – 100% Organic – because there are no other means available. The bag of raw coffee beans is taken to the local market in Quillabamba once a week by hitching a ride on the back of a pick-up.

Coffee merchants purchase bags of coffee from the subsistence farmers, making up larger parcels. These are transported to larger centres and changes hands a few times until it reaches Lima where it is acquired by export merchants and roasters that make the precious produce available to espresso and latte drinkers all over the world.

Globally, coffee consumption has risen 18% over the past 10 years, reaching 9.1Mt in 2016. Being a globally traded commodity, new and cheaper production capacity, mechanisation and concentration of production has driven coffee prices lower and global inventory higher regardless of increase in demand. Improvement in yields and input costs are required to satisfy the requirement for returns to the investors. One strategy producers are following is to differentiate to extract higher prices – speciality roast, flavour selected, single origin, fair-trade and now even barrel aged (similar to wine and whisky courtesy of Nestle).

Grandma Thomase gets ~USD80 for her 50kg bag of coffee. The price has been higher in the past but without direct access to the market, she is at the mercy of the merchants and transporters. Her land is not conducive to mechanisation and she has no access to capital.

I was very encouraged to stumble upon a government sponsored agricultural expo during our stay in Chachapoyas. It showcased very basic equipment and opportunities for mechanisation and yield improvements clearly aimed at the small-scale farmer. This, as well as infrastructure development to improve access to markets and reduce transportation costs are required to remain competitive. To stimulate this, investment is needed.

Grandma Thomase gets just more than USD0.01 (yes one cent!) of the USD3.50 for a cup of coffee we buy, yet she has invested seventy years in its production. Transition is never without cost, whether it be physical, emotional, or in the case of Grandma Thomase’s coffee in Peru, economical.

–  Jarik –


From Chile to Peru

Author: Mariza

3 May 2017

We’ve had an unforgettable month in Chile. As I’m sitting on the small plane to Lima, Peru, my heart is full of precious, priceless memories. It has been an eye opening and both a habit and perspective changing experience.

Those who know me would be shocked to learn that I’ve exchanged my leave tea in potfuls for black instant coffee. I’m sipping it out of our little flask lid as I’m writing this. We were able to carry food, hot and cold water and our own can of coffee powder all the way through check-in, customs, the security check and onto the plane. And this is an international flight. I like it!!

The biggest adjustment was not the dirty dwellings, disgusting clinging shower curtains or having rock-hard white buns with a tiny slither of cheese served for breakfast, but the fact that toilets in South America cannot flush toilet paper. That is all I am going to say about that.

Our Chilean adventure started and ended in the capital city, Santiago. Upon arrival we chose to stay in the old city centre. Excellent choice! We very quickly discovered a colourful world, light years removed from our everyday existence in Brisbane, Australia. We ventured into interesting neighbourhoods with beautiful people, sometimes quite significantly off the beaten track. What a wonderful way to start our adventure!

When we returned to Santiago after a month, our biggest aim was to find new shoes for  four out of the six pairs of feet. We opted for the modern side of the city for this reason.

Track running shoes is the compromise for being unable to have both walking boots and running shoes. Kali and I have destroyed our Asics running shoes over the hundreds of kilometres of walking over the course of a month. We ran a lot too, but that’s what they were made for. WP_20170502_20_30_12_Rich (Small)Ruzow’s shoes held up remarkably well, considering they were of no significant brand or price range. But one month was the absolute maximum he could squeeze out of them. Esto had his first shoe replacement in El Calafate, Argentina at an exhorbitant amount of money. It lasted him only three weeks, even though they looked better than the first pair towards the end. He completed the last two days of our Torres del Paine track in shoes with more hole than sole. And he had to wear them for two more days, walking long distances with his backpack, as one was a Sunday with no open shoe stores and the next was a public holiday in a different country. Eulain already had a shoe replacement and Jarik bought brand new trail runners just before we left Brisbane. The only surviving original pair.

We arrived back in Santiago on none other than a public holiday. That means EVERYTHING is closed. So the next day and our last in Chile, was dedicated to shoe shopping. After many miles of walking and many confusing bus rides, Kali, Ruzow and myself had fancy new Salomon trail runners and Esto the sturdiest hiking boots (which he will just have to run in too) we could find. These have a one year guarantee. Mmm… We shall see.WP_20170502_17_42_33_Rich (Small)

Jarik and I celebrated Chile with a bottle of the most delicious Syrah we acquired during our “shaky” day out in the Casablanca wine region. We’ve seen breathtakingly beautiful things, had incredible experiences, met beautiful people and made many precious memories. Our children’s eyes have been opened and their horizons broadened. We are better people for having encountered Chile.

– Mariza –

A selection of Chilean experiences (Ruzow)

Author: Ruzow

Our First Time In Santiago (23-26 March)

We spent our first three days of our world adventure in Santiago. I saw many interesting old buildings, ate interesting food and met interesting people. As you may have noticed, I had a very interesting time.

One of the interesting buildings that I saw, had the exterior of a small corner shop, but the interior of a beautiful restaurant. Full of old furniture, and chandeliers. There were many small stores and stalls in the streets, these were full of weird and wonderful things for sale.

I saw some amazing street art. Some told a story and others were just colour to the street. But they were all beautiful contributing to making the street lively.

The busses in Santiago, are old and rickety. They look and sound like they are going to break down at any given moment. The rest of the traffic is also very busy, for example, we were walking down the street, when suddenly, a motorbike came darting towards us at a huge speed. People were scrambling to get out of its way. Also we were in an Uber on our way to the airport, when a taxi came rushing past us a top speed, it looked like it was going to slide off the road any second. In Santiago, pedestrians do not have the right of way, cars just rush past. Other than that, the traffic is not too bad.

We walked through many smaller streets, that were full of old buildings and street art. There were also little stalls with fresh fruit, fresh fruit drinks and fresh food. These were all relatively cheap and very good to eat.

We stayed in the old part of Santiago, it is the more lower class, but still very beautiful. Just two short bus rides away, is a huge modern city with big shopping centres and skyscrapers. You see a massive contrast when going from the old part to the new part.

I learnt a bit more basic Spanish, so I could at least communicate the basics with the local people who mostly do not understand a word of English.

To me, Santiago is an amazing place to visit, but I would probably not decide to live there permanently.

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Shaken While Home Alone

Mum and Dad went out to the wine land for the day. We had just finished our school work and were about to put on a movie, when suddenly everything started shaking………………………….

It was about 12 PM, when the windows started rattling, furniture shaking and Kali panicking. She shoved the electronic devices between the pillows on the couch and ordered us to run to the beach. We all followed her.

We ran to the beach under Kali’s command. She had mum’s phone with her and started to try and contact Dad. Unfortunately, the phone did not work, which made her stress even more.

Strangely no one else came running out. After about ten minutes, we decided to go back inside. Everything was quiet and calm. We put on our movie, and waited for Mum and Dad to arrive.

Later when they were home, we found out that these earthquakes happen regularly in the area. “Only run if you see the locals running”.

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Back In Santiago

We left our beautiful beach-side apartment in Concon at about 12:15 PM. After a short bus ride to Vina del Mar, we got on the bus to Santiago. The bus ride was pleasant, although, it seemed that every time I was writing something important on the iPad, we would go around a sharp bend or over a bump in the road. Other than that, it was fine.

When we arrived in Santiago, for our third and final time, we went straight to the nearest local bus stop. We had planned to go to the shopping centre as soon as we arrived, because we could only check in at our lodgings at 6 PM. We needed to take two busses. Huddling into an overcrowded orange bus, we completed the first part of the way. We got off the bus and waited for the next bus to arrive. After about fifteen minutes of waiting, it finally came into view. I got aboard but the driver abruptly motioned to me to get off. There was something wrong with the bus. After another ten minutes of waiting, we were allowed to get on.

On arrival at the shopping centre, we noticed that none of the shops were open. Of course………… it was a public holiday. We were all disappointed as we walked towards our apartment. But to our surprise, as we walked through a large park, we saw hundreds of people all having picnics, playing sport and just chatting to each other.

According to the GPS on Dad’s phone, we still had 2.2 kilometres to go. We arrived twenty minutes later with our heavy backpacks. We went in and dropped them on the floor. It was a brand new apartment, we were the first people to stay in it!!!

Dad and I went outside to find something to eat for dinner. We walked down the road, nothing was open except, an extremely expensive café and a pizza restaurant. We went back to our apartment and told the others. We decided on pizza, and went right away. We were extremely hungry!!

The pizza restaurant was completely empty when we got there. We walked in, sat down at a table and started talking to the delighted chef. He spoke a little English, so between him and Dad’s translator, we managed to figure out the menu and order our pizza.

After about 20 minutes, we were served our freshly baked pizzas. As we were eating, we noticed, that the chef took the blackboard menu out onto the sidewalk. The restaurant was only supposed to open now. No wonder there was no one else in the restaurant!

After dinner, we went back to our apartment. I could not wait to get into my warm bed.

– Ruzow –


29 April 2017

Author: Mariza

Picture perfect is the view from our beach villa in Concon. The stunning blue ocean dotted with sailboats directly in front of us and an impressive number of big yachts in the marina a little to the left. Top this off with clear blue skies, sunshine and a gentle sea breeze and you have our Saturday afternoon captured.

The boys’ fire is almost ready for our barbeque and the bubbles ice cold and ready. Life is wonderful!!

We took a local bus from Valparaiso and travelled about an hour down the coast. First we passed through Vina del Mar, a modern city with many high-rises and shops. Very neat with a lovely boardwalk and park along the shore over a couple of kilometres. Next down the coast is Renaca and then Concon. All these places, from Valparaiso to Concon, are intertwined. It’s impossible to see where one ends and the next starts. From one end of the bay to the other, it looks like one sprawling city from the ocean up the hills and around the bay.

Our arrival in Concon was not exactly uneventful. Not only did we have to walk for miles with our backpacks and food, but we did so in the wrong direction. Not all that difficult to accomplish when your host speaks no English and doesn’t provide you with a proper address. It’s a bit like hit and miss. And a loooooooooooooong walk!! But we got there in the end. Hot and sweaty and tired and hungry (we are always hungry!!). Our host was super nice, though, and drove 2 hours all the way from Santiago to personally welcome us to his holiday villa. His wife joined him and saw to it that we were surprised with a lovely clean place. Finding clean accommodation has not been the rule, but the exception, unfortunately. All very character building, so we can’t complain too much.

Our friendly host took us up to our fourth level villa in the cable car lift. The kids LOVED it! Between our almost non-existent Spanish and Ricardo’s translator on his phone, we manage to connect and have a few laughs. Amazing how language is an important, but only small part of communication.

It’s been three glorious days of soaking up the gorgeous views and we all feel like we could stay here forever. Jarik has even spotted an old dilapidated oceanfront building we could fix and turn into a hostel, bakery and penthouse apartment. We’ve been running along the narrow, winding ocean road every morning. So beautiful and special. And dark!! Especially the second morning. Sunrise is only at 8am, so if you’re running between 6 and 7, you don’t even get to see the light dawning until you’re back on your porch. And it makes for a very interesting run, especially in those areas without street lights. Just ask Kali, who tripped over a rock and left some skin on the pavement.

Yesterday Jarik and I left the kids at home to do some school work, while the two of us explored the Casablanca wine region. We both love cool climate wines, so we were in the right spot for a good experience. No sooner were we getting into our first tasting session or an earthquake shook the place so violently that I thought the wine bottles might end up on top of us. We all had to run outside where we had to decide whether we would move our tasting venue or go back into the cellar. In the meantime, the kids back home experienced the same quake. Two by the time we got in touch with them – they outside on the beach after their evacuation and us back in the cellar. Not much that you can do in a situation like that, other than to stay calm and enjoy the excitement.

The kids finally made their way back into our villa and managed to do a surprising amount of school work. Jarik and I continued our wine tasting, had a beautiful entrée with a delectable, heavy, buttery chardonnay and moved onto the next winery. By the time we got home, we were all laughing about our earth-shattering day and were ready for a night out on our ocean town.

Concon turned out to be a stunning holiday for our family. Love, love love it!!

– Mariza –


Author: Kali

It was the late afternoon of the 24th of April and we were having a walk, slowly making our way home after a long, satisfyingly run. All the way we ran along the sharp, high cliffs that cut down to the icy blue ocean water. It was beautiful!
As we were rounding a curve on the long and windy sea-view road, I felt a bit of a shake, like when a heavy truck roars across the bridge you are standing on. Only, this time I was on solid ground! I also saw a bunch of rocks and sand falling. Strange…
I asked around if any of the others had felt anything, but surprisingly, they did’t! As a matter of fact, mum did’t even seem to believe me. This left me wondering until…
Suddenly all hell broke loose. All the deafening emergency sirens went off in the city, and a large, black cloud of smoke was rising from somewhere within the city centre. An official was running towards us, yelling a few urgent sentences in Spanish, of which we could not understand a single word. Seeing the confused and bewildered looks on our faces, he stopped to explain some more. Eventually we could make out that there was a tsunami heading towards the coast, and we were to head for the hills in evacuation.
Busses, cars, local trams and any other sort of vehicle rushed up towards the narrow streets heading up the steep hills. Many people were rushing up along the cobble stone sidewalks, chattering excitedly of the happenings. All tv’s in the houses, hostels, and apartments were blaring with the most recent news, and many people were holding out either their cellphones or radios to get an update of the events just down below. It was mayhem!
Many questions followed, considering our belongings, our apartment, where we should be heading, and any further news or updates about the tsunami. Our apartment was in the city centre itself, and around 30m from the shore of the harbour, on the 3rd floor.
It was now getting late, and we were starting to freeze in our short running cloths at this hour of the night, and so decided to head for home. Surprisingly, after no real action, the chaos started to calm down, and we were now able to access our apartment.
As soon as we got home, we found our whole patio wet. The firemen must’ve sprayed it too! We immediately switched on the tv so we could find out what exactly we’ve been through, or not.
Soon we discovered that in the heart of the city, at 6:30pm local time there was an earthquake at a scale of 6.9! This explained the shaking I had felt earlier. We saw footage of the items in a grocery store being thrown off the shelves, the top level of a building burning in flames with fireman doing their duties, and a large rock fall and smash a parked car. Luckily, there was minor destruction, and no people were injured.
But as we were sitting at the table, having dinner, we all felt a small, yet clear tremor, and looked at each other with wide eyes. At least we are all safe, and soon after snuggled under our warm covers after a long day of celebrating
Mum’s birthday, and of course, evacuation and all the drama that had gone with it. What an adventure, and hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime experience! 😉

Until next time,
– Kali  –

(The fire and smoke rising from the building in the photograph above was at the centre of the chaos during the tsunami evacuation alert. Our apartment was about two blocks from that building. We took this picture from high up in the hills!) 

Lazy at Llanquihue – Chile

Author: Jarik

15 April

We spent a magical couple of days 24.780km outside of Puerto Varas along the shore of Lago Llanquihue (“yan-key-way”), the largest lake in Chile. We know the exact distance, as this is what you let the bus driver know when you take the local bus from Puerto Varas to Ensenada, the next closest town down the 280km of lake shoreline. Magical, because of the beautiful surroundings. Timber shingle homes, apple trees bountiful with the last fruits of summer, raspberries and murta berries, green pastures with sheep, cattle and alpacas, a lake where every rock and boulder is visible through the clear water and the ever present Osorno volcano – keeping guard over it all. The area is a favourite domestic vacation destination and the lake shore and hills are dotted with lodges, cabanas and fishing cabins.  There is a strong German heritage in the area, reflected in the architecture and the names of buildings and shops in the very pretty town centre.

Spending an afternoon with the people I love, sitting on large boulders along the water’s edge, kids exploring the coves with paddleboards, I cannot help reflecting on what we value and how we choose to shape our lives around that. I am sure that there is room for an additional couple of cabanas in the area, or perhaps an apple cider micro-brewery?

– Jarik –

Puerto Varas – Chile

Author: Mariza

11 April

Puerto Varas – Chile Lake District

We have arrived in paradise. 24km out of Puerto Varas on a farm in a gorgeous old cottage is where we will be spending our next four days. Well, not exactly IN the cottage the whole time, even though I would not mind that.

We took a local bus from Puerto Varas, a very beautiful, charming town, to our destination. You can simply ask to be dropped anywhere along the road between two towns and then pay for the distance traveled before disembarking. Cheerful Spanish music and lovely scenery make for a very pleasant trip.

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We met our host and her two eldest daughters walking up their driveway – us from the bus and they from the little local school down the road. We were welcomed by their two almost identical, huge, Pyrenees puppies. In our charming timber kitchen waited freshly baked bread rolls and apples from the orchard. Yummo!!

The farm is on Lake Llanquihue, with Volcano Osorno, snow capped and majestic in the background. The kids had a swim in the lake, while Jarik and I enjoyed a glass of wine (compliments of our wonderful hosts), sitting on a log-bench. Life doesn’t get much better than this.

– Mariza –

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Up to the Torres

Author: Ruzow

We started our hike up the mountains to Torres Lookout at about 8am. Throughout the hike, I saw many beautiful and amazing things. The mountains were full of beautiful flora, fauna and beautiful streams and a river.

We climbed up the rocky track and came to a part of the path where we had to walk through a narrow stretch right on the edge of a high cliff above the river. It was very exciting. Soon we came to the Chileano ranger station. There we only had a look around, filled our water bottles and set off on our journey again.

During the entire hike, we had to cross many streams and a river. Every time we came to a stream, we would have to scramble across, trying hard not to get wet. Esto slipped almost every time. Some parts of the track were muddy, and others were just rocky, but altogether, it made it more of an adventure.

Then we arrived at the final stretch of the hike. It was rocky and very rough going. We slowly but surely clambered up. For most of the time, we were using our hands to grip the rocks in front of us. We had to go up single file for most of the way. I slipped twice and hurt my arm, luckily not badly.

Finally, we arrived at the lookout, the view was astounding!!!! There were large boulders around a lake. This lake was at the foot of the three peaks. It was beautiful. I saw the mountains around these peaks were of different colours and some were covered in snow. This hike was the best I have ever done.

– Ruzow –

Family in Natales

Author: Mariza

2 April 2017

Our ferry was there to pick us up, along with a whole horde of others, some equally surprised by the change in ferry times, at 6:35pm from magical Torres Del Paine. We craned our necks this way and that to drink in the spectacular sights all around us. A sundrenched peak over here and a snow-capped mountain over there. Too much beauty to absorb.

On the other side of the lake we scrambled to secure six seats on a bus to Puerto Natales. The first bumpy stretch saw both Kali and me green with motion sickness. All the dry biscuits and mints in the world could not have made it better. I even had my Annie’s motion sickness wristband on, but to no avail. More than three hours of this – oh my!

We all had a little snooze on the bus. Esto was not happy to be dragged off his seat and have a heavy backpack loaded onto his back. After sleepwalking for the first few blocks, he was wide awake by the time we reached our destination.

Even though we arrived in the middle of the night, our friendly hosts were there in full force to welcome us into their home. The mum and dad speak no English, so the daughter played translator. Alison is seventeen and a lovely, friendly girl. The parents are warm, wonderful people with a heart as big as the wide open spaces around this gorgeous little town. What a treasure we have found in these beautiful people.

On Sunday morning we all had a sleep-in. Bliss!! People in Chile go to bed late and get up late too. We sat eating and talking around the breakfast table for a long time. Precious, precious, precious!!! We reluctantly left the warm house to walk to the bus ticket office. We made it just in time for the siesta, so we had to go back after 4pm.

We wandered through the streets of this interesting little town. A house next to a shop next to a bar next to a house next to a mechanic next to a house next to an adult club next to a school… all mixed together to form a colourful neighbourhood.

Our host, Gloria, went out of her way to prepare a traditional Chilean meal for her guests. Delicious!! We found ourselves squeezed in around a table with two North Koreans, two Swedish, one Argentinean, three Chileans and a fluffy dog. Happy babbling in different languages and lots of hand signage made for a very festive family dinner. Again we sat long and talked much, drinking in the richness of being together.

Everything from washing dishes to brushing teeth is a shared affair, accompanied by much laughter and arm waving. What we experienced in that cosy home is beyond description. Community like we love it. Thank you Oscar, Gloria and Alison for opening your hearts and home to us.

– Mariza –


The pinnacle

Author: Jarik

You can fill a thousand postcards with the vast landscapes of Patagonia. We were blessed to experience this spectacular treasure of nature in perfect weather and with the colour of autumn in the trees. Our 10km (one-way) hike from the Cerro Norte Refugio (lodge), where we spent our first night, to the base of the Torres del Paine (three towers) was truly breathtaking. The hike follows the course of a crystal clear river, taking you deep into a valley flanked by large, rugged black mountains with snow capped peaks. Every rise or bend holds a surprise as the trail twists slowly upwards through forest and over boulder strewn clearings. At some points the path barely clings to the steep sides of the black shale with the river negotiating a path through the landscape far below. After about 9km’s, the trail makes a sharp left turn and then basically follows the flow-path of an ice-melt stream, gaining 180m in elevation over very rough terrain. We pursue the seemingly vertical, wet path over white boulders, upwards towards a large field of rock debris high up in the mountain. The views towards the valley below are spectacular. And then, climbing around another large boulder, the “torres” in full view. Nothing can prepare you for the majesty of seeing the white spires towering another 2000m above you  against the blue sky and surrounded by black mountains. Their blue glacier lake contributes to the sense of sacredness, with the vertical cliffs being so close, but yet still unattainable on the other side of the icy water.

– Jarik –

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