Day 7: Tourism Day
The itinerary for today was simple: we were going to Hacienda Jambeli and would return only when we felt ready to leave. In other words, we were having a tourist day with lots of down time.
Hacienda Jambeli, is a banana and cocoa plantation contracted by Dole with agriculture tourism that is also a rehabilitation and recovery center for endangered species. We toured the banana section first; rows upon rows of never ending bananas plants. Our guide explained how they prune the plants, why they keep the older plants even if they will not blossom, and how competition takes place among the plants. Nifty facts and tricks to produce more fruitful plants. The real surprise was how the workers transport the bananas and themselves around the banana plantation; workers have a swing, bananas have hooks, that attach to a device that rolls along lifted rails placed through every row. Naturally being the adventurous an bunch, we decided to test run the rails by sitting on the swing and propelling ourselves forward with a bamboo stick (just like the plantation workers). The simple pleasures in life like Kelly falling off the rail or figuring out that it is more work when you propel yourself uphill than downhill, made the banana plantation that much more enjoyable.
As we moved into the cocoa section, our guide disappeared among the trees only to return moments later with a pod in hand. She cracked open a cocoa pod revealing a brain stem like substance known as the vein or the ‘fleshy part’ of the cocoa pod. One by one we each reached into the pod and grasped a seed to suck on, no one had predicted that the fruit would be so deliciously sweet and tender. Up next was the rehabilitation and recovery, as we wondered around the center we saw that one of the endangered animals here were also present at the Guayaquil National Historic Park (Day 4): the Spider Monkey, which once again occupied most of our viewing time at the center. The birds at the center were particularly entertaining because of their ability to mimic speech (restricted to Spanish), laughter, and whistling. Who knew a bird repeating almost everything you said could be so entertaining?
After lunch, everyone who was not passed out on a hammock, gathered their swim gear and headed towards the lake. Julio had warned us that the lake would be cold and shook his head as we prepared ourselves to enter the agua (water). Oh Julio, we are from Canada, it snowed the week before we left; the word ‘cold’ has almost no bearing on us in Ecuador. The water was absolutely gorgeous and filled with ‘cold’ and warm pockets of water. Once the paddles and kayaks were brought out, the possibilities were endless and the entertainment value priceless: kayaking around a small island in the middle of the lake, trying to do inversion yoga poses while on the moving kayaks, paddle surfing, swimming across the lake and back, trying to capsize each other, reenacting scenes from the Titanic, and begrudgingly draining a kayak after half of it sunk and refused to resurface.
Later in the afternoon a few of us got the opportunity to go horse back riding, an interesting experience considering none of us had proper footwear, jeans (or even longer pants) and were wet from swimming. The word you are looking for is chafing. We rode the horses in the square pen/soccer field, alternating between walking and trotting (equivalent to a slower jog for a horse) until the four corners of the field no longer held my horse’s interest, who seemed to be the alpha of the group. In other words, every time we set out for the corner with the gate, my horse would pick up speed and try to escape. Fortunately, I was more stubborn than his tenacity and he soon abandoned his escape plan. We continues to ride around the pen another half a dozen times more before we decided to dismount and return our horses to the stables, riding just long enough for our legs to be a light shade of redish-pink.
Once everyone was had their fill of swimming, we loaded up the bus and headed back to the hostel. After everyone was showered and dressed, we headed to the Malecón 2000 in search of a restaurant to celebrate Shellie’s birthday. We ate, laughed, and sang lyrics from Taylor Swift’s song 22, and devoured a cake with matches for candles. What a delightful way to end a wonderful day.