The Real Rio Muchacho
All I knew about Rio Muchacho was the short blurb it has in the Lonely Planet.
But the book only mentions Rio Muchacho as an organic farm you can visit outside of Canoa on the Manabi coast of Ecuador. They sell tours of the farm and offer apprenticeships in sustainable agriculture.
Hence my confusion when I met Edgar at the Amalur and he said he lives in Rio Muchacho.
What people don’t know is that this is actually a thriving agricultural community. I guess the organic farm wasn’t clever enough to come up with a cool name, it just took the name of the community and claimed it as its own. All the farms in this area are organic.
So when Edgar invited us over to their house, we were thrilled! Sweet, we thought, a chance to see what this place is really like without the annoyance of a tour guide.
And thus I bring you a very picture-heavy look into the real Rio Muchacho…
Edgar has a story or five waiting to be told; we’d sit around listening to his childhood tales of machete fights, baby cow attacks, and how he came to own his boa skin with keen ears. Or how as a child he worked on neighbouring farms in exchange for milk. Milk? Yes, milk. This is certainly not the upbringing we’re used to. If you you know how undeveloped the coast of Ecuador is now, imagine what it was like 10, 20 years ago. We’re talking before plastic and tv. They still don’t have phone lines out in these parts. We’ve encountered coastal Ecuadorian children who don’t know what the internet is.
It’s suffice to say he’s an interesting character, not to mention he always has a smile on his face.
One day Edgar left for Quito and came back toting a gorgeous American girl, introducing her as his girlfriend, Rachel. She’s been in Ecuador for several years working on organic farms, owning a bar, and most recently teaching English at the local school in Canoa.
The pair of them are one in a few: kind, generous and full of laughs. They love their community and work towards bettering it. Their farm is being reforested to bring it back to it’s true jungly state but for now they just have a million and one papayas growing rampant. Yum.
We got a ride out to their house and were immediately greeted by wagging tails and a lot of slobbery kisses by these four friendly faces.
Carmelo, Salim, Sandy and Freddy are all rescue dogs—there are two others living at Edgar’s dads house on the same property that like to wander over looking for some love ‘n some grub. There are so many stray dogs in Ecuador it’s hard to only take in a few, but they’re doing a pretty good job.
Edgar built their house himself. He creatively stuck whiskey bottles in the cement of the walls to create these little green windows throughout the main floor. A lot of the wood used was found on the beach or recycled from people no longer using it.
The upstairs had an outdoor patio section that was draped in loofah vines. When they’re fully grown you just pick it, let it dry out and you have yourself a loofah. How cool?
That’s where Michu likes to hang out; on her pedestal where the dogs can’t bother her.
We got there in the late afternoon and had to tend to the animals before it got dark.
We picked some yucca plants to feed to the pigs. Boy, were they happy to see us.
We tossed in their greens and Edgar poured their daily slop into their bowl. The pigs started inhaling their portions and I could see why; everyone was trying to get in on their dinner.
Pigs, dogs and chickens sufficiently stuffed, it was time to round up the cows—a somewhat difficult task when there are six hyperactive dogs barking and chasing them.
In true country-boy style, Edgar whipped out his rope to lasso the horses so they could come too.
And everyone in tow, we made our way to the water. The cows made me giggle as they ran up and down the hills with their spindly little legs—but who am I to laugh?
They drank, and splashed, and grazed, and we made our way back to feed ourselves, picking passion fruits and papayas along the way.
I didn’t notice the donkey until our way back, he’s probably the chillest animal on the property—he just keeps to himself doing his thing.
Edgar whipped up some caipirinhas with the passion fruit and we sipped cocktails over dinner.
We roasted s’mores over a bonfire with chocolate and vanilla flavoured marshmallows (why don’t we have these in Canada?) long into the night before we all started falling asleep.
The next morning Rachel headed off to educate the Ecuadorian children and Edgar asked if we wanted to go get some free coffee. Of course our caffeine-addicted selves couldn’t put our shoes on fast enough.
He brought us to a neighbouring farm. The owners had a bunch of coffee plants they weren’t going to harvest. We started picking the little red beans and I could see why they he couldn’t be bothered—it was a lot of work and this was only the first of many steps. We gave up when our buckets were about half full.
On our way out we spotted a big pile of freshly picked cacao.
We’d never seen chocolate in its raw state before so Edgar opened one up to reveal these big purply beans covered in gloop. You can eat the meat surrounded the beans, but it tastes nothing like chocolate at that point. It’s fresh and sweet, similar to the flavour of cherimoya.
Two weeks later, we came back eager to finally get our free cuppa jo. We promised Rachel we’d help her plant some new seeds in her garden so we obliged and started the day by getting our fingernails dirty digging through the soil.
I’m quite happy to help bring more passion fruit to this planet.
We visited their new little piglets while Sandy tried to steal all the attention. She’s a jealous pup, but oh so adorable.
Edgar had soaked the coffee beans and popped them all out of their shells one by one. He then laid them out to dry before we could roast them into the coffee we know.
He asked if we wanted to roast them in the oven or over the fire; we chose the old fashioned afternoon roasting session—if we were going to do this thing we were going to do it right.
So, we lit a fire in the roasting pit, poured our beans into a bowl, and started stirring.
Edgar and his dad crushed up some little tree nuts and added them to the roast for a coconutty flavour.
And we stirred some more…
Until the beans turned a dark chocolaty brown and smelled delightfully of roasted coffee. We were a bit impatient and some of them weren’t totally roasted which is fine, it just makes for a lighter roast!
Then it was time to grind it up. First, we ground some corn to clean out the grinder, then we took turns spinning the handle.
Ta-da! Freshly roasted and ground coffee, finally.
We brewed some up to sample and it was DELICIOUS. Maybe more because of all the work that went in—but hey, I like my coffee and this was pretty damn good.
Satisfied, it was time for us to fly. The whole coffee-roasting process managed to take all afternoon and we had arranged a for a taxi to come pick us up since there is no phone signal out there. We snagged a takeaway jar full of leftover grinds and bid adieu to the land, livestock and lovely friends we’d come to love in rural Rio Muchacho. It was some of the best times we had during our 3 months on the coast of Ecuador.
Only the driver didn’t show so we started walking the 7km dirt track leading to the main road. A pickup truck finally came by and offered us a ride. We hopped in and let the wind blow through our hair as we bumped along back into coastal Canoa.
Have you ever made coffee from scratch? Do you share my love for a tasty cuppa jo? Would you like to visit Rio Muchacho?