Day 1: Archidona
QUITO – GUANGO - ARCHIDONA – SANTA RITA – MISAHUALLÍ
We depart Quito on the main road east, climbing up to the pass at over 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) in the high Andes before beginning the descent into the ‘green mansions’ of the Amazon Rainforest. Our first stop for a snack is the charming Guango Lodge, a haven for 15 species of hummingbird and many more beautiful creatures. Continuing southeast, we arrive at the small town of Archidona and the Santa Rita community, home of the Pacari Agro Tourism Project.
This project was developed by Pacari who not only purchase the community’s cacao at fair trade prices but also provide technical assistance to improve yields, varieties and production. The visits by travellers also provide an additional welcome source of income for these rural families.
We spend a pleasant and relaxing day with the community, learning how they harvest the fruit, produce the cacao and all the technical processes. As we explore the farms on foot, we come across petroglyphs, ancestral traces of the native cultures that inhabited this region for thousands of years, known as the Sacred Valley of the Anaconda.
After our hike, we are treated to lunch, served a regional specialty of river fish wrapped in a bijao palm leaf baked in a fire. This dish is accompanied by a tea made with the guayusa plant, a source of energy and good for hydrating.
After lunch, we take part in making chocolate paste, adding various local ingredients. Everyone gets to take some chocolate home with them, as well as drinking hot chocolate with the cacao harvested earlier in the day!
Day 2: Papallacta
MISAHUALLÍ – PAPALLACTA – QUITO
We spend some time in the morning exploring a lodge, its forest and butterfly garden. This is beautiful high montane forest, with lots of birdlife to be spotted. Returning northwards, we wind our way back to higher altitudes, arriving at the Termas de Papallacta Resort and Spa. This complex is regarded as the best in the country, and includes volcanic thermal pools, a hotel and spa. There, we can enjoy the beautiful natural springs, have a massage (extra cost) – there is even a chocolate massage available for the true chocaholics! – and a healthy lunch. In the afternoon, we drive back westwards to the city of Quito.