Every so often we take a day off and visit a local community to experience their culture, gastronomy and lifestyle. The communities we visit are humble and heart-centered. I’m always pleasantly surprised by how open the people we visit are. They open their homes to us, sharing stories about their lives and their history. They take extra care to cook their local cuisine, infusing it with spice, pride and love, secret ingredients I find in every kitchen I’ve entered on these trips.
Last week we visited Pisloy, specifically Tataniche (Father of the Night), a small community 40 minutes outside of Jipijapa. We went with our friend Don Jorge Salazar of Proturisco, an organization that we work with to support community tourism. Upon arriving at the community center we were met with the community elder, Clever, who became our host and guide for the day.
We took the path, called “Golosito” which roughly translated means Sweet Tooth, from the community center through the woods, full of fruit trees, oranges, grapefruit, mate and others whose names I can’t remember.
With each step he showed us how each fruit is used, not only consumed but used for it’s shell (drinking water) or seeds (jewelry or replanting) or wood (building). We saw where the community had built a small dam to filter the river water so that they could eventually create a natural pool with the clean water where it hits an area of rocks in a circle.
Clever showed us how the community is setting up a camping area where they invite adventurers to spend the night under a canopy of stars falling asleep to the cadence of the night’s sounds. The fees paid will go to the community’s improvements to host more people to come experience a way of life that is simple, genuine and very connected to nature.
Clever also took us to a butterfly sanctuary they are building. I had seen a bright blue large butterfly flitting about the trees and wondered what kind of butterfly that might be. One of the students, a guide from the community, showed me a wing and explained what kind of butterfly it was - a Morpho Azul.
Butterfly Sanctuary under construction. These will hold plants that butterflies love.
Nature takes center stage in the lives of these people. They rise and sleep according to the rhythm of the sun and stars. Their food comes from the animals they raise and the vegetables they plant. Nothing phony or chemical here.
I was impressed by how happy everyone seemed, so willing to share stories of their lives. Clever sat and told the old legends of Tataniche, more like those scary campfire stories, full of good versus evil, mountain spirits and the mythologies of their people.
We finished the trail at the bamboo house they have built (in photo) to share with guests. It’s a four bedroom, one bathroom bamboo house with two levels designed to give their guests a sense of sleeping in a village environment. Rustic but comfortable.
Now hungry, we went next door to Clever’s house where we were treated to a traditional tonga. A tonga is a mix of gallina (hen or chicken) cooked with a peanut paste, herbs, spices and sofrito that is mixed with white rice, fried plantain, yucca and rolled into a large plantain leaf. This leaf is then sealed like an envelope. The people will take their tonga like we take our lunch box to work and unwrap it at lunch time. The leaf keeps it warm and fresh.
A Tonga wrapped up and ready to travel.
What a great meal after a long walk/hike through their woods! Combined with fresh juice it was filling and satisfying. I ventured into the kitchen to speak with the women who cooked our meal, asking them about the wood stove and how they make the tonga. Next time I’ll have to join them in the cooking and practice making these.
I also got to play a bit with their parakeets!
I took a bit of time to relax in one of the upstairs hammocks to recover from a fulfilling meal!
Just as we were leaving we heard the whistle of one of the local birds in this area. It's called the Masked Trogon. It was beautiful. It stayed in the tree long enough for me to catch these shots.
On to Chade
With our bellies full we left Pisloy and headed to Chade a few miles away where they were having a festival. As if lunch weren’t enough we were treated to freshly made tortillas and morcilla, a blood sausage stuffed with rice and plantain, and coffee.
I learned how to cook the tortillas in a large open wood stove that is made of mud and concrete called “horno”. It’s amazing that in the USA we have such fancy appliances and stoves for our food and here the simplest and most basic of stoves makes the best food! The body and soul both feel nourished.
Marta was the woman who was cooking. She is a community director and oversees community tourism. She is excited to welcome guests and share their traditional cuisine and culture with visitors.
We arrived just in time for a festival that included the prerequisite soccer tournament and music. And of course, lots of food!
We made our way back to Jipijapa and from there to Quinta Oasis. After a long day we ended the evening on our balcony enjoying a glass of puntas (moonshine) with maracuya for a night cap. It's a natural beverage, yes, alcoholic, that is made in Puerto Lopez. You have to know where to buy it too. It's not in the grocery store, if you get my drift.
Today was an adventure and a learning experience. Once again I'm filled with gratitude for my life and respect for the people who live and work in these agricultural communities.
So if you want to go off the beaten path with us, don't hesitate to let us know. We're always up for an adventure!
For more photos of our day, visit our Facebook page and specifically the Album for Pisloy/Chade. CLICK HERE FOR THE ALBUM
Would you like to experience the authentic Ecuador?
Then stay at Quinta Oasis and we’ll share these local community off the beaten path excursions with you. All fees go to the local communities to improve their community and enhance their ability to host travelers who are interested in learning more about their lives and traditions. Enjoy an adventure and at the same time support local families to improve their economic condition.