I just came back from a totally fascinating two day trip to the jungle, just 3 hours from the Sacred Valley! I traveled up the valley toward Machu Picchu and Quillabamba but stopped off in Huyro, where tons of black tea, the best rated coffee in the world and lots of cacao and fruit comes from! I had no idea I could go from the high mountain to the total jungle so quickly!
Passing Ollantaytambo the road got very curvy and we climbed up very high, up to the Abra Malaga, a high pass at 4300meters of altitude.
After the pass though we immediately dropped into the clouds and then it quickly started to get warm and humid. The difference of vegetation from the high Andes was astounding. Within 2.5 hours we were in Huyro district and I called our contact Americo to come bring up to the Eco Albergue Colibri biological station. When we arrived he took us on a tour of the large property, explaining jungle agriculture and their different ecological projects and showing us all kinds of different fruit and insects like big spiders and the exoskeleton of cicadas.
We enjoyed a delicious home cooked lunch and then went for a drive in a 4X4 to visit tea and coffee plantations. I was surprised and impressed at the way they farm the tea, totally organically and in a bio diverse style, all kinds of plants and crops and trees all mixed together in the plantation.
After visiting the plantation we went to the original Huyro community tea processing plant, where the tea is dried, roasted, ground and sorted. For me this was the most interesting part of our journey as I learned so much about the handling, politics and comercialization of tea. The machines are from England from the 1920s and the plant had once processed 2000 tons of tea per week. The area had been very prosperous, as you can see from some of the old plantation homes, but now everything was in ruins. Even this important plant had closed down due to mis-management by community and politicians around 20 year ago and had just reopened 6 months ago. This plant is apparently the only one in the region with such fine machinery. The machines are made of copper and softly massage the tea, rather than cutting it, producing whole leaf fragrant product. Unfortunately I noticed that the community has no idea about branding and produces their final product with a very common looking brand, not telling about the better process and that the tea is all organic. I hope to return and learn more about the history and processing of tea and possibly help orient them a bit in marketing.
When we got back to the lodge Americo offered us a workshop on how to prepare cacao (chocolate) directly from the bean. We toasted the beans and use a hand-crank grinder to make it into a paste and then pressed it into a mold to make blocks.
It was a lot hotter than we were used to so we slipped into the pool!
IWe slept in the lodge under mosquito nets even though there weren’t many mosquitos at night. The next day we went to visit a part of the Inca trail and a 'tambo', an ancient resting place for ‘Chaski’ Incan messengers. I can hardly believe that I can just cross over a mountain and end up in this whole other world! Peru is awesome! If you are in the Cusco or Sacred Valley region and want to take a quick trip to the real jungle, we can organize your trip. Check out our options on our site Frontierlab.org