“Good friendship is like sugarcane. You can break it, crush it, squeeze it, even beat and grind it, but you will always get only sweetness.” (Author unknown)
Shortly after arriving in Girón, we met Mario and his wife, Cecilia, and their daughter, Natali. They invited us to go on a sightseeing tour with them and to pick oranges at their friend’s place.
We drove south through the Yunguilla Valley, the altitude dropping and the temperature rising. We stopped at a roadside bar for refreshment. Mario said that I had to try mapanagua, a drink made from guarapo (sugarcane juice), aguardiente (sugarcane liquor), and lime juice. You decide how much aguardiente you want in your drink – aguardiente translates to “fiery water”, by the way. My drink was pretty strong – and sweet.
After a drink and a couple of beers, we went behind the bar to see how the sugarcane is processed. A grinding machine, or trapiche, separates the juice from the cane stalks. The juice runs into a huge vat where it is boiled. The leftover pieces of stalk are dried and used as fuel to boil the juice. The boiled down liquid is poured into molds to make blocks of panela, or brown sugar.
Next stop was the small town of Lentag, and a visit to a beautiful place called Live the Life Lodge. Here you can find accommodations along with a Mexican restaurant called El Agave. The food here is delicious, with pizza cooked in an outdoor adobe wood-fired oven. The vegetables are grown organically in a garden out back – ask for a tour of the grounds.
Finally, it was time to pick oranges. We left Lentag and drove for miles along a scary dirt road skirting the edge of a steep mountainside. We went as far as the road allowed, and walked for about 30 minutes to reach the farm. Along the trail, we met a man and his wife who were picking and drying coffee beans.
It was a pleasant hike beside a river with fantastic views along the way. We reached the farm, which is situated on a steep hill, banana trees growing among the tall oranges trees.
The owner climbed the trees and threw the oranges down to us. If we missed catching them, there were backup catchers behind us to snag the oranges as they rolled down the hill.
We went back to Giron with tons of oranges and spent hours cutting and juicing them, with more memories added to our collection. An amazing day had by all!