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Chronicle: The Mombacho Adventure Tour

Louise Lakier | Sep 18, 2013

Between the trees in the canopy zip-line. | Photographer: Louise Lakier

Trip around coffee Hacienda El Progreso, canopy zipline and volcano trails El Crater and El Puma in Mombacho.

This is the Mombacho Volcano Adventure Tour by Café Las Flores, experienced by South African photographer Louise Lakier:

The day started with coffee, as it tends to do. But first a behind the beans tour of a coffee plantation on the slopes of Volcano Mombacho. Hacienda El Progreso sits halfway up the Volcano creating a gateway to the peak and a welcome resting and refreshment point. Ramon was my guide introducing me to the sustainable farming practices of Cafe Las Flores.

The water catchment ponds in place either capture rain water, condensation, or run-off from the cloud forest. The latter, rich in natural minerals is not drinkable, it is piped into the mill and will become sugar water for the fermentation process. Here at the ponds, if you are a good spotter you will see the red-eyed tree frog hiding under the leaves of the surrounding plants. I didn't spy one but my hosts did and made the introduction. The frogs lay their eggs under the leaves stretching over the ponds, when the tadpoles hatch they fall into the water below.

It takes 8 days for a seed to sprout. The smaller beans become seeds for new plants. The baby plants stay in bags for one year where they are closely attended and nurtured into healthy plants. The nursery holds up to 300 starters. Cane trees shade the plants from sun and wind and are cut down to allow more rays when needed. There are 20-25 species of birds and monkeys sharing the slopes and the trees of the farm. Fortunately, they do not like the taste of coffee. The trees are pruned to low shapes for ease of picking. Each tree produces beans every 5 years and lives up to 20. The green beans picked by mistake go to the drying process as low quality beans and are used for Presto.

After picking, the beans are washed and fermented before drying. The outer skin is coated with sugar and this prevents bugs and pests from eating them. The fermentation process takes place inside covered blue tanks in the sugar water extracted from the beans. It takes 16 hours for the beans to ferment. A machine then shakes the beans to separate them from the outer shell. The pulp is dried and mixed with cow manure and will become the methane gas used to power the operation saving ten thousand dollars in energy costs per year. After a final wash, the beans are dried outside in the sunshine on the rooftop. A thrashing machine breaks off the last husk once dried and they are ready for quality control. Ten women are employed to separate out the good beans from the lower quality.

Once approved for shipment, the beans are trucked to Managua for roasting. 25 minutes of roasting yields espresso, with less caffeine due to cooking longer. 16 minutes of roasting yields a medium roast with 100% caffeine. I could taste the difference, the medium roast was surprisingly much stronger.

My next tour adventure took me into the canopy while 20-25 birds and monkeys potentially watched our group soar through the treetops. Ziplines, a variation on a Slackline, a Tarzan swing, and a pulse bursting rapel will have you either giggling and hooting or shaking and trepidating. It was as fun as it was breathtaking and behind my fear was confidence that I was in safe hands.

After a hearty lunch of chicken, rice, beans, salad and plantains, it was time to see the views. We caught a ride to the Biological center and on the way our guide spied a two toed sloth in the crook of a tree. Another new Nicaraguan creature sighting for me. We hiked the El Crater trail and a portion of the El Puma trail. Though I was eager to go the whole way, the hour was getting late and the shadows lengthening. The views from El Crater reached to Masaya, the Apoyo Lagoon, and Managua. Lake Nicaragua and the Isletas stretching out below. At the highest accessible point on El Puma, I could see the peak of Mombacho, and Ometepe Island in the distance once the white puffy clouds passed by. On the trails, I learned about the parasitic plants and plants for teas to cure sleepless nights. I enjoyed the cool breathe of the cloud forest and marveled at its rich diveversity.

Louise's photo gallery: Mombacho adventure.

A view from the top of the Mombacho Volcano

Translated by Cynthia Cordero