journey to the chocolate jungle
Our journey to the Chocolate Jungle Lodge near Misahualli, Ecuador was an exciting one! Where else will you find the town greeters to be monkeys? There’s a tribe of capuchin monkeys that live on the beach at Misahualli and entertain themselves by hanging out in the small town square. They’re a hilarious band of hooligans, and if you don’t give them something, don’t be surprised if they pickpocket you! No way were they getting my chocolate!
the monkeys of Misahualli
Our monkey encounter was definitely a highlight of the trip for me, as it was my first time seeing monkeys in the wild. I’ve heard monkeys at various other occasions, but this merry band of monkeys was definitely in your face — and your bag or back pocket if you weren’t careful! We watched them eating bugs and yucca strips, playing with a feather, and even bolting up a tree with someone’s drink!
Ecuador Chocolate Jungle Lodge
But eventually it was time to break away and grab a quick lunch in the cafe at the Shaw Hotel, then journey 10-minutes by small boat up the Napo River to Puca Urco and the Chocolate Jungle Lodge. I met the former proprietor–fellow Canadian Elizabeth Hendley–via Jeff Stern, the American chocolatier I profiled here. Elizabeth was anxious to meet us, share her story of chocolate discovery, and host us during our chocolate travels.
Elizabeth has 15.75 hectares of land and grows the Nacional cacao bean on her property, which she then sells to various buyers who make delicious chocolate from it. Staying with Elizabeth, hiking through the muddy conditions of her plantation and learning about the difficulties involved in growing cacao in less than ideal conditions made me realize this is no life for anyone lacking a tough spirit. I referred to Elizabeth as a “frontier woman” as she is just as comfortable trudging through the muck or bouncing around in the back of a truck as she is relaxing with a glass of fine wine in her hand.
We had a lovely room in the lodge that overlooked the river — as well as the massive spiders that lived on the other side of the screens.
Yes, the bugs are BIG in Ecuador. It’s no place for sissies! One of the more moderately sized spiders somehow got on the inside of the protective netting that was draped over my bed during the night, but I survived. He didn’t. People who know me from my childhood are shocked that I’m no longer terrified of all insect life. Not to say I’m comfortable with it, but I realize we can’t see much of the world if we’re not good with going outside our comfort zones. Travel is all about personal growth and adventure.
Indeed, I wish we’d had longer to explore the Amazonian chocolate jungle. It is truly a journey I recommend for any chocolate lover who wants to explore where cacao is grown and where chocolate really comes from.