Forests, Mines, and Chickens… oh my!

I´ve returned from a fantastic week in a place that could easily be featured in a National Geographic magazine.  Last Saturday (Feb. 5) our group took a bus to the Intag Cloud Forest. For those who don´t know, a Cloud Forest is what it sounds like — a forest in the clouds.  There is a lot of rain, and therefore, a lot of awesome biodiversity (and really huge leaves! People sometimes use leaves as umbrellas here… and they do not fall short of the size of your average umbrella, either).  From where the bus left us, we pulled on our rainboots (everybody´s best friend here, there is a lot of mud) and hiked for an hour through the greenest landscape I have ever experienced.  Our destination was a farm started by a man named Carlos about 30 years ago — more on him in a little bit.  On the farm, compatible crops grow together to create a productive balance and open-air composting toilets hide among the trees.  There is no electricity in the (also open-air) cabins and water is only heated by the sun.  Basically, very close to a closed, self-sufficient system and really, really awesome.
Now– a little about Intag and it´s history.  Intag consits of many little communities, about 400 people or less in each; between each community is at least an hour hike through the mountains and the mud.  Many families within each community maintain a farm on a hillside from which they sustain themselves. The people of Intag have fought a long battle against mining companies (mostly Mitsubishi), who hope to create a copper mine that would drastically damage the region´s unique biodiversity through massive deforestation and contamination of rivers, and cause for the relocation four communities — and the copper from the mine would only satisfy the world´s demand for two months.  Carlos (the man running the farm we stayed at, whom I mentioned earlier) has been the figurehead of the movement against the mine and has done an incredible amount of work bringing people together to fight against the sometimes-overwhelming power of big corporations.  It is hard to convey how huge of a problem it is through a blog entry.  But it is big enough of an issue that the Ecuadorian equivalent of the CIA at one point showed up unannounced in the middle of the night to the farm (where we stayed) in order to murder Carlos. Yup… there was a price on his head.  Luckily, he was given a 5-minute heads up by his friends up the road and was able to escape into the forest.  So, in short, Carlos is a BAMF. But he continues his activist work and life on the farm for the time being.

After staying on the farm for a few days learning about mines and plants and other cool things, we set out for a 3-day rural homestay with an Intag family.  The house had an incredible view, and was probably about the same square-footage of my Mercer Island home´s living room.  Mornings I would be woken up by chickens running through the house promptly at sunrise. I had three siblings ages 8, 10, and 11 who loved passing the ball and running up and down the slopes of Intag.  It was a great, surreal experience, and I will never forget watching Michael Jackson´s top music videos with the family and being asked to translate his lyrics…

This entry was posted in Ellie Barber '12, Ecuador. Bookmark the permalink.