Yesterday stands out as one of the best days of our trip thus far, and really it will be pretty hard to beat! We woke up early to pack our bags and scarf down a quick breakfast. Carlos Castejón, our guide for the day, arrived at 8:00 am to take us to his family’s farm. Finca el Cisne is a coffee plantation, and also one of Copán’s oldest and largest estates.
The drive to the farm took roundly about and hour, which was the perfect amount of time to take in the beautiful mountain/countryside. He told us a bit about his family and his agro-tourism business, and gave us a bit of an idea of how we would spend the day. From the moment we arrived at his guesthouse we were completely taken back by the beauty of the architecture and the property. The guesthouse is five bedrooms, with an open concept layout. The patio stretches the entire length of the side of house and wraps around to the back. Each room flows seemlessly into each other and the entire space is open to nature. Off the back patio is a small pathway that leads to a large open building that houses the kitchen and dining area. Every detail is well considered and designed – the house was a dream. Carlos lead us through the garden in the back, showing us all the fruit trees and bean plants that have been hand planted for produce. It was just a small taste of what we had ahead of us.
From here we drove another 15 minutes, all along their property, to his childhood home. From the moment we drove passed the first set of gates we were speechless. The property is beautifully maintained and everything is in perfect order, yet it has a completely organic flow and vibe to it. We toured around a bit noticing subtle things like their pet deer. Carlos told us his dad used to hunt them and now he just likes to see them – why not right? Within a matter of minutes he had proven to us how much better fruit tastes when it is fresh off a tree. We tasted varieties of pineapple and banana we would never find in our grocery stores. The most mysterious and amazing fruit of all was the Magic Fruit. It is a small read berry similar to the size of a pine nut. The fruit itself is tasty but here’s the best part. It actually manipulates your taste buds so that anything you eat after, like say citrus, tastes amazingly sweet! We sucked on the seed while we walked over to a lime tree, where Carlos, picked and cut up pieces of a lime for us to try. No joke, it tasted like lemonade, it was almost too sweet. Pawel couldn’t believe what was happening.
Next was our two and half hour horse back ride, through the farm/estate. We mounted our horses, had a quick test run in the training field and were off trotting. This was the first time Pawel had been on a horse and my first time without a lead. Bonito, my horse, was well behaved and responded ever so delicately to my commands. However, horses like to move in packs, so when Carlos took off cantering, so did our horses and without warning. Once we caught on to the feel, it was actually much more comfortable to canter, and a lot more fun. The vastness of his property was shocking, and the variety of produce they generate is mind blowing. They have their own cows for milk, cheese and beef, they have every citrus imaginable – limes, lemons, oranges, pineapple, breadfruit, star fruit – the list goes on. And they even have a tilapia farm. Between all that and the corn, coffee and various other produce they have going they could easily be self sustained. It was such an exciting thing to see.
Our lunch was huge, and everything on the table was straight from the farm. We ate a healthy variety of vegetables, meats, homemade cheeses and fresh corn tortillas, made the traditional way we are told. Our favorite was a shredded ochre root pancake, topped with a honey-ginger glaze. Everything down to the hand picked water crest and avocado salad was mouth watering. Oh and the tamarin juice was delish. The dessert however, was hands down the most delicious thing I have ever tasted. It was a banana, sautéed in a honey, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom, cream reduction, with a portion of homemade, hand processed chocolate sauce for dipping. After that and a delicious cup of coffee – the farm’s own blend – we were spent! Fortunately for us Carlos was not new to the agro-tourism game, and had planned a half hour siesta/hammock post lunch break for us.
The last piece to see was the coffee processing plant. The infrastructure is amazing, the entire building is built on a ever so slight hill so that the machines work in tandem with gravity to move the beans through the processors. Every machine is fueled by the energy generated by mountain water, and at the very end the coffee is sun dried. We are told that this actually gives the coffee a better taste, we would never know the difference, but a true conesuiere can tell.
We headed back to the guesthouse, waited out a rather raging storm, grabbed our swim suits and headed up the road to the natural hot springs. On the way we saw that the river had widened to twice the size and was moving at a dangerously fast pace through the canal way. We saw tons of kids grabbing buckets and running down to the river, Carlos told us that when this happens all the fish move to the outsides of the river and you can easily catch them with just a bucket.
The hot springs were wonderful, and exactly what you need after nearly three hours of riding. We took our time moving down the waterfall between pools. Moving from the top and hottest pool, down to the still hot, but lowest and coolest pool. The time flew here and we headed back just in time to miss the next storm that was rolling in. Carlos dropped us at the guest house, handed us a beer, and told us to relax for an hour and the ladies will have dinner served. And with that he vanished.
But quickly returned as it seemed he forgot to light candles!
Our dinner was equally as amazing as the lunch. A chicken and root vegetable soup followed by chimol, rice, vegetables and corn tortillas. This time to our surprise there was cheese baked in the center of the tortilla! This is about when the night ended, we were exhausted after complete sensory overload and the bed was easily the most comfortable we have had the entire trip. We read for a bit, but quickly we were falling asleep to the peaceful sounds of rain pattering on the tin roof.
The day was absolutely perfect, and Carlos was an excellent host. We would highly recommend this to absolutely anyone looking to see the beautiful mountains, sprawling farm land and what this country has to offer. You can visit his website http://www.fincaelcisne.com/ to read more!