World Travel

CEPLAC Cocoa Plantation, Olivenña Beach

15 February: We're up at 7:00 again (it doesn't really seem we're on holidays, does it?), We plan to viist the CEPLAC (Commissño Executiva do Plano da Lavoura Cacaueira) Cocoa plantation outside Ilheus. Valerie offers to drive us there on her way to University, great! We're not sure whether it will be open during Carnival season and Valerie doesn't seem to have made many positive experiences there, so we're not expecting much. 

It is open (whew!) we go in to the reception area. We're greeted by an older lady who asks whether we speak Portuguese. Not really. She gives us some forms to fill out (lots of information is required) and seems to be wondering what to do with us. There's an old white VW bus with it's side doors off and metal railings in their place waiting outside with some people nearby. The lady tells us she has some people just setting off for a tour of the facility in Portuguese, we decide to go along anyway. We're off with the driver, the lady guide, 4 kids, three women and us in the front seats.

The first stop is at the 'biological area', which is reached by a path leading through a forest filled with the wonderfully damp smell of rainforest. We walk in the direction of a caged area and I see some fluffy creatures in it which I suddenly identify to be Sloths! Someone points out a sloth to us at the bottom of a tree without a cage, and he's looking at us!! Wow, what luck!! I'm amazed! We've never seen a sloth so close before! In Costa Rica it used to be a big hassle to see sloths, we saw many, but they were always hiding very high up in trees, looking more like a ball of old wool than animals. I take a lot of pictures, by now the animal trainer is holding another sloth in his arms. The animal is really clean and it's long hair is very soft to the touch (yes, we even touched the thing!). In Costa Rica sloths are so slow and unclean that moss grows on their supposedly stinking fur. Nearby there are two free Parakeets. Suddenly a jolly lady biologist pops up and she's holding one of the sloths like a baby and hugging it. What an experience!

What a smile on this Slothie!

What a smile on this Sloth!
Biologist with her pet sloth
Biologist with her pet sloth
This sloth seems a bit drowsy Wild Parakeets
This sloth seems a bit drowsy
Wild Parakeets

We're off to the snake house next, which had loads of venomous snakes in cages (each cage is labeled whether the thing is venomous or not), there are some rattlesnakes furiously rattling away. Then the local guide asks whether anyone would like to hold a snake. Since no one seemed to be wanting to volunteer I said yes amongst gasps of surprise and disgust from our tour members. I said I was ready. The keeper extracted a large black and yellow snake from it's cage and slowly put it on my shoulders. It immediately started snaking around me. It felt cold, much like a piece of heavy, flexible plastic tubing. After watching me skeptically for a while, one of our tours member ladies decided she would like to try holding the snake too. No big deal!

Later we go to the bee house, but no one seems to be very interested in going in after all the exiting action we've already had. Then we see how Cocoa is fermented and dried and we're given a huge handful of cocoa beans to take home. Protest is useless here! We're then off to the Chocolate Lab which has loads of smallish machines from Germany and Brazil to process the cocoa beans into chocolate, including mills and centrifugal forms. The room next door is air conditioned and has loads of chocolate piled up. It's contained in plastic bags many of which are neatly, scientifically labeled with their batch numbers. Our lady guide is talking with the person there and filling out a form while we're wondering what is going on. Then she's on the phone saying that 'there's someone here from Suiña..' and we immediately know that she's trying to get the person in charge allow us to taste the goods! She is successful, bless her! She ceremoniously grabs one of the plastic bags with chocolate and opens it, taking out a large chunk and distributing it amongst us. It is heavenly! Apparently it's near 100% cocoa, whereas commercial chocolate contains more near 50%. We need to try a number of pieces before leaving, wow, what an experience! Now it's back to the reception, where I want to give our lady guide a tip which she refuses, saying she'll get into trouble if she would accept it. The others in our group need to go back to Ilheus too, so we join them to take the bus back.

Durian or Breadfruit Rattlesnake with it's rattle in full swing!
Durian or Breadfruit
Rattlesnake with it's rattle in full swing!
Beautifully coiled tree snake Look at me holding that huge snake!
Beautifully coiled tree snake
Look at me holding that huge snake!
Another one of the visitors dared to hold the snake too (but only after I'd done so and survived!) This snake coils up marvelously
Another one of the visitors dared to hold the snake too (but only after I'd done so and survived!)
This snake coils up marvelously
Look at that eye Cocoa fruit
Look at that eye
Cocoa fruit
This is the chocolate we had. It was sensational! Our open tour bus through CEPLAC
This is the chocolate we had. It was sensational!
Our open tour bus through CEPLAC

It's an Ejecutivo with a/c and by chance it's going all the way to Olivenña, where we'd been wanting to go anyway. It's a nice drive along the sea after Ilheus, we check out tiny Olivenña first, buy a phone card and calls Valerie by public phone to tell her we won't be making it for lunch. We'd been wanting to see the 'Parque Ecologica Uno' which had Lion Monkeys, but learn that it's about 40km from Olivenña. Near the beach we find a small restaurant to have some chicken/rice/beer (Menus are usually meant for two people in Brazil), then we walk to the beach and set up camp in front of one of the beach bars.

I sleep a bit first, then go into the sea, but there's a strong leftward current with moderate waves and the water is just a bit cool. I lie in the sun on the sand for a while but when the water keeps coming up higher I return to the shade. I'm feeling really tired and somehow sick. I sleep, there's a breeze which is a bit cold for me. At about 4 in the afternoon we decide to take the bus back to Ilheus and to try to book an excursion for the next day. The bus is the same Ejecutivo which brought is there, some more a/c. In Ilheus we go to Orisha tours, they have no tours for the next day, and the other offices we try have none either. 

Reaching V&E's I have a shower, take some tablets and plunk down onto the bed. I'm sick, sweating and feeling a bit miserable.

Olivenña beach Dancing Forro at Olivenña beach
Olivenña beach
Dancing Forro at Olivenña beach

16 February 2002: Sick in Ilheus

I'd hoped last night to have beaten my cold by this morning but it was not to be. My throat's sore and my breath's warm. I'm sweating to no end thanks to the Pretuval. Eusinio takes a look at my tongue and determines it's not a bacterial infection and recommends gargling. I sleep through the whole day, somewhere around me the kids are playing, a band rehearses some heavy metal nearby, drums and guitar, some bass. In the evening I take one of my old antibiotics anyway, Eusinio gets some fresh ones and I pop another after awhile. V&E are invited for dinner but no chance of me unsticking from the bed. They return deep in the night and suddenly I feel better. Something must have worked!

Continue to 17.2 Rio Almada Trip near Ilheus