Visiting the Cora

Visiting the Cora by Andy Cronin

Wednesday, February 20th 2008

Waking up in the storage hutEarly in the morning I woke up and peered out through the bamboo walls and saw Alberto’s brother finishing off the last of the tequila. I fell back asleep for a few minutes but eventually got up, changed my shirt, and went out to see the sun rise. The mist-filled valleys created an archipelago of rocky summits. I stood, humbled, at the expanse of land, as well as the way these people had found a way to live from it.

We got our things together while they carried Alberto’s brother off to sleep. We ate a delicious breakfast of quesadillas, beans, and cheese. They even brewed some coffee cowboy style over the fire.

Coffee growing in the shadeA couple of the men saddled the mules and we were on our way. We headed down a different route than we came up so that we could see another small drying area. One man stayed there for the season while he worked picking coffee. This area had one more raised bed much like the ones we saw the day before. Alberto showed us the coffee trees on his land, along with some other types of ferns that he grew to sell to local florists.

I gripped my saddle as we descended. On the way up, I had not noticed the sheer drops down the side so much. I kept thinking about the overwhelming foul odor we had passed on the way up. When I had asked Jaime about it, he said that someone’s brother and his mule had rolled and fallen over the edge a couple of weeks before. And in such a place, the body may never be recovered. Just the idea of that smell made the trip down even harder.

It took longer going back down than coming up. At one point we were told that we only had another half an hour, but that ended up turning into one and a half hours. Cora time moves much like the mules—entirely its own pace.

Finally, we were able to see Presidio off in the distance. The thought of Jaime’s Jeep waiting for us made brought the strangest, most solid comfort.

At the compound where the car was waiting for us, I thanked Alberto for his hospitality, and said that I hoped to see him again. Which feels like such a strange thing to say sometimes, so far from home. And at the same time, it was overwhelming to think about how long it took to go up and down the mountain with nothing but our food and gear. All of their supplies had to go up the same way we did. Every pound of coffee has to come down the same way we did. Coffee farmers all over the world do this sort of thing over and over. I have great respect for what they do, how they live, and the coffees they produce. That experience is nothing I could have imagined, but one I will appreciate each time I run my hands over the beans that have come from the Cora in Presidio de los Reyes.

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