"" Writer's Wanderings: Road Trip--Cruise--Key Largo

Friday, January 13, 2023

Road Trip--Cruise--Key Largo

 In the little town square, or circle, of Amber Cove we met up with our guides for our afternoon excursion. There were about fourteen in our group and we were led to a comfortable mini bus for our ride to MonkeyLand. 

It was interesting to see the countryside. We passed through a little town area with fruit stands. Mandarins were in season and there were long skinny bags of them strung on the overhangs of the fruit stand shelters. The ride was pleasant with the patter of our guide giving us lots of commentary on what we were seeing. In about twenty minutes we pulled onto a gravel drive and parked in a small lot. When we got out and walked down a short path, a huge set of letters spelling out MonkeyLand welcomed us.

Our guide said another group was in with the monkeys at the time so we would start by visiting an example of a Dominican Republic home. It was very colorful on the outside with a thatched roof. The inside had a small kitchen one bedroom and a small living area. He explained that the caretakers took turns staying in the small home when it was their shift.

As we exited the back of the house, we were shown several different types of plants some of which I'd never seen before. I was familiar with sugar cane and a few others, but the one that fascinated me was the star fruit. I'd never seen a star fruit tree anywhere we have traveled. The blossoms on part of the tree were a pretty pink cluster. The green star fruit blended in with the green of the leaves. I almost missed seeing it. 

Of course coffee from the Dominican is very desirable and we were seated on some benches while a lady in traditional dress showed us beans before and after roasting and how, in the old days, the beans were ground after roasting using a large mortar and pestle. 

When she had ground some beans, she put them in a cloth funnel and slowly poured some hot water through the cloth funnel. It was basically a drip coffee maker. We each got taste the coffee which had a really good flavor. It wasn't sold in K-cups though.

Next came the cacao bean and the process of removing the beans from the pod and roasting. Somehow she got it to a paste and then a powder or maybe it was the other way around but the smell of hot chocolate distracted me from the details. We each got a small cup to taste the rich mixture. Luckily some people passed on the chocolate and there were a couple extra for us. Score!

Last but not least was a drink called MamaJuana, not to be confused with another word that sounded similar but was illegal in the DR. MamaJuana was said to be very "medicinal" since it had several different herbs and tree bark in it that were healing. All the herbs and tree bark were  then covered with rum, red wine and honey and left to marinate for a week or two. As it was explained, you could refill the alcohol and the tree bark and herbs would be good for quite some time. And yes, little cups were passed around for tasting. It tasted very sweet. Someone said it reminded them of sangria.

We exited the outdoor exhibition area as the other group began coming in from their monkey experience. It was time for the main event.

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