Hiking up the Rio Tupi

IMG_20140816_093227367Rio Tupi is one of two small rivers on the La Hesperia property and is far more accessible. Whether your hiking up from the town of La Esperie or taking one of the two trails in from the farm area, Rio Tupi always makes for an exciting and enjoyable hike.

Although no wider than a driveway, this tiny river offers a pristine ecosystem, more waterfalls than you can count, a natural water-slide, and breathtaking photography options. A few days ago, I hiked up the river from the town all the way to the big waterfall; taking pictures all the way.

2014-06-13 005The first jaw-dropping sight: when you turn the corner and the valley opens up revealing the shear cliff shooting hundreds of feet up and wrapping around like a giant theater, absolutely amazing!












The seeps around the base of the cliff deposit a very nice orange-brown paint pigment, we use it for painting the outdoor kitchen and other areas around the Reserve.IMG_20140816_093355909

One of the uncountable small waterfalls on the way up. these were a series of three, dropping into each other like a fountain.IMG_20140816_095705101_HDR


IMG_20140816_095905293The first big waterfall. This one is about 15 feet high and curls around a gorge, flushing everything out and smoothing the cliff walls to a gloss.













Further up, a bird-of-paradise flower growing up from a gravel bar in the middle of the river.IMG_20140816_103111567


At last, the big waterfall: dropping 20 feet onto a small intermediate shelf, than another 6 feet to its lower plunge pool. One of the most spectacular sights on La Hesperia!















I found this crab in the intermediate shelf, I thought it was an interesting find; sandwiched between two impassible waterfalls.IMG_20140816_105929859_HDR


The upper fall by itself.IMG_20140816_104538745



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OK, so everyone that’s been to La Hesperia has seen them, although not always by choice. Today’s blog is all about the various creepy-crawlers that have been found around the reserve.

Tarantula near her den, which is under the foundation of the volunteer house, very comforting

Tarantula near her den, which is under the foundation of the volunteer house, very comforting

Giant butterfly. That tree is about the size of a telephone pole!

Giant butterfly. That tree is about the size of a telephone pole!

One of the many giant millipedes…..harmless….I think…..

A walking stick on a coffee plant, about a month ago

A walking stick on a coffee plant, about a month ago


Oh yes, the catapillers, we still have plenty of them….eveywhere

Probably the prettyist grasshopper out there…this one was hanging out in the bathroom of the volunteer house back in May

Tarantula Hawk looking for his next meal. Near the outdoor kitchen in July.

Tarantula Hawk looking for his next meal. Near the outdoor kitchen in July.

Always a favorite; the harmless looking caterpillar whose slightest touch feels like a thousand burning needles going into your skin

Always a favorite; the harmless looking caterpillar whose slightest touch feels like a thousand burning needles going into your skin

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The not so Distant Past at La Hesperia

La Hesperia has been receiving volunteers since 2004 and we are extremely grateful for everything you have contributed to the reserve and a helping us achieve our goals. Below are some photos taken by former and current volunteers, enjoy:

The Nursery in October 2011

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The Nursery in June 2014. Expanded to 3 shade houses and with 4000 little coffee plants being raised.

Taking the milk down the hill in 2011. We still do it this way….but only when the Jeep breaks down.

Building the plastic bottle wall for the school in 2012

The same wall and classroom in April of 2014. Very Nice!

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Playing football in March 2005.

Same view of the football field in 2014…now with the school. (we still do football here…it just wasn’t Wednesday)

The volunteer house going up in 2005.

….and as it looks today!

Thank You to all of our volunteers, past, present and future!!!!!










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3-Toed Sloth Released at La Hesperia




On Tuesday, we received a new member here at La Hesperia. A 3-toed sloth was found during work on the hydro-electric project along the Rio Pilaton and was released on the reserve. La Hesperia has an agreement with the hydro-electric project to serve as a sanctuary for animals found during construction.

10443499_10152466942014718_2082008037116982303_n  Sleeping on the truck ride up

IMG_20140708_140650617[1] There was lots of excitement when he showed up.

IMG_20140708_140901123[1] Walking out to the release site

10442518_10152466942259718_4950382735843049896_n….and time to go…

IMG_20140708_141550407[1]Much happier now!

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The Push for Coffee


Things are going to be changing here at La Hesperia. The national push for more coffee production has created a huge opportunity for the preserve; allowing us to covert some of our land dedicated to cattle over to coffee cultivation. The process has already begun with the planting of some 6,000 coffee seedlings in our nursery. The plan through 2014 is to get 5 hectares of young coffee planted with each hectare requiring 2,500 plants (anybody want to help?). La Hesperia is using the coffee variety ‘tipica mejorada,’ a high quality Arabica variety used for gourmet coffee blends. 16JUN14 075

By converting our old pastures over to coffee la Hesperia is better able to conserve the cloud forest. A pasture full of cows increases runoff, pollutant and sediment loads as well as failing to retain precipitation like surrounding forest can. By converting these pastures to long rotation coffee, the soil will be better retained and vegetative cover will be improved, leading to stabilized rainfall to runoff ratios ( Knighton, Fluvial Forms & Process, 1998). The result won’t be as good as natural cloud forest but will certainly be an improvement over dairy cows.16JUN14 072

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Local Coffee Growers Meet at La Hesperia

Last week, coffee growers from the Manuel Cornejo Astorga Parish meet at La Hesperia for their monthly meeting. This local group comes together to promote coffee cultivation as an alternative for social and economic development and conservation, as opposed to relying on traditional agriculture (cattle and short-rotation crops) practices in the area.      IMG_20140604_120541953_HDR

In the morning, the group participated in workshops covering germination techniques and coffee nursery management conducted by representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Con Quito- a Quito based NGO that promotes sustainable local economic development.


Promoting sustainable local economic development
Promoting sustainable local economic development

Promoting sustainable local economic development

After breaking for lunch, representatives from VECO also held a workshop on the importance of local coffee growers associations, and how banding together can make the individual farms stronger and more competitive in the marketplace. VECO is an Belgian NGO that is working with the local growers to promote fair and sustainable marketplace.IMG_20140604_133056963

Arabica high altitude coffee is some of the best in the world and its sustainable cultivation in the cloud forest is a vital step in preserving the area as a whole by converting high impact agricultural land into long rotation coffee cultivation.IMG_20140610_143634012

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A Field Trip to La Hesperia


This weekend we were happy to host students from Quito. The 19 students and their teachers arrived on Friday for their exiting weekend in the cloud forest. After the exhausting walk up the hill the group arrived at the big house to begin their adventure.IMG_20140530_130217533IMG_20140531_084814220_HDR

The purpose of the trip was three-fold:

First, the students would explore scientific themes. By getting outside in the cloud forest the students would able to implement and reinforce the methods learned in the classroom. This practical application would be accomplished several times over by conducting biological surveys of selected plant groups, reforestation along the hedges of working cow pasture, and surveying invertebrates in the lagoon.IMG_20140531_093356752IMG_20140530_150350884

Secondly, this would be a time for the group to develop and bond socially. This would be done through team-building activities that allowed the students to trust each other and grow together. Things like trust falls, leading the blind, and simply talking would be effective tools to creating strong interpersonal skills.IMG_20140530_165431757_HDRIMG_20140531_160218624

Thirdly, the field trip would strengthen the students physically. Long hikes up and down the all too numerous hills at La Hesperia would prove to be very effective at accomplishing this goal!


For the first night the group camped in the cloud forest, fighting off mosquitoes, rain, and a really big spider, while developing their field skills. Saturday morning began early, with the rain holding off and allowing us to conduct a survey along several transepts looking for certain families of flora. This was followed by a hike down to the Rio Tupi, before returning to the big house for lunch. The afternoon continued on with team-building activities and a lesson on making chocolate. At nightfall, the group went on a short hike to look for nocturnal animals (sorry no pumas) and finished with a talk around the fire before turning in for the night.


On Sunday in was time to say goodbye after several morning activities including Eco-construction and searching for invertebrates in the lagoon. We here at La Hesperia certainly enjoyed our weekend with this very special group of 10th graders and hope they enjoyed it as well!


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