Up In The Hill is a small organic finca (farm) and coffee shop, secluded in the rainforest atop the highest point on Bastimentos island. On the finca, they grow organic cacao, tropical fruits, coconuts, herbs and other useful plants. All their produce is hand processed onsite into a range of tasty treats and natural body products, that are sold in their shop. To hike up the hill from Old Bank (the main village on Bastimentos Island) takes about 20 minutes. A visit to Up In The Hill can easily be made into a half day activity by continuing on to Wizard Beach and then returning to Old Bank via another trail.
The path to Up In The Hill is marked by colourful, hand painted signs. You will easily spot the first one soon after disembarking from the water taxi, at Old Bank. The trail passes through the village and into the forest behind. The walk is a steady climb all the way and if it has been raining the trail will be muddy. As you get higher, if you look to your left you will catch magnificent views of Isla Colon and Carenaro, through the trees.
Once you arrive at the coffee shop you will know the walk was worth your while. The shop is surrounded by lush greenery and soothing sounds from breaking waves on the beach far below. To order they have fresh fruit juices made with fruit grown on the farm, extremely healthy noni juice drinks, local Panama coffee, herbal teas, kombucha – a living health drink and their specialty, drinking chocolate made with their own 100% organic cacao beans. Nearly everybody who visits also orders one of the homemade chocolate brownies or truffles.
Before Up In The Hill was an organic finca it was a cattle property. Javier, from Argentina, and Janet, from Scotland, began the transformation 8 years ago by planting all the fruit and cacao trees, then reforested the remaining land. They process the cacao by first harvesting the cacao pods, then removing the beans from inside the pods and fermenting them in banana leaves for five days. After fermentation the beans are sun dried for 5 more days, then oven roasted and made into coco paste which is ready for use in the kitchen. They also extract and refine coconut oil from coconuts grown by themselves and neighbours. The coconut oil is infused with flowers, grasses, roots and seeds to make Pure Tree Natural Body Products which include; soaps, massage oils, skin creams, natural insect repellent and cooking oils. As you look around the shop you will notice they also have artisana crafts for sale, many out of recycled items. Even the timber used to build the house and coffee shop comes from trees sustainably harvested on the property or is recycled.
About the author: James Galletly is a freelance writer and perpetual traveler. His travels are shaped by a curios mind, surfing and all things green. He finances his lifestyle by writing about it. His work can be seen at http://scribblesontheweb.blogspot.com/