During August and September 2006, I stayed with Marcelo and his wife Anna in San Luis de Pambil. I spent the first few weeks visiting different locations around the area understanding and appreciating how people lived and worked by getting involved in agriculture and meeting the farmers. Having a background in eco-tourism and sustainable development I assisted Raul with writing a funding proposal to the European Union for US$50,000. This document proposed forward-thinking initiatives for fifty families in the area such as waterway reforestation, medicinal plant medicine, apiculture, organic farming and certification among others which all had the potential to promote sustainable livelihoods, agricultural and community-based tourism. The submission passed 4 of the 5 stages but was unfortunately unsuccessful. Regardless, it was an important process as it generated ideas for CRACYP and Piedra Blanca.
I also spent a large amount of time up in Piedra Blanca hiking and horseback riding in the hills with Marcelo and his father, which afforded me a great opportunity to see how the Cabana was progressing, gauge the views towards tourism of other families in the area and generally appreciate the community-based eco-tourism product being developed. I worked with Marcelo in producing marketing material for advertising the area with the financial help of Ayuda en Accion – Help in Action, an initiative of the Spanish Government. Using this funding we attended the first annual International Tourism Fair in Guayaquil for 2 days to promote the area and network with other destinations and operators. Overall, my experience in San Luis de Pambil and Piedra Blanca was incredible. It gave me some invaluable Spanish skills (especially through writing the report), practical experience in my chosen field of work, and a deep appreciation of the culture and warmth of people in the area.