On top of jaguar mountain, in Romelo’s house, hangs an ocelot skin; just casually thrown over a nail in the wall. The ocelot tried to eat one of Romelo’s chickens at dusk one day. All that remains of the ocelot today is its skin, like a mini jaguar. The chicken that couldn’t be saved was Romelo’s dinner that night. A rare treat as he mostly eats rice with beets. At 74 years old Romelo is fitter than most. He lives up in the mist and the clouds with his 30 cows, 5 horses and a dog. Whenever he needs supplies it is a 10 hour walk into town to see his wife. Señora Vega doesn’t care for living in the cloud forest, so she lives in town. Their children are all grown up and have children of their own, they too are farmers and visits Romelo only when they have time.
On the day we went to see Romelo he greeted us welcomingly. He made us coffee on his open fire and thanked us for coming. It was lonely up on the mountain, he said, especially now when his radio has died. I was glad we had brought home made cake and jam for Romelo but wished we had brought him more food and perhaps some coffee from the plantation. As the mist rolled in Romelo told us about his wild cat encounters over the years; how a jaguar had attacked and nearly killed one of his horses and how he now had a large scar to prove it. How once Romelo himself and nearly been killed by a jaguar, pouncing on him from a tree.
Next time we sa Romelo he had been walking for 6 hours and was on his way into town to see his wife. Although we spend very little time with Romelo he left a big impression on all of us. What a kind hearted man to share the little that was left of his coffee and his stories with us.
The walk to Romelo’s house through the cloud forest was a beautiful walk. On the way back we got soaked by heavy rains. It amazed me that even after walking for 5 hours and being soaking wet – not once did the children complain. They were happily exploring plants and wildlife along the way, chatting to Reynaldo and his brother from the plantation. They pointed out birds, bugs and trees, a hummingbird’s nest and huge fungus. We were all filled with impressions, we had made new friends and new memories to cherish.