Ten kilometres from the EMR, via a winding road lined with lush jungle and Caribbean pines, LOPINOT is a pretty hamlet with a remote feel, clustered around a sports field and the neat flowerbeds of a former cocoa estate that has been transformed into a beautiful recreation spot.

The valley was first settled by one Charles Josef, Compte de Lopinot, a planter who fled Haiti following Toussaint L’Ouverture’s 1791 revolution. He arrived in 1800 with his wife and a hundred slaves, and it’s not difficult to see why he chose to settle in this absurdly abundant alluvial valley surrounded by high, protective mountains. Lopinot’s cocoa thrived, allowing him to build a tapia estate house, a prison and slave quarters and to amass a small fortune before his death in 1819. The Compte is buried alongside his wife by the Arouca River, which runs through the valley, and local legend has it that on stormy full moon nights his ghost rides through the estate on a white horse. A photograph taken in 1981, now on display in the great house, claims to show exactly that.

Today, Lopinot is a great place to picnic or to take a gentle hike into the surrounding forest. The community’s annual Fiesta de Lopinot, a festival of parang, food and drink, takes place in late November, and is well worth checking out, as is the Cocoa Innovations festival, staged at Café Mariposa on the Saturday after Carnival, a fantastic celebration of cooking with cocoa with lots of samples of savoury and sweet delights.

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