The country's natural bounty hangs heavily on the trees. High along a mountain pass, atop precipitous ridges thick with coffee bushes our "tourismo" taxi sped at horrifying speed. The radio blasted out a lilting Peruvian flute melody and I was reminded of the visit "Scarface" made to "Sousa" in some similarly appearing mountain paradise.
We took to praying at hair pin bends where the view , though incredibly beautiful was also quite terrifying; a thin line of sticks masqueraded as a guard rail. The barrier sprouted leaves and some stalks even bore fruit. "They are higueron not papaya" Renaldo told us. The hillside coffee bushes grew in a highly erodable red clay. I knew this because we stopped as I felt nauseous from the winding road. While kneeling on the ground I had the opportunity to examine the dirt up close.
Coffee came to Costa Rica from Ethiopia. The traditional shade loving plants were soon replaced by hybrids that grew in greater density where the trees had been cut away. The country's economy had come to depend on the coffee industry and when the prices crashed in 1900 the people were hit by famine. Today there has been a move toward the more traditional shade plants again. The newer hybrids consumed to much nutrient from the soil and the erosion has been catastrophic in some places.
The vendor in this picture sells local produce. She has turned her back to the camera as most woman in Costa Rica and especially young girls are camera shy. This is only one of the thousands of stalls dotted around San Jose where fresh fruit and vegetables are sold.
I remember Maggie and I stopped and bought two great "mangas" for lunch one day. As a visitor you will likely pay top dollar, we bargained with the help of our taxi driver and felt we had a deal at 2000 colones, by the salesman's grudging smile I knew he had won the game – no loss he needed the money more than us. We carved them up with plastic knives back at our room at the Melia Caliari. They were the size of canteloupes and when showered with salt they were heavenly.