Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Of Coffee and Bus Rides

Steep hillsides planted with rows of tree crops or vegetables flash by, as the crowded bus takes the hairpin turns at a solid forty miles per hour. The landscape of the Costa Rican central valley (oxymoronic, right?) is a hodge podge of cash crops like coffee, vegetables, pasture, and the odd forest fragment. But these form the basis for the region's residents' incomes.

It is only midday, but J and I have already been up and about for eight hours. After a couple of packed days at the Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Ensenanza (CATIE), we are leaving the region behind to move on to the next phase in out two-week adventure. 

The past two days have been early mornings, catching and banding birds in a couple of types of agrictural lands to see how they move through the landscape. This is important for the birds and other wildlife, in that their habitat is connected and that farmers are not spraying pesticides during mating or nesting seasons. 

We also had the opportunity to explore CATIE's cacao collection and learn about some of the challenges farmers face. Because of the spread of disease, cocoa has become a more minor crop in the country. Breeding new varieties that are resistant to disease, and planting fruit trees for shade and extra income, is beginning to address some of these hardships.

So, in four days, what are my take aways?
  • Rice and beans are cheap, easy to make, and common fare among Ticos. 
  • Bananas (and really all tropical fruit) taste better here. There is no going back! 
Ok, there are definitely more than that. But there are still one and a half weeks left of vacation, so I don't want to tire you out too soon!


Photo is courtesy of J.

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