6/27 Land Cruisers and Coffee
Monday, June 28th, 2010
Considering my love for travel, it seems odd, but wherever I go I tend to settle right in. I was in Panama for five days, mainly due to a broken down car. But I could have stayed longer. It was beginning to feel like home. At the next few places I stayed for two nights, which was fine. But here in San Marcos, I am so comfortable that I’m staying a third night and if I could, I might stay longer. I’m feeling at home here, too.
This place, The Saint’s Zone, has a magical, fairy tale aura. The little towns are nestled between the mountains and driving from one to the next, you climb up on to high ridges with spectacular vistas. Then you travel down into little cozy corners that shelter another village. Then it is back up and around the mountain to get to the next pueblo. Coffee is growing everywhere, absolutely everywhere! It is grown in flat fields and up the sides of steep terrain, along with banana trees.
La Zona de Los Santos is comprised of a number of mountain villages, all named for saints. The main pueblos are Santa Maria de Dota, San Pablo de León Cortés and San Marcos de Tarrazú. Each area has a coffee cooperative. The coffee from Tarrazú (co op – Coope Tarrazú) is reported to be the best coffee in Costa Rica. Tomorrow I will take a tour of a coffee farm and the cooperative. Then I can tell you all about it. For now I’ll show you around and tell you about the Land Cruisers.
Toyota Land Cruisers are everywhere, in this area: specifically those made in the years between 1978 and 1980. In those years the international price of coffee beans skyrocketed to $3.50 a pound. That is higher than it has even been before or since. Today, in 2010, the price is about $1.50 per pound. So, since coffee prices were that high, of course all the plantation owners – and there are many – had to have a new vehicle. They piled into cars and flocked to San Jose, everyone coming back with their own Toyota Land Cruiser. They still drive these cars today. I would think it is because they are good, strong rigs that just don’t wear out, and that may well be the case. But my Tica friend, Katty (she’s the one who sent me here), puts it this way: “There is so much money in this area – millions of dollars!” ” she says. “But the people are living twenty years back in time. They don’t like to spend their money. They would rather keep their old, rusty refrigerator than get a new one. And some even still cook with wood!” Katty’s reasoning for the continued use of so many Land Cruisers could be correct, but I also think these guys are just plain proud of their old rigs. You can see it by the way they take care of them. Most are in pretty good shape.
Whatever the reason, I’m enjoying this local idiosyncrasy. I love these cars! I’ve driven Toyotas all my life, until I came to Costa Rica. Here, I couldn’t afford one. At the time I moved to Costa Rica, used cars were selling for such high prices that I paid twice as much for my ’96 Suzuki Sidekick, than the price I got for selling my ’94 Toyota Four Runner, in Montana. I like my Suzuki, but it is not half the car the Four Runner was. My original plan was to buy one of those old Land Cruisers when I got to Costa Rica, but they proved impractical for me. Still, I’d love to have one, but for now, I’ll settle for pictures.