2007. My very first travel/fruit hunt with my best friend Jessica Shepard. Young and reckless we took the red eye out of LAX to San Jose, Costa Rica. Not knowing what we'd find, not even having our first night booked we threw ourselves at the mercy of Pura Vida knowing we come out with our heads above water. True to form, we did just that. Ah the blind trust & self confidence of a 19 and 20 year old.
We spent 6 weeks traveling the country, seeing the sights any traveler to Costa Rica must; Volcán Arenal, Monteverde Cloud Forest, Playa Grande, the Central Valley.. but the true gem we found was a sleepy little town on the Caribbean side of the country just South of Puerto Limón, Cahuita.
So laid back, with the distinct creole & Rastafarian influence from nearby Haiti and Jamaica, we found the people to be the most welcoming, the price for living just right and the diversity of food thrilling. Fresh fruit grew wild at every street corner, as the jungle, growing ever thicker threatened to consume all. Cahuita National Park, just feet from many of our cabinas was where we spent more of our days. Hiking and biking (beach cruisers) through the dense undergrowth, watching a lazy sloth hammock itself in the limbs, plucking at every plant we saw, being chased by packs of Capuchin monkey's, and of course finding fruit.
We tried Noni for the first time (I still find the taste and especially the smell far more repulsive than Durian), found & enjoyed what we were told were Jobos, had a Jackfruit curry, so many different varieties of Banana, Mango and Melon, to call each of these fruit by just that name in our supermarkets is a disgrace, and why do we insist on importing the most boring of flavors?!
Our most exciting hunt involved a little bout of trespassing. We found a Cocoa tree - our very first encounter - and decided we simply must get one and dissect. Jess being the much taller of the two of us was elected picker. I documented the adventure and kept the lookout as she climbed over barbed wire, jumped to reach a twig, then proceeded to hack at the stem with a rock until we had our treasure.
Back at the safely of our room, once open we had no idea what to do with it. We knew fermentation and drying of the beans was involved at some point..but with out those one can't eat it right? So with a rather anticlimactic end to our crime streak, we left it for the aunts. If we took one clue from them we would have seen they went absolutely crazy for the thin, creamy white membrane that held in each cocoa bean. Years later I learned that that is the choice part of a fresh cocoa pod and have eaten many since. Like custard.
I will always think of this trip with the fondest memories, memories with the power to make me bust out like a hysterical cackling hen, in public, with no Jess around to make me look like a normal young woman having a laugh...but what of it. It's these experiences that shape us, that ignite a thirst to discover more fruit, to travel more, to see the world.