Sarchi* is about an hour’s drive from here. The town is famous for two things: wooden furniture and oxcarts. The town is also known for arts and crafts, but it seems to me they make stuff to sell to tourists… not like they were going to make the stuff anyway. You know? Like oxcarts.
The oxcarts they make anyway. Tico farmers still use oxcarts to transport goods from the farm to market, complete with oxen. I see them walking down my street, loaded for bear. On my early morning walk, I pass their oxen roaming free eating grass. A little unnerving at first, but you get used to it. They are really just muscular non-aggressive cows with horns, right? Mom and Gayle wanted to see oxcarts, so we headed for Sarchi.
DISCLAIMER: Maybe from living in a tourist town for so many years, I am jaded when it comes to tourist attractions. I try to keep my cynicism at bay but it’s not always possible. I’m borderline paranoid about some stuff… Some stuff deserves it: I’m from KY and remember going to a tourist attraction – KY is deservedly famous for its crafts – not far from my hometown. Every craft sold in the town had a Made in China sticker on the bottom. Didn’t even have the good sense to remove the tag… Anyway. I’m suspicious. Having Mom and Gayle with me for this Sarchi-to-Arenal tour was refreshing because they like EVERYTHING and are excited by EVERYTHING – touristy or no. I had to keep my little hop-toads of wisdom to myself so as not to rain on their parade… big of me.
Sarchi is a small rural town, feels waaaaaaay out in the country to this city girl. But a really lovely little town. I used to be a country girl. One of mom’s husbands was a bridge/poker player who owned a dairy farm in Indiana… I LOVED that farm. Look for those farm stories in the Mom’s-Marriages.com blog coming your way one day soon. I’m thinking she is not going to find this idea as amusing as I do.
During season, I’m sure Sarchi is swamped with tourists. But now, during rainy season – and it rained the whole day – we were It. We stopped at a little coffee shop near the church for coffee and pan dulce [pahn DUEL-say, sweet bread]. Two coffees and a bag of sugar cookies was 800 colones = $1.60. Even I was impressed with how cheap it was… In Escazú, we would pay at least twice that much.
After refreshments, we headed to the biggest oxcart souvenir shop in town. You can’t miss it. Rows and rows of expensive souvenirs: oxcarts in all sizes, from miniscule to gigantic, wooden furniture, kitchen stuff, boxes, jewelry, beads, hammocks, painted junk, masks, t-shirts, caps, leather bags, embroidered bags, aprons, postcards. And everything had Costa Rica written on it. Proof. I asked a shopgirl where the oxcarts were actually made and was surprised when she told me: Alfaro’s. She kinda whispered it… We headed over there and found ourselves in an oxcart factory.
I also asked if I could buy three small wheels ($20 each) to use as table tops for our mini coffee tables in the living room. You can buy these surprisingly sturdy little tables on the roadside. This size is $4 (the ones the man is holding on the left are much smaller, probably $2). We’ll paint the bases and attach the wheels which should be ready Monday. Can’t wait.
Mr. Alpizar asked what base color would I like (black). The design and colors I will leave up to him. Everything I saw in his barn was so beautiful… Hal says my favorite color is confusing. A beautiful hand-painted oxcart wheel will scratch that itch nicely. Well worth the drive!!!
*On the map in the link, Sarchi is just below and slightly left of
the word Alajuela in the top-half, center; Escazú is just to the left
of San Jose which is at the far right edge just below center