Day 8: Sarchi. Shopping. Sleeping

Our trip is winding down to a close, and we have only one day left of activities tomorrow. It's definitely gone by fast; however, I have to admit that I'm looking forward to some reliability in my life. I absolutely do not take a comfortable bed and hot water for granted anymore!

We made our way north today, back to the capital of San Jose from the coast of Jaco. I honestly was pretty unimpressed with Jaco, and would advise against visiting there unless you feel like sleeping there as a springboard for other tourism. Raise your hand if you've been to any Latin beach town like Barcelona, Naples, Mazatlan, etc... that's what Jaco is like. It doesn't have much to offer except trinkets and American fast food. If I came again, I would probably visit Tortugera or someplace less touristy. Our hotel in Jaco also didn't have any hot water, so we all took record-time showers in order to avoid the cold as much as possible.

The only thing on the agenda for today was shopping in a little village called Sarchi, which is located between Jaco and San Jose. Sarchi is the cradle of Costa Rican crafts, and the epicenter from where all of the wooden carvings and trinkets sold across the country are made. It was a nice place to shop because the prices were better than the local shops, and we were able to visit a famous 100+ year old oxcart factory.

The most famous "souveneir" or craft of Sarchi is the handpainted oxcart, which originated in the 1800s when farmers used it to transport goods and merchandise across towns. Eventually the carts began to carry people and were built bigger, but what made them famous were the intricate designs painted on each one by artisans in order to distinguish oxcarts to various families in the area (similar to the personalization of your family's automobile). Artisans would spend months fashioning the perfect cart and it would be individual to its owners (including the sound it made across the pebbles, inferring that a wife would be able to hear her husband's specific cart on the road a mile down in order to have dinner ready for him when he returned home). Families began painting the carts, until a contest emerged each year for which family's cart had the most intricate design. Families of the different villages would parade their painted oxcarts in festivals, and each year the designs got better and better.

Now, the oxcarts are primarily used as a reminder of Sarchi's artisan background and history, and tourists purchase them as decorative pieces of art. No two Sarchi oxcarts have the same design. It was neat to visit the factory where the most famous oxcarts are created and painted, and as I mentioned before, the particular factory we visited is over 100 years old. They do not power it with electricity, but actually use the same water wheel power system as when it was created. It was absolutely fascinating to see the men at work using water wheel power and turnstiles to carve the various pieces!

After we checked back into our hotel in Costa Rica, T and I went out with some friends to an amazing restaurant called Cafe Mundo, while the rest of our group went to a folklore dinner up in the mountains. Cafe Mundo was a delicious restaurant inside of an actual colonial house that had been converted, hidden away by some banyan trees in the middle of the city and serving some of the best Italian food we've ever had. Tomorrow we are going white water rafting on the Sarapiqi river, followed by an afternoon of absolutely nothing at all. :)

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