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Title: The artisans of sarchi
Location: Alajuela, Costa Rica
On Saturday afternoon, Marcus and Maria took us to Sarchi. Sarchi is a village with lots of artisans. It is also the destination of many tour buses full of souvenier-seekers.
Famous for its decorated oxcarts and wooden furniture, Sarchi has numerous shops created to serve gringo demands for little items to put on coffee tables, bookcases, and refrigerator doors to help them remember beautiful Costa Rica.
But before we got to Sarchi, we passed through Grecia. This area has many shops selling locally-made furniture. The furniture is still made from slabs of real wood, not the simulated-veneered-plastic-based-particleboard stuff to which we are becoming accustomed in the US.
So often it's the little things. We met with our other friends as they picked the dining room furniture for their new home. What a privilege it was, to be included in the activities of this giving family!
On Sunday, April 2, we hopped the bus to Alajuela with the intention of taking a second bus to Volcan Poas and the Jardins de la Catarata La Paz. When we got to Alajuela we found there is no bus. Poas had been closed for a few days due to danger from volcanic action. Though Poas had reopened, the public bus had not restarted. We ended up taking a taxi for about 40 minutes up into the mountains to visit the Jardins.
I learned three lessons that morning. One, it is a good idea in urban areas to carry two billfolds... one in a very safe place, like a moneybelt or around-the-neck-under-the-shirt type... and then a fake billfold, with a little spending money and fake credit cards. If mugged or pick-pocketed, they can have the "throw-away" billfold.
The second lesson I learned is that even a pretty savvy traveler can make a mistake. Since this was just a day trip, and we weren't going far from home, I put my real credit card in my throw-away billfold.
Third, never-ever-ever pull out your billfold in an urban bus station. It tells a pick-pocket where you are keeping it - might as well put a "TAKE ME" sign on your money.
I won't go into details - but somehow, in under two minutes, my little throw-away with under $30 and, unfortunately, my best credit card, disappeared from a zippered pocket on the front thigh of my travel pants.
But on to the Jardins! After a long taxi ride, we arrived at what is a major tourist destination. The Catarata La Paz (The Peace Waterfall) is actually five waterfalls. There is a steep trail running along side the river passing the falls with various viewpoints along the way. The falls are surrounded by dense tropical foliage, so it is a lovely walk down - and there is a shuttle bus to take you back to the beginning.
The beauty of the falls and surroundings, combined with it's location - relatively close to Volcan Poas - would be enough to make it a worthy tourist destination. But some savvy promoters are turning it into a real tourist draw. There is a lodge - The Peace Lodge - at which you can stay. There is a large butterfly garden... probably an acre or more enclosed by netting and numerous butterflies being hatched daily. There is a good hummingbird area and a display of Costa Rican reptiles. The restaurant at the entrance provides an outdoor deck for dining or drinks looking out over lovely landscapes, with lots of humminbirds and other bird species frequenting the area.
With coatis, birds, butterflies, waterfalls, mountains... even an oxcart... Jardins de la Catarata La Paz is attempting to give visitors a cross-section of the wonders of Costa Rica, all within an easy day trip from San Jose.
After our visits, we got back to our Spanish immersion classes. They are great, and are really helping us in our weekly adventures.