National Geographic : 1965 Jul
v u.nnuvM t U HtU WAR)D.BLACK5IAR (OPPOSITEl, AND JOSEPH J. SCHERSCHEL IC.N.G.S . Costa Rica's busiest Pacific port and one of its most popular seaside resorts, Puntarenas offers bathers a sweep of uncrowded, uncluttered beach. Game fish abound, and schools of tuna in offshore waters attract commercial fishermen from as far away as California. "Now we are leaving the coffee fincas," said Mauro, as we headed north. "But we will still see lots of sugar cane, tobacco, pineapple, tomatoes, and plantains." Oxcart: Symbol of Costa Rica's Past At Sarchi we stopped at Don Joaquin Cha verri's oxcart factory (page 139). Pungent smoke rose from a pit where Chaverri's sons put red-hot iron rims on alligator-wood wheels. The brightly painted and carved ox cart is a symbol of Costa Rica.* No two carts are alike, except for their hardwood durabili ty. The wheels turn with a melodious knock ing-the "voice" of the cart (pages 140-41). "Carts like these used to make the nine-day journey between Cartago and Puntarenas, each loaded with a ton of coffee," Mauro said. Sarchi's two shops turn out eight of these colorful vehicles a week, but the days of the carts are numbered; their job will be taken over by jeeps and trucks. The cartmakers are turning to crafting bedsteads, chairs, and home bars-but they still decorate them with the geometric and flowered designs which distinguish the carts. Three hours later we drove into Puntare nas on the Pacific. Puntarenas lies on a slim finger of land more like a wharf than a pen insula (above)-at one point scarcely wide enough for the highway and the railroad. "There is always the rumor that the whole city is going to sink," laughed Alvaro Gallardo Cordero, who showed us the town. *See "Land of the Painted Oxcarts," by Luis Marden, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, October, 1 46.