The town of Atenas, Costa Rica sits on a ridge high above the Rio Grande, not quite half way between San José and Puntarenas. Highway 3, which follows the path of the old ox-cart road that carried coffee from Central Valley plantations to Puntarenas for the long voyage around Cape Horn, passes through Atenas. There is even a monument on the highway that celebrates the boyeros, (Ox cart Driver’s) who made the long trek on foot.
Also to celebrate the history of the Boyeros and their journey, this weekend in Atenas was the Climate Fair and Parade de la Boyero. This is an annual event in Atenas and is attended by hundreds of pair of oxen ,their brightly colored ox carts and owners.From Friday through Sunday there have been many different activities held in Parque Centeral de Atenas with live music, dancing, the Boyero parade, food and events for the kids.
Ox-cart History in Costa Rica:
Ox-carts have a long history and have become synonymous with Costa Rica. Although the flashy ox-cart of today shows little resemblance to the original rough-hewn, rectangular, cane-framed vehicles of the past, the brightly painted oxcarts hold a prominent place in the history of Costa Rica and its economic development. The carts, which once dominated the rural landscape of the central highlands, date back to the end of the 19th century, but were used exclusively to transport coffee and other agricultural products well into the 20th century. The oxcart seems to symbolize the self-reliance and fortitude of the small Costa Rican farmer.
At the peak of the coffee boom and before the construction of the Atlantic Railroad, oxcarts were used to transport coffee beans to Puntarenas, located on the Pacific coast; as they were ideally suited for the country’s mountainous conditions and rutted dirt roads. The journey required 10-15 days. During the rainy season, the oxcart trail became somewhat of a quagmire. Thus, Costa Ricans developed their own spokeless wheel–a cross between the Aztec disc and the Spanish spoked wheel- to cut through the mud without becoming bogged down. In their heyday, some 10,000 cumbersome, squeaking oxcarts had a significant impact on the local economy; creating the need for such things as highway guards, smithies, inns, teamsters, and workcrews to maintain the roads. On the return trip from Puntarenas, they would haul goods mainly from Europe back to the Central Valley.
For more information check out http://travelcostaricanow.com/index.php/The_Ox-carts_of_Costa_Rica