The rain held off till the end of our night walk last night which was really nice for us. I don't know how much it rained during the night but by morning it had stopped though it was still overcast. By 8:30 am we were on the road heading to our hotel Villa Blanca at the Los Angeles Cloud Forest. Two stops were scheduled on the drive to our hotel.

First stop was an Ox Cart Factory where we had a tour. The factory is attached to a souvenir shop and a restaurant (it was lunch time by time we finished the tour) ---- one stop shopping today. Ox carts have been used since the early 1800's to cart coffee beans from the central valley to the pacific coast.

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Sixteens wedges cut on 22.5 degree angles are used to make the main part of the wheel.. A metal hub is placed in the centre and a steel band is heated, bent then wrapped around the wood. The steel is cooled with water so it shrinks and tightens around the wood creating the wheel. Jumping ahead to the other side of the factory are the painters. Some of the painters paint pictures, some paint trays and others paint the carts.

Jumping back to manufacturing, the factory is run by water power. Water turns a large wheel which turns a pulley that drives a belt that drives a lay shaft which in turn drives belts that power the different wood working machines.

A decorative Ox Cart.

This is probably a lot closer to a working Ox Cart. Today small trucks are used to bring the coffee beans in from the fields and large trucks transport the coffee beans to the drying area and any where else they need to go.

A small town we drove through on our way to the coffee plantation.

The next stop was a coffee plantation where we had a very informative tour and sampled some very good coffee. The coffee plantation we visited is a co-operative --- many farmers with small farms (just a couple of acres) work together to produce coffee and sell it.

A field of coffee bushes. A lot of the fields on are sides of the hills.

Our timing was good as harvest season is just beginning. We tasted beans picked off the plant, saw trucks bringing beans in from the fields, saw beans being roasted and packaged. As picking was done for the day, we watched the pickers (entire family including children) coming in from the fields. The children are on summer vacation so they are able to help in the fields.

The berry from the coffee bush is red when it is ripe. It must be hand picked because the berries ripen at different times. The berries are picked three times over a period of approximately two months.

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When the berries are trucked in from the fields the quantity of berries is measured using a special container. The growers are paid by the number of containers (the green box the berries are being dumped into). The pickers are paid by the basket. Our guide asked if I would help measure the coffee. The balls are used to count the number of containers.

After the berry is picked the fruit is removed from the pit and the pits are dried. Once the pits are dried, the outer shell is removed and coffee bean emerges. At this point, the coffee beans are readied for shipment overseas. If the coffee bean is staying in Costa Rica, it is stored until they are needed. Once the bean is roasted the quality begins to decrease, so they are roasted just before packaging and shipping. Grinding also affects the quality so our guide suggests that you buy coffee beans, preferably from Costa Rica, and grind them at home just before you make your coffee.

Just as the tour ended, the rain began ---- timing was good once again. The hotel isn't far from the coffee plantation in kilometres but it took over an hour to get there. The countryside is very hilly so the roads are narrow and winding. The last 10 kilometres were not paved and took about a half hour to drive. Even in the rain the scenery was amazing. It was dark when we arrived at the hotel so picture taking will have to wait till tomorrow.