Monday, June 13, 2011

More of what’s been going on.

Casa Garufina at Playa Azul

I watched a CBS Sunday Morning feature on the Blogisphere and they mentioned that the vast majority of blogs get dropped after a short period … and felt rather guilty about neglecting my little site. So here I am!

El Salvador has been pretty calm lately. The rainy season has started but it hasn’t been too bad. Enough rain to get the fields green but not so much that there is ground saturation and potential flooding. The Veraneras golf course is still in great shape and we may have good conditions through July (before it gets too wet and muddy to get a cart through).

I had 16 people come and visit (in 4 groups) and it was great to see my friends but a bit tiring – especially with some GI issues and the fact that 3 groups overlapped over the course of about a month. Will have to plan breaks next time.

Some of my friends have really fallen in love with El Salvador and we are looking at a way for them to work remotely from here for a month or two each winter. With great internet connections, very cheap calls to Canada, Skype and instant messaging, and decent (albeit expensive) courier service, it would be very easy to work from here if your type of job allows for it.

It was great to host people in our condo and do day trips to the beach for surfing, or golfing, or excursions like zip-lining or up to the coffee plantations. Also eating out can be very reasonable as well as hitting some nice bars and lounges.

And since most people flew down on Taca (which allows 2 x 50 lb bags), I was able to put in orders for lots of stuff to be brought down. Oh, I also packed 3 suitcases full of stuff from Ikea and donations of clothing which I left with friends to bring down.

Our first look at the beach house.

Another group came down and rented a fantastic beach house. Probably one of the nicest ones in the entire country. 6 bedrooms all with en suite washrooms, incredible outdoor deck, lovely staff, all the coconuts you could drink, and an amazing beach. The place is called Casa Garifuna and it is on Playa Azul just west of Acajutla on the coastal road heading to Guatemala.

They have a great beach that is close to the one used by the Decameron Resort so there are quite a few Canadians around during the winter as well as cops on ATVs going up and down watching out for tourists. There is a fishing camp nearby and lots of boats going in and out right in front of the beach house. We helped them carry their boat in one time – there were ten of them and my friend and I lended a hand and I almost put my back out with the incredible weight of the boat! But we were able to buy very fresh red snappers from them which we grilled on our charcoal bbq and it was delicious.

Fresh red snapper, grilled on charcoal

Their trip was great … except 7 out of 9 of them came down with severe stomach issues. I am not sure if it was something they brought down with them or if it was food poisoning but it was spreading from person to person. I tried to be very careful about the washing of fruits and vegetables but they still got very sick. I felt terrible about this especially since they were unable to do many of the things they had planned.

We also had an adventure … that bordered on the incredible/terrifying. We left the beach house in two vehicles (my Honda Pilot and a rented Jeep) with two GPS devices. We programmed in Tacuba where we were going to meet up with Manolo of Impossible Tours for a hike through Parque Impossible to the waterfalls. BTW, if you have Paige’s guide book “El Salvador, A Great Destination”, the telephone number for Manolo (and his parent’s cool hostel) is incorrect. The number in the book is of a competitor that may inform you that Manolo’s business is closed – the correct number is 2417-4268.

We speak to Manolo and agree that it will take us about 80 minutes to get there … and then we follow the GPS. We made two major mistakes on this trip. First, we had the GPS set to shortest route rather than fastest, and we embarked on our trip without cross checking the GPS route with a map. So as we hit the main road, we turned left instead of right. On the right was a perfectly paved road that would allow us to blast up to Jujutla, Ataco, Ahuachapan and then Tacuba. On the left was a road that was paved … and then went to dirt … and then back to pave. It looked like a plausible road to us until it went to dirt and cobblestones and then we hit the hills. Very steep with switchbacks and giant boulders and climbing over stones and under fallen trees. All other cars and buses disappeared and we were out there with some farmers, passed horses, passed a pig washing station (a guy with a hose spraying down two big hos), and passed a lot of people with surprised expressions on their faces.

Nearing the end of our drive through the mountain jungle.

For the longest time, we thought that we would hit the main road again and be on our way. Monolo kept calling us asking where we were and how far away. Finally he had to let the tour go (there were two impatient Germans waiting for us to arrive) and we agreed to do something else once we got to his place.

Manolo guiding us down to the hot springs - all the therapuetic mud you want!

So up and down mountains, squeezing between rocks, driving past precipices, hoping that we would hit civilization before we came to a dead end. We should have turned back but we didn’t and kept driving for about an hour until finally we hit a road, saw some other cars, then houses and then a town! We broke through the countryside at Ataco and finally made it to Tacuba. Manolo was very cool about us being late and asked why we were so late. We showed him the route and he was incredulous. He said that they sometimes take dirt bikes through there but never trucks. I would have taken some pictures if I wasn't so busy trying to keep us alive. So instead of hiking through Parque Impossible, we drove through it.

Manolo showing us coffee plants.

We decompressed with some beers and then Manolo organized a trip to the nearby hotsprings and coffee plantation. The hotsprings feed some giant pools and they also use the steam and geothermic energy to process the coffee. It was off season so we just walked through seeing some early buds and some people doing some weeding. We drove to Ahuachapan to see where the coffee was being roasted and processed. Very high quality organic beans with three sorting systems (mechanical, computer and then by hand). We bought several pounds of it to take home.

Green coffee beans being sorted for the European market.

Okay, that’s enough for now … will try to post again soon.

1 comment:

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