Let’s Rally

When we first started this trip, I envisioned sipping cold beers on the beaches of Mexico, then sailing to Costa Rica for eco-everything, anchoring off a remote island or two, going through the Panama Canal and finally to the holy grail of clear waters – the Caribbean.   But there are four, yes, four other countries between Mexico and Costa Rica.  The “forgotten middle” as some call it.

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Neko heading to El Salvador

And I’ll admit it, El Salvador was not at the top or even on my list of must-see countries.  There are a lot of reasons boaters don’t stop places; too much crime, too expensive, too big a headache to check in, too few places to stop and on and on.  El Salvador’s main strike against it with boaters is that its entry is too “scary”.  (See crossing sand bar post) But after hearing others (that’s you Torben and Judy) say it was no big deal and that the El Salvador Rally was worth checking out, we decided to take the chance, put on our big boy pants, cross the bar and see what “the savior” had to offer.   And indeed, unlikely as it sounds, Neko was “saved” with fixes to our hydraulic steering and generator by helpful craftsmen in El Salvador.  And we were saved from missing out on a fascinating country.  Outdoor fun, indoor fun, city life, country life and sea life, what a mix.

Boquerón

Boquerón, one of El Salvador’s 22 volcanoes

Joya de Cerén

Joya de Cerén, is an archaeological site of a Maya farming village preserved remarkably intact under layers of volcanic ash. The “Pompeii of the Americas”

apron

The El Salvadorian ladies love their frilly aprons and can balance anything on their heads.

fish market

Fish market in Libertad

Iglesia el Rosario

Iglesia el Rosario, looks like a cement airplane hanger on the outside, but inside…

rosario church

Iglesia el Rosario interior. The sunlight coming through the windows changes throughout the day creating a stunning natural light show.  It has been a zillion years since Peter’s last confession, but he broke into this church so we could see the inside. It was well worth it and I’ll have him say 5 Hail Marys.

We spent a month meeting fantastic new friends,

Sweet Jan.  Lucy's best new pal!

Sweet Jan. Lucy’s best new pal!

learning that El Salvador is a proud country that is moving beyond their civil war (that was 20 years ago folks) DSCN2651

Crazy night at Che bar.  The bartender and his friend are both children of Guerrilla fighters during the civil war.  Their mom and dad.

Crazy night at Che bar. The bartender and his friend are both children of Guerrilla fighters, both their dads and moms.

DSCN2657and enjoyed exploring both El Salvador and neighboring Guatemala (see Guatemala post).  Because of their close proximity to each other and the fact you get a four country visa, land travel between Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua is relatively easy.

Indigenous ladies of Guatemala

Indigenous ladies of Guatemala

To all you fellow boaters out there thinking of doing the El Salvador Rally – give it a shot.  It is VERY informal and chill.  No need for morning nets, just wander up to the bar or pool and see what’s what.  I liked the fact there were only about 20 boats at any given time, allowing you to actually know everyone.

With Mike and Holly in the colonial town of Suchitoto

With Mike and Holly in the colonial town of Suchitoto

El Salvadorian artist, Llort's gallery.

El Salvadorian artist, Fernando Llort’s gallery.

 

I jumped in a fountain to save a dog!

I jumped in a fountain to save a dog!

 

Learning about indigo tie dying from women's artist coop

Learning about indigo tie dying from women’s artist coop

Indigo tie dying with Rose

Indigo tie dying with Rose

Cooling off the pool with ice blocks.  You'd think we were kids in a candy store.

Cooling off the pool with ice blocks. You’d think we were kids in a candy store.

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dork

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Dinghy raft up

Dinghy raft up

Suchitoto

Rally crew in Suchitoto

Peter getting neck message.  Wait!  What???

Peter getting neck massage. Wait! What???

Funky tree house room we stayed in during trip to Juaya

Funky tree house room we stayed in during trip to Juayua. It was a great place and especially enjoyed the cool weather up in the mountains.

Jayua food festival

Juayua food festival

Zip lining through the jungle

Zip lining through the jungle.  See zip line post

The laid back attitude of Bill and Jean (rally organizers) created a no pressure atmosphere for participating as much or as little as you desire.  We did both planned activities and explored on our own.  For god sake, if anything go for the $1 beer 😉

Bye to all our Rally pals

Bye to all our Rally pals

Costa Rica, here we come.

Costa Rica, here we come.

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Flying Chicken

Hello, my name is Mary and I am a chicken.   I’m afraid of a lot of things; first and foremost moving fast and being out of control.  Skiing, motorcycles, boat racing, you name it.  Peter wants to do and does all these high adrenaline activities and my response 99% of the time is “no way”.   Then the next thing I know, I’m snapping skis on my feet, zipping down the highway on the back of a Ducati or racing JY15’s on a frozen Hudson River – bitchin’ and cryin’ the whole way.   So when Peter and a group of boating friends said, “let’s go zip lining through the El Salvadorian jungle”, I gave my pat answer.   I’ll let you guess what happened next…

At least we will fall to our deaths looking stylish

At least we will fall to our deaths looking stylish. Peter and his chick(en), Julie and Ken (Kia Ora) and Janet and Paul (Talos IV)

Why oh why?

Why oh why

Flying chicken

Flying chicken

Peter zip

Here we go

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We survived

We survived

Don’t tell Peter that I loved ever second 😉

 

 

It’s Not Always What it Seems

Picture this:  You and friends are sipping drinks at a table by a hotel pool on the beach.  Several other tables are also filled with quietly chatting folks when a local guy walks up from the beach with a machete in one hand and a small sea turtle in the other.  He flips the turtle onto its back and raises the machete.

What the what???

What the what???

Mary cowers in terror, as several of us run over to tell the guy not to do this in front of everyone like this.  You hate that endangered animals are eaten, but you wish at least they would do the butchering out back somewhere.  But before you get to the guy he gently taps the machete against a growth on the underbelly of the turtle.  It’s a barnacle.  He knocks it off and then repeats it for a bunch of barnacles on this poor turtle.

Barnacle belly

Barnacle belly

By this time the turtle has stopped flapping for its life and is calm.  He has either given up or knows somehow he is not in danger.  The guy painstakingly knocks barnacles off the underside, shell, legs even the head of the turtle.  It’s amazing what these guys can do with a machete.  He even very gently pries one off its eyelid!  20140305_134945By this time we realize he is not some turtle butcher with no social graces.  He is a kind of Tortuga whisperer.  When he has all the barnacles off, we all, including Lucy, follow him back to the ocean to watch the turtle swim away newly unencumbered by the little parasites. 20140305_140055

Good luck buddy

Good luck buddy

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The hero

The turtle hero has zero English and his Spanish is different and incomprehensible to us.  So we are only able to communicate our wonder and appreciation for this bit of kindness in a world where people are often so indifferent to animal suffering with smiles and cheers.

Bienvenido a El Salvador

Beautiful El Salvador

Beautiful El Salvador

What a welcome we received upon our entrance to El Salvador.  We had buddy boated down from Mexico with Kia Ora, Mermaid and Talos IV.  We actually had great winds for part of the trip, so the 250nm journey went faster than anticipated, ending with us all anchored out in the ocean waiting for high tide to “cross the bar”.   The entry into the harbor has a shifting sandbar with waves breaking over it, making it dangerous to cross without a knowledgeable pilot to guide you through the narrow opening.

August Pearl, Neko (top row) Kia Ora, Mermaid and Talos IV(bottom row)

August Pearl, Neko (top row) Kia Ora, Mermaid and Talos IV(bottom row)

Even in the opening there is often a cresting wave that causes a boat to surf on in.  Surfing a 30,000 lb boat will make you a bit anxious.  At the appointed time, we lined up with the other boats and nervously anticipated the crossing.   When it was Neko’s turn we went full throttle towards the prescribed path and just as we braced ourselves for a wild ride down breaking waves, we heard the voice of our pilot over the radio welcoming us to El Salvador.  Wow, that was a relief and, frankly, a bit of a let down.  You don’t want to surf the boat, but you kind of want a little wave.  Alas, in the long run I think it was better to have had the uneventful crossing.

Lucy ready for a new country

Lucy ready for a new country

They don’t get a lot of tourists in El Salvador and even fewer boaters, so they were very welcoming and friendly.   When we arrived we were greeted on the docks with smiles and cheers by immigration officials, the port captain, locals and rally members.  (We have joined the very informal El Salvador Rally which begins in a few weeks.  In the meantime we plan on exploring on our own and with our other boat pals.)

Welcome cocktail, this is my kind of place

Welcome cocktail, this is my kind of place

They handed us welcome cocktails, snapped photos, helped with our lines and bombarded us with information.   As you’ve read in previous posts, we normally have to drive or walk miles to officially check in/out of a country, here we only took a few steps to an air conditioned (ahhhh) office with ALL necessary personnel ready to stamp, stamp, stamp our way into El Salvador.

Peter waits his turn for the all in one check in

Peter waits his turn for the all in one check in

Apart from their love of official government stamps, El Salvador is really quite different from Mexico.  Everything from the landscape (volcanoes and lush jungle), people (friendly, but a little more shy), food (not spicy) and even their Spanish is slightly different (tend to drop endings of words).  Mexico was great, but we are ready for a change.

We’ve met great folks here and within our first week have been welcomed into their homes, experienced an early season lighting storm,

no not snow, heavy rain

no not snow, heavy rain

No flash, only the lightening making the dark sky look like day

No flash, only the lightening making the dark sky look like day

watched a turtle rescue (click here for turtle story), started volunteering at an English language school for children, run by a wonderful woman, Jan.

English language students

English language students

sampled several versions of pupusas, the quintessential El Salvadorian dish,

Pupusaria

Pupusaria

made of thick corn and sometimes rice tortillas and then filled with any combo of cheese, beans, pork, veggies.

Pupusas are made of thick corn and sometimes rice flour tortillas and then filled with any combo of cheese, beans, pork, veggies and served with a side of curtido (pickled cabbage)

taken long beach walks along their wide and empty beaches,

Giant beach all to ourselves

Giant beach all to ourselves

had the boat’s generator removed for repair

Guys carrying generator

Guys carrying generator

and took a dinghy ride down a pristine winding estuary to a remote restaurant which was merely a thatched platform over the river run by an adorable fisherman Memi and his family.  IMG_7130 IMG_7173 IMG_7180

Jan and Riza

Our new pals Jan and Riza

Memi cleaning our lunch

Memi cleaning our lunch

Peter enjoying our lunch

Peter cleaning his lunch

The restaurant grilled us a delicious fish lunch over a charcoal fire right in the thatch-roofed hut.  It was really only a platform on piles in the river with a few tables.  The restroom was a bench in the mangroves across a rickety catwalk.

Don't forget the toilet paper

Don’t forget the toilet paper

The next day we spent running errands in the crazy city of San Salvador, made even crazier by a hotly contested presidential election.  It was a close race, with both sides claiming victory and demanding recounts; all that was missing were hanging chads.   It’s interesting to note they do not serve or sell alcohol the day before, of and after the election to try to mitigate tempers.  (In the US, they’d be better off shutting down the internet).  Sadly, this goes for visitors as well, so only cocktails on our boat (oh, how we suffer).

El Salvador's new president Sanchez Ceren

As of now Sanchez Ceren is the declared winner, who was one of five top guerrilla commanders during the 1979-1992 civil war and marks the first time Salvadorans have voted an actual former rebel commander to be president.

San Salvador, like all of El Salvador is a place of haves and have nots.   You see everything from shacks on the outskirts of town to huge homes behind high walls and gates.

town

Private home outside the city

Private home in the city

Private home in the city

Apparently there is a lot of gang violence here, although we never felt any danger, you can’t go 50 feet without seeing guards with machine guns posted outside every store, bank, home, even zipping down the road on a motorcycle.

At least they wear helmets with their guns

At least they wear helmets with their guns

Please check your bags and guns

Please check your bags and guns

DSCN2077This is the capital and largest city in El Salvador, with almost 2.5 million people in the metro area.   And it is very much a big city, people are busy and going about their business and it is an interesting change of pace to be somewhere where tourism isn’t the name of the game.

DSCN2068 DSCN2066We love getting to know this vibrant country whether it is deep in the mangroves, in a small villages or in the big city.  We are looking forward to seeing more.

elsalhammock

Perfecting the siesta