Tuesday, January 12, 2016

El Salvador's Ruta de Las Flores - November, 2015

Later in November we took another "project break" and spent a weekend traveling along the Ruta de las Flores (Route of Flowers) with friends Bill and Jean (operators of the Cruisers Rally to El Salvador and a mooring field in Bahía Jaltepeque). The Ruta de las Flores is one of the eight tourist routes established by the El Salvadorian tourist board. Along this route, which runs north-south in the western part of the country one can take a canopy tour (aka a zip line tour), hike to a water fall, go mountain biking, ride horses and generally engage in all sorts of energetic activities.  

None of which we did. 

And we weren't bowled over by the flowers along the route either, though that may be because we've been spoiled by the tiny but beautifully maintained grounds at the Paradise Fishing Lodge (Gracias, Rigo!)

But we had a very nice weekend looking at charming, sleepy little towns:

Murals in the Naive Art Style Very Popular in El Salvador

A Pedestrian Street - Without Pedestrians

Iglesia San Andrés in Apaneca - Closed For Renovation

On our first afternoon we stopped in the village of Salcoatitán for lunch at a food stall along the main square. Following all the rules we chose a clean, popular stall where the food smelled good and three of us (Bill was the culinary outlier) ordered the specialty - Caldo de Gallina (chicken soup). It looked great and the vegetables in chicken broth tasted delicious. But the side of grilled chicken was, well . . . we began to suspect it was rubber-joke-chicken though we could not find any hidden cameras.  It was so tough and rubbery we could not pull the meat from the bone and put it into the broth. We wrestled with our chicken for awhile and then did the only thing one can do in such a situation - we laughed, called it a loss . . . and headed back to buy another bag of the fabulous freshly made potato chips that we really wanted to eat anyway.  

Our home for the night was Finca Santa Leticia a coffee plantation and hotel outside of the village of Apaneca. The rooms are in rustic-looking cabins spread around the property and the main building/restaurant is very High Sierra. The grounds are lovely and the restaurant - well, it's okay. 

Reception and Restaurant

Pre-Thanksgiving Turkey Spotting

Happily we had brought our own pre-dinner drinks and snacks and were so full of cheese, crackers and wine that the main meal wasn't really necessary.  It was nice to talk with Jean and Bill about the life they have built for themselves in El Salvador. 

The next day we asked the woman at the front desk about the archaeological sight we had read was on the hotel's grounds. She waved us toward an open gate across the highway from the hotel and told us there wasn't a charge, but that we might want to tip the guide. There was no literature about the site at the hotel. If we hadn't asked about it we would have come and gone without knowing it existed! 

We drove into the open gate and up a rutted dirt "road" though acres of coffee trees, glad to be in a rental SUV. We came to a gate that had a nice "Archaeological Site" sign above it - but no guide was in evidence. We opened the gate and drove through continuing until the "road" became too narrow to drive even a rental car. We got out of the car, followed the path and were soon met by several barking dogs. By the side of the path a woman was tending to the front yard of a little house. She quieted the dogs and waved us forward, telling us that the site was "cuatro cuadras" (four blocks) ahead. Hmmm. . . an interesting measurement (not meters or portions of kilometers, but blocks) to use in the middle of a coffee plantation. 

And then there we were. Under two different palapa structures, surrounded by nicely-tended gardens, were two gigantic "potbelly style" stone monuments. And the cutest little man with a giant machete who seemed to be the care-taker of the area and the guide.

Bill and Our Guide At One of the Monuments

The Second Monument

Our Guide -
Alas We Failed To Write Down His Name and Have Forgotten It

Bill And The Necessary Cell Phone Camera

Our guide explained that these monuments are believed to be from a pre-Maya culture that flourished in the area some 600 year BCE. And there we were - touching them. 

We tipped our guide as we left, and the second best 'site' of the day was his big grin. It must be hard to make a living looking after an archaeological site no one knows about.

[Travel tip: In El Salvador you may find that not everything worth seeing is well marked. If you find a note on a map that piques your interest -- keep asking. It may be of no consequence to the locals and not well advertised.] 

And speaking of archaeological sites that ARE well marked - our next posts will be about our four week trip to/through Guatemala.  We hope you will enjoy that trip as much as we did.

1 comment:

  1. Love to read your stories - the sense of humor is awesome....
    But the cliff hanger lingers on - - - did you get the dinghy?
    Looking forward to hearing about Belize...