We were just passing through El Salvador but wanted to at least see a couple of things and the Ruta Del Flores seemed not too far out of the way and well worth a visit so off we went.
Juayua (pronounced why-ooh-ah) seemed to be the place to go as they had a food market on a Saturday and we were due to arrive Friday night, perfect. We caught the local chicken buses out there and when we arrived we were very pleasantly surprised. It was a lovely small village with cobbled streets and all the locals seemed very friendly.
It’s always nice when you arrive and the hostel you have booked is great and the one in Juayua was just that. All rooms surrounding a central garden and loads of artwork everywhere it was just a perfect place and it turned out there were about six other guys staying there and we all ended up having a great night together swapping stories and information.
We had a fairly relaxing time for our two nights here but on the Saturday the town came alive with loads of people and loads of stalls. We thought we were going to get to try iguana but unfortunately there wasn’t any to be found. But there was certainly loads of other options.
We started off with a local juice drink which was a mixture of fruit salad and lemonade which was very refreshing. We then decided on sharing as many dishes as we could and had some tortillas with beans, salsa (a bit like an open taco)
The mains were all varieties of BBQd beef, chicken or fish served with salads. There were hearty soups on offer too and we got to try little bits of all of them which was nice. The best for me were these little chorizo balls which were pretty tasty.
The whole atmosphere at the food festival was great and all the locals were so friendly and welcoming we had a fantastic time.
It wasn’t just the food markets that we got to explore there were the standard markets where the locals did their shopping and some tourist stalls too although there weren’t a lot of tourists for them to sell to.
While enjoying our usual aimless wander, probably sounds better if I call it exploring, we came across a reptile park. Well it was called a reptile park but it was actually just a house full of snakes, luckily in cages. It cost us a dollar to get in so we thought we would have a look. Well it was actually fairly impressive with some huge constrictors, a few other poisonous locals, some frogs, lizards, a Cayman and even an enclosure full of rabbits!! No prizes for guessing what their purpose was.
Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to go on any of the walks available in the area but managed to enjoy ourselves by relaxing in our hostel so that combined with walking around the village and the market meant that we felt that we had a good time.
The food find of the day though happens later that night where we passed a lady making delicious looking sandwiches in the street. There wasn’t much to them but those chicken baguettes were possibly the tastiest thing we got to try that day!!
Unfortunately this was the end of our time in El Salvador. We had only ever wanted to spend a couple of nights in the country mostly due to the safety concerns connected with the place. Certainly, judging by the number of armed people we encountered in San Salvador and the number of murders reported in the newspapers, a lot of these fears were quite justified.
It has to be said though that the welcome we received from the people in El Salvador has been absolutely fantastic. It always make me realise that wherever we go where there are problems and dangerous areas there are far more people wanting to welcome us to their country. I sincerely hope that the violence ends and when it does I am sure people will be visiting and having a wonderful time in El Salvador. T
Market day in Juayua.
The Ensalda fruit drink.
The ladies busy cooking one of the many dishes we got to try.
These weren’t even the big snakes.
The garden in our hostel.
They are streets ahead in El Salvador. They have developed this method of hooking the food they are selling up on the bus. All the other countries are carrying.
We caught a bus to San Salvador at the very early time of 4.30am. On this route we left Nicaragua, entered and exited Honduras and entered El Salvador. We were only going to spend one night in San Salvador and then move on to Ruta de Flores.
The borders for Honduras were pretty lax with none of our bags being searched and no questions asked. They did fingerprint us which was quite disconcerting.
The bus pretty much drove straight through the El Salvador border and we quickly told the conductor that we needed a stamp for our passports as we were the only Gringos on the bus. He assured us that El Salvador didn’t require a stamp which we then told him that was pretty surprising as every other county in the world required stamps. Needless to say the bus didn’t stop and we don’t have a stamp. We were stopped for a passport check soon after and they didn’t bat an eyelid so it must be okay.
First impressions of San Salvador was that is was a concrete jungle full of chain restaurants and shops. The other major difference was that there were security guards with big guns in most places. For example the icecream shop and a house just down the road from us that was being renovated. The scary thing is that some of them have no uniform just a giant shotgun. Anyway the area we were staying at was safe so we went for a wonder for dinner and came back to the hostel for an early night.
The next day, before we caught a bus north we decided to catch a taxi into the centre to see a few sights. The centre of San Salvador is pretty gritty. The people all looked pretty poor and most of the buildings were old and run down. It was the first place we have been to seeing major sights and not coming across another tourist. The stares we were getting, though friendly where numerous.
The highlight of the centre and certainly worth the trip was Inglesia El Rosario. From the outside it looked like a big concrete squatters’ home. But inside it was breathtaking! The building was an arch shape built of brick and the arch itself was covered in tiny stain glass widows. The inside was decorated with metal and stone abstract statues portraying Christ’s crucifixion. I must admit the whole building was truly amazing and up there as one of my favorite churches.
I wouldn’t have wanted to spend any more than a day in San Salvador. The people were really lovely and I commented to Tim that it was the first place that they actually said hello to you first, rather than the other way around. But it really didn’t feel great and apparently it is the 3rd most dangerous city in the world. They have a huge gang problem that they are struggling to control. It really hit home when we were in the taxi on the way back to the hostel and the taxi had old newspapers in the back, I started picking them up and every single one had a picture of dead bodies on the front. There were over seven papers. Again makes us realize how lucky we are.
We then left San Salvador for Juayua on the Ruta de las Flores. A sleepy little town that produces coffee and apparently has some amazing waterfalls and lakes. But their main attraction (especially for us) is their renowned once a week food market which just so happens to be tomorrow. Yes! S
Downtown San Salvador, actually quite beautiful in a gritty way.
The outside of the Iglesia El Rosario, not exactly breathtaking!!
But the inside was truly spectacular.
One side of the arch was just brick but the other had coloured glass embedded through the wall and the effect was excellent.
The sculptures in the church were very modern and great to see something new in a church.
This is the main cathedral in the centre of the city.
The national theatre complete with chicken buses outside.
Our taxi on the way home took us through a shortcut, literally through a market.
Armed guards in the city centre.
This is a typical scene in San Salvador. This guy is fully armed and guarding a garage!