Notes from the campo

After almost three weeks baking at the noisy, busy beaches of El Salvador, we’ve decamped for the countryside. We got up at oh-dark-thirty this morning and waited for an hour on the side of the highway for a northbound bus, where we entertained ourselves by throwing bits of a granola bar at a brood of scabby chickens pecking away at the hardscrabble earth and dodging massive, wobbling double-trailer semi-trucks as they roared past a mere four feet away. Never to worry … bus 287 ferried us safe and sound  from El Tunco to Sonsonate. It was a cramped and crowded ride, but as our brilliantly cast chicken bus climbed in elevation, we were treated to a steady breeze and some wonderful Mariachi music – a blessed departure from the massive quantities of Bon Jovi and bad Sublime covers we’ve been forced to digest in Tunco. In general, aside from a creepy dude staring at me for the whole 2.5 hour ride, it was most enjoyable. Our trip took us along La Ruta de Las Flores – The Route of Flowers – so called for the massive bunches of colorful flowers and foliage that line the road certain times of year. Things are a bit dried out now, as rainy season has yet to even begin to suggest its presence, but there were definitely some wonderful views of volcanoes and even a few swatches of red and purple.

We changed buses at the Sonsonate bus terminal, which was slightly filthy and gloriously noisy and teeming with humanity as the locals geared up for their morning commutes. Breakfast was 2 cafes con leche, plus a caramel donut and a little vanilla tart and this strange but also strangely wonderful parfait thing with layers of pie crumb, custard, whipped cream, fruit and candied peaches. Plus there was a nasty looking strawberry on the top, but I threw that out. It was more of a dessert than a brekkie, I guess, a concept that is, I think, highly underrated. I call it breakfessert and it’s at least as good as cold Chinese or pizza in the early hours, especially when preceded by a long, cramped bus ride in a strange and foreign land and accompanied by very strong coffee. So, yeah. Breakfessert. Pass it on!

Our visit to the bus station also provided occasion for a little fond reminiscence. As we wandered the dusty yard in search of autobus 249, I pointed out to Morgan the very spot where, three years earlier whilst embarking on the very same bus route, I’d almost shit my pants, 50 feet from of a public bano, and how would that have been for irony? I’d literally been forced to throw my backpack to the ground and make a run for it, opportunistic thieves be damned, because nothing else mattered in that terrible moment. I was feeling nostalgic this morning, so I made another visit to the bano of my discontent, and that particular sanitario is definitely as dees-goosting today as memory served. I literally had to step over a giant, smashed cucaracha to reach the toilet.

We were dropped off in Juayua at mid-morning sans map, but it’s a small and neatly laid out kind of place, so after wandering about for a mere 15 minutes, I managed to locate the Hotel Anhuac, which is definitely at least as cool as it was back in 2009. We scored the last private room and we’ve spent the day relaxing and enjoying the fresh air.

So far it’s been a slow, easy go. We visited the Black Jesus that Juayua is famous for (far be it from me to offend, but that’s what they call it … Cristo Negro … And that’s pretty much what it is), ate some amazing food at the weekend market and had a siesta. I’ve also been trying to read one of the Spanish-language papers every day to improve my vocabulary and keep up on current events. This eats up a good chunk of one’s day when you read as slowly as I do.

It can also lead to bad siesta dreams, as almost every story is about the machinations of the Zeta cartel (Yes, they’re a Mexican gang, but apparently they’ve hijacked the entirety of the Pan-American highway and its environs) and terrible car accidents and innocent families being slaughtered in their sleep. But if working in the newspaper biz taught me anything at all, it’s that the contents of a newspaper don’t, and can’t, and aren’t trying to, paint a complete picture of any given place. It’s just news. Alas.

Tomorrow, we’re going to hike to some waterfalls and see a coffee plantation. I’ll take tons of pictures, but I won’t be able to upload them, as I still have no computer cord. Again, alas.


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