Thursday, October 31, 2013

Our 5th Interview - this web-site focuses on Home-schooling as you travel.

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Our 5th Interview!

Thanks so much to

Their web-site focuses on World / Un / Home-schooling and Travel.

I hope you enjoy it.

The Weekend Food Festival of Juayua; Ruta de las Flores & getting caught in a downpour in El Salvador. Kid friendly adventures.

This site is obsolete

We seem not to have the best of weather for food festivals.
Two times we have stayed at towns just for a Saturday food festive.
The last time was in Paraguay, and it went for 28oC to 8oC in a day and we froze so badly my son cried. (Mind you I had tried for days to get him to stores to buy warm clothes and he refused).

This time we walked into town with no umbrella, and waited for the Conga tram / bus at the information booth.  Three times we went back to the Information store. Eventually the nice man printed us out a map, hold us the Conga was cancel for Ruta de las Flores due to the rainy season, and pointed us to the local bus.

So we wandered through the main square and the markets where Silkie chickens stood on cages for $1 photos.

There were horse and carriage rides, horse rides, mini road-train rides, and about 200 market stalls all setting up.

 There were also long food marquees all being set up for lunch.
We decided to skip that as we just needed snacks.
So back to our new favourite Guadalupan Mexican restaurant for more tortilla soup and a burrito plate to share.

Bus 249 runs frequently between Sonsonate and Ahuachapán, stopping in all the towns along the way, including Juayúa where we hopped onApaneca and Ataco.

You will notice the tiled mosaics in some towns, and a lot of painted buildings.

As soon as we hit the first town the rain started.
We took shelter in their food central market area, and also enjoyed trying the organic coffee and looking up to the misty coffee plantations on the hill with the crosses at the top.
Once the rain died down, we took a mini-van to the next town.

When we got there it was bucketing down.
We skipped from store to store.

We nearly left, but had read there was weaving in this area, so asked a couple of locals for the Artisan store, and found it!
Here on the corner is room upon room if unusual locally made crafts.

Inside you see men at the weaving looms, and get to fully appreciate the detail of the cloth.

The coloured cottons are so bright and amazing and you may even get a turn and spinning the cotton if you ask.

The room is filled with amazing soft cotton weaves handing from the roof.

But by the time we were n side, we were drenched.
We wandered through and found a huge cafe area.
They made the most delicious real hot chocolates with grated dark chocolate and marshmallows.
 I had bought a table runner at the markets earlier, but it severed as a shawl while I tried to get warm.

 We decided to make a run for it and explore the Oktoberfest in the main square.
As we walked we saw many more stores.  All brightly painted with their art.

Again it started to rain.
We found the stone museum and Explorason wanted to go in and see the Mayan carved stones.

The interesting thing was that most are depicting the Jaguar face.
We are not sure if they missed the face that was so clear when we looked at this stone upside-down.

 As we headed around the square, many little quaint stores can be found.
The Oktoberfest was in the centre, and the fountain was again working.

They sold Iguana shaped bread, with sprinkles and raisin eyes and it was quite delicious for 50 cents.

 Again there was a food festival, but I am dreading what this meat is - we just decided to look and not taste.

There was a wedding on at the fantastic Ave Maria church.
We were invited when talking to a man who had good English, but the sky misted over and we decided to make a run for the bus home.

We had not yet managed the next town with the hot springs - but it was not good weather and it had all become too hard.

We only got as far as the weaving store and the rain bucketed down.
So we had fun in the hat department.
We had to wait the best part of an hour, but we had fun.

 The rain lightened enough for us to leave.
Most cobblestone streets were flooded.
I hated to think of what animal faeces might have been left on the pavements that now washed the streets, but we had no choice as we couldn't cross unless we walked through.
Oh well we would shower later!

We finally managed to find our way back through the streets.
We dripped as we waited and shivered for the bus.
Once back in Juayua we wandered through the quiet streets.
The Food Festival was a wash-out.
And so were we!

We somehow managed to find a tuk-tuk in the pouring rain.
Back home we peeled off wet clothes and Explorason jumped in the lovely hot shower.
Never so much have fluffy towels and hot water been so appreciated!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Juayua, Ruta de las Flores, El Salvador - a lovely little town, & staying at the wonderful hillside Juayua Hotel

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We had taken a bus from our not so pleasant time in el Tunco on the coast.
I need sleep, and figured this little town might just be a bit cooler, and friendlier.

We had not received a reply to our late email request to stay there, but knew they had a web special for October, so we just arrived.

It took little time and 2 buses from el Tunco and as we had to leave on the 6.30 a.m. bus, we were there by 10 a.m. after we packed our bags into the tuk-tuk from the last chicken bus.

We were greeted by Florenth - a lovely lady who managed the Hotel Juayua.
This is a tiny, quaint and rustic hotel, set about 10 minutes walk out of the centre of town.
It overlooks the mountains, and the silence is golden.

She showed us to all the rooms (this is a boutique hotel), and we ended up choosing a cute wooden one with en-suite.

We were then greeted by the pet bunny.  She was so tame she would let you hold her, never hopped away, and loved to beg on her hind legs for tortillas!

We then met the hard-working Lorenzo.  He did the muscle work, and I honestly never saw such a hard-working local man.  He had pushed the lawn-mower, and machetied the sides - for 3 days!

We then wandered down to the main town.
My son saw a deserted moto-taxi or tuk-tuk, and hopped in - glad the keys were gone!

 We found the main square easily.
It was surrounded by local sellers all sitting, chatting and playing games.
It was a lovely place, and for once the fountain was filled with water.

Opposite is the one of the old churches.
The doors seem to be open day and night and for a small place, it is a well kept building.

We found the grocery store / supermarket and and stocked up on food for a few days.
We were pleased we had a kitchen to cook in, and a good sized fridge and freezer to use.
I am sure it was only a staff kitchen, but Florenth was happy to let us use it.

Opposite the 2 corner supermarkets there is a great little Mexican Restaurant.
They have combo deals with soup, a main meal and a drink and some of them are less than $3.50.

But what I loved and I mean loved was the best soup I have ever had. Tortilla Soup.  In fact it was such a shame my son didn't like his and I had to eat two bowls!

We walked home, laden with bags of groceries and lovely fresh fruits and vegetables.
As we did we noticed many of the stores painted with scenes depicting the local area.

This is one of the little convenience stores on our road.
A bit different from those back in Australia!
In fact it was such a quiet little road, there were children sitting right in the middle of the road, talking to an old local man.

Next day we wandered down to the town again.
I needed to explore.
We found 'Reptileland' and for 50 cents each we went in and saw a variety of disgusting snakes.
For $1 you can have a massive big snake wrapped around you and take a photo.
A live one and I mean metres long! No way!
We ducked and dodged the snake skins that had been shed that hung from the roof.
It was kind of a creepy place.
I wondered how legally he was able to have them in glass cases with little aesthetics.
I also wondered also how he managed to have an Australian Lizard.
I did like though that when the boss was not around we could get up close the the chameleons.
This little one was the baby and was just in a tub with a few leaves.

There were two larger ones, but this Daddy was fabulous.
We counted 6 colours, and it was so interesting to watch the eyes independently move.
The amazing thing was that just two days ago we had been talking about them.
Now we could learn about them in real life.

Over then ext three days we pretty much experienced afternoon showers, and a downpour in the nights.
Am so glad the room never leaked.
I loved waking up and enjoying the under veranda couches and to have a freshly brewed coffee and time of peace and tranquility.

At 6 a.m. each morning there was a lovely dark blue humming bird fluttering around the vines.
But the biggest thrill was to see a fluffy, massive bumble bee.
I have never seen one before and it was right in the centre of a purple flower.
I loved the butterflies. In fact there were so many each day, and with so many variations I was always jumping up with my camera to take a photo.

I can't fault our stay at Hotel Juayua, it was an amazingly restful and tranquil time.
It was an amazing time, and we made a new friend with Florenth!
I recommend this hotel to anyone going to this area as a great place to stay!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

El Tunco, El Salvador on the Pacific Coast (near la Libertad)

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We arrived two nights ago at El Tunco.
We were so fortunate to get a lift from a family with a pick-up truck, and we had been pretty disappointed with where we ended up at our posada.

I have no idea how some web-sites make places look so good.
Or maybe the photos are years old before the mould started growing, and the white-ants moved in!

The owner originally wanted $35 a night which I just can't believe, and we haggled down to $20.
But I found out later there were rooms on the beach from $10, and we were off the beach but on the river, not far.

Still we made the best with what we had.
There was no-one else booked into the Posada Luna, and the cleaner sat around all day watching soapies, so we pretty well had the place to ourselves.
Well apart from hundreds of ants - and 3 varieties, and some lovely birds in the tress.

At 4 a.m. after not much sleep the roosters started.
So we decided to have an early start and have my son tackle his writing.
He is never too thrilled about this mind you, but some things need parent motivation, and this is one.
It took most of the morning.

We then enjoyed the afternoon around the not so clean pool.
Not one item of pool furniture did not have some kind of break.

I know - you will ask why didn't we move?
Well the answer was because we were now the nearest hotel out of town to the bus.
To move would mean that in a day we would have to drag our stuff even further.
I am tired.  I have not slept a whole night in weeks due to the heat. And frankly el Tunco is not what I expected.

It is a rocky, black sandy surf beach.  It has no class.  It has one nice hotel on the beach (which we only discovered on our last day), but the town is dead in the rainy season.  So I felt flat.

Still in my quest to maintain my title as "Exploramum" we headed to the beach.

 We enjoyed ice-creams which were choc dipped and had nuts and a generous scoop of ice-cream for less than $1.

The next day was a bit of a repeat of the day before.
More writing of his journal and some spelling which took hours.
One downfall of travel is that the hotel room becomes the class-room and there is just too many things to distract an 8 year old.
Now some will ask me why as an 'un-schooler' or 'world-schooler' am I motivating my son to write.
I believe in encouraging him in all areas of exploring, but writing and mathematics are the 2 areas that world-schooling can fall behind on.
So we use his journal and budgeting for these, as well as a few other things.

We aimed to go down the road a few kilometres to la Libertad, and wished we had.  This is a far classier area, and before the turn-off to the Pacific main road (the road from San Salvador) is dotted with classy American style Malls and eateries.  But we were both so tired, we just couldn't get motivated - shame.  That was especially true for my son, which surprised me, as he loves shopping malls.

After our afternoon swim, we raced out to see why we were hearing a 'clown horn' - we have been hearing it all day (and yesterday).
It was a cheerful local riding around all day selling sweet breads.
He was joined by an old toothless grinning lady selling tortillas.

She grabbed Explorason "chico" and thought he was "bonito" or cute.

 That night we headed out for Pupusas.
For $1 this lady freshly made to order each Pupusa.

This photo shows one with only a smidgen of topping.
You really add salad and a tomato salsa sauce all over the top, but I wasn't so sure, so I just added a tiny bit to try at first. But as soon as I discovered how yummy they were, my pupusa was loaded with the toppings.

On our last night we were out on our river balcony, and saw the sun setting.
My son decided it was time for a run.
We raced hand in hand down the dirt road.
We captured the sunset perfectly.
El Tunco sure has glorious sunsets.

  • Definition of a Pupusa;
    A pupusa is a traditional El Salvadoran dish made of a thick, handmade corn tortilla that is usually filled with a blend of the following: cheese; cooked pork meat ground to a paste consistency; or vegetables; and refried beans.

    Please note:
    I do NOT recommend Posada Luna.
    I wrote to the owner by about the condition of her premises, and the lack of staff motivation. 
    I did tell her I would NOT do a Trip Advisor report, and she simply gave me a one line reply which showed very little concern, which really disappointed me.
  • Friday, October 25, 2013

    Crossing 2 borders in 1 day - Nicaragua Honduras El Salvador & ending up in San Miguel. Then to el Tunco.

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    We had a rather late start to our border crossing.
    I was in two minds whether to stay another day.
    We loved our time by the beach, but we have an agenda so decided to move on.
    Firstly we took a $15 taxi to Leon.
    He drove us to the mini-van.
    They couldn't work out if we were to have the mini-van or the 'chicken bus' but I told them I would pay for our bags to be out inside.
    They charged me 3 seats for the bags.
    As soon as we took off we stopped.
    All our bags were shoved to one seat, and parcels loaded.
    So much for paying for 3 seats for the bags!
    1 hour later we arrived to change buses.
    No big deal - except it was a 'chicken bus'.
    The guy was driving off as another guy climbed the roof with one of our bags.
    I 'hoped' the next bag went in the back door along with our backpacks.
    I shoved my son in the bus front door hoping for dear life we had not lost our luggage.
    He shoved our way down the aisle and there were a few groans from locals.
    One lady did the poison fingers at our eyes and back at us, telling us to keep a watch on the bags.
    So I moved the backpacks to near us, and hoped the luggage was ok - I had worked out one bag was at the rear inside.
    Numerous people loaded things through the back door so it was hard to focus.

    Two hours later we came to a bumpy off road.
    We off loaded into a pedi-cab and had a great guy.
    Now borders are a matter of trust.
    On the Nicaragua side we go into one office and pay.
    Our 'driver' dutifully watches our stuff.
    We then need to find a bathroom.
    We get a lousy exchange rate for Honduras, but seeing I had no clue as to what it was, I was pretty well scammed between him and his English speaking mate.
    Note you do NOT need anything but US$ for Honduras buses.
    So I wasted money on this $50 exchange - Was told I needed at least $40 for buses, and more for the frontier.

    Anyway our pedicab man worked hard.
    He had to get help from a mate to get up the ridge on the bridge with our load.
    It is meant to be $1 per person. He earned $5 I say.

    Next was another bus - for about 3 hours - by now we were hungry.
    Our pedi-cab driver here was good.
    He rode us to the fruit stand.
    He rode us to the bathroom - we missed it so he back-tracked.

    Explorason was wanting to help with pushing the cab.
    Along with a tiny 11 year old local, they had a great time running along.

    Now we get scammed - not right royally, but it was lunchtime, and so I am 'told', the officers have gone to lunch.
    but a helpful guy comes along, fills out the forms, and takes our money plus a few extra $$ so we don't wait 1 hour.  I doubt the truth to this, but I would say they have a good system going.
    But I get a bit ticked when the 'helpful guy' wants extra $$.
    Suddenly my Spanish doesn't understand him.
    This day is getting expensive.
    So take note - each border has 2 sides, plus a middle man crossing you with a pedi-cab, plus whoever you get a s a 'helper' to deliver the form and passport to customs.
    Next came a local bus.
    We wait as it starts to rubble thunder - I think only 15 minutes and we head off.
    But the assistant wants Burger King. the bus waits a good 15 minutes whilst he goes off and get his order.
    Explorason - a Burger King freak - who is suffering withdrawals has a meltdown.
    Has I known I would have jumped off an bought the biggest burger I could find.
    But we sit til he arrives back.
    After 3 hours we finally arrive in San Miguel.
    We are meant to be about 5 hours further on than this.
    We decide to terminate here as it is nearly dark.
    there is a hotel right next to the bus terminal named "Jerico'.
    For $10 a night you get a clean room with fan and en-suite.
    Or across the road is a nice hotel with a pool for $30 a night, but the guy was a bit unhelpful, so we left our bags and found the one next to the terminal.
    The owner speaks English.  He laughs and his kids instantly want to play with my son.
    the helper helps me - he comes and helps us retrieve our bags.
    I am stuffed - i want a nice glass of wine and a good healthy dinner.
    I ask the hotel owner and he rings a 5 star restaurant for us - except we don't know it is 5 star.
    He offers to drive us there - along with his family, and gives us a tour of the town, showing us the safe vs unsafe areas.

     We arrive at the restaurant and are greeted by the pint sized guard who shows us to his table - along with his gun!

    Later that night the hotel owner comes back for us.  He is so kind.
    Our meal was fabulous.
    We had complimentary beef soup and garlic bread. My son hates both, but he devoured them and loved them.  The joy of hunger can change and appetite.
    He had a chicken fillet with a load of vegetables and potato and finished it and was still hungry.  I had the best king butterfly prawns and a mass of extras.  The red wine was excellent except the glasses were more like sherry glasses and hardly touched the sides of my throat.  Seriously a great meal.  I cant remember the name - might have been The Barron but it isn't - honestly I can't remember - but if I do I will add it here, as it was the best meal I have had in months.  the prices were not cheap, but the food was awesome!
    The owner returns to collect us.
    Next day we go across the road to Pastelería Francesa for breakfast.
    They made me a special croissant but I was so tired I had had enough of travel food.

    We bought a few groceries next door for our journey - more weight in those big bags - great - not!
    Then we returned the grocery purchase to the hotel room.
    It was only 8.30 a.m. and the town was alive. It was the most un-catholic town I have been in so far. Most do not trade. This one was alive!
    We met a lady making Tostadas and she gave us a lesson.
    She was happy and helpful and also showed us other local food nearby.
    We bought 4 for 25 cents, and they were more filling than the breakfast across the road.

    As we wandered the streets we were aware of how most shops had guard with a gun on duty.

    We headed to the square and the whole town seemed to be out.

    The cathedral was packed.

    The beggars were out, so we decided it was time for some Random acts of Kindness.
    We nearly always ask before we take a photo, and many we do not take photos of.
    But because we get support from some people to help these less fortunate, we sometimes ask if a photo is OK.
    Yesterday for instance we saw a little kid playing in the rain. Maybe 18 months - 2 years old.  I could not tell if it was a boy or a girl. It was playing in the trash with a dog. Filthy. My son cried and was so upset. These are the people we want to reach. If we can help one person, then that is a start. If we could all help one person, and not just think about ourselves, what a different world we would have.

    We then found a great fruit seller - and a Homewares store.
    My son selected a Christmas gift - but it was lie a seriously overpriced "Cheap as Chips" or $2 shop to Australians. I daresay the stuff was half the price in Australia and all out of China.  But it was a comfort shop and a nice distraction with free iced water and coffee.

    Next we found a couple more beggars.
    She was so delighted when we helped her. She could buy fruit and they were both so skinny their bones stuck out. I don't think either of them were quite right.  It was sad. But hey, they were so happy with us helping them. We found them in a side street. Genuinely needing help.

    We had better get a move on - it was 10.30 a.m. so we passed the beautiful theatre - mid restoration.
    This is an old colonial town.

    The street opposite was filled with not one, but at least 20 shoe repairers. I daresay most work 7 days a week here to make ends meet.  Sad.  But colourful.

    We passed another guard with a gun.

    Behind my son is another guard with a gun. They will duck in the doorway if they see us taking a photograph.

    We went past the street meat market. Smelly wet and dripping with residue meat juices to entice the local dogs.

     All done, we headed back to the hotel.
    The helper aided us to the bus next door - just in time.
    We caught the mid-day bus that was meant to take 2 - 2.5 hours to San Salvador.
     Explorason was whipping through another book.

    Locals were trucked to and from church including many Mennonites I failed to photograph.

    It was hot in the bus. the TV failed to work and the so called air-conditioning was the windows. We were on the sunny side so that didn't help. After our starving day yesterday, we were shocked with more than 100 sellers hopping on and off the bus over the journey.

    We decide to buy some Yucca chips. time for some fun making Gene Simmons tongues.  I won!

    When we finally arrived at San Salvador it was nearly 4 hours later.
    My son had already had an emergency stop and the bus pulled over for him to 'water the grass'.
    I however had no hope of this.
    When we finally got the the bus terminal it was only a gravel driveway with a grotty back trough. Yikes. The area behind seemed to be the only toilet area - I was horrified.
    So we headed across the road to get the bus to el-Libertad, el Tunco.
    What amazed me was the local police stopped the whole roundabout, and helped us the the bags. They consulted another and finally led us to a taxi and for $4 we were taken to another terminal.

    Here we had to wait 45 minute for another mini-van and pay for 2 more seats for bags at $1.50 per seat - $6 total - I was happy.

    We finally arrived at el Tunco.
    But not without our mini-van stopping so close to the edge the aluminium water bottle rolled into a muddy 3 feet ditch i had to scramble into.
    the I could scarcely get the bags out without dragging them under the bus and nearly landing in the ditch.
    Turns out we were on the wrong end of town.
    An old man turns up with a pick-up and loads us in.
    We crawl along with Explorason in the back tray with the bags.
    I pay him $5 and we arrive.
    I was a bit shocked at how different Posada Luna looked from their web-site.
    But the staff were friendly and we ended upstairs with a room over the river.
    If I had time again I would select one nearer the beach, or on the beach.
    But for now we are here.
    We can sleep and we have a great deal, and I am really, really thankful.
    One good thing about this location is it is actually near the exit to the main road.
    And - Moses the night guard - is a champion and so helpful.

    Note: We do NOT recommend Posada Luna