Friday, July 31, 2015

CA5- Concepción de Ataco, El Salvador

I took a bus from Juayua to Concepción de Ataco, which is 30 minutes away.  Just off the main highway at the entrance of Ataco (I had to ask two police officers before I found my way) is Quinta El Carmen, a coffee farm  established in 1930.  I totally lucked out because a tour was starting as soon as I got there.  Although I have done coffee tours in other Latin American countries I love coffee and like to know where my coffee comes from.

These machines are over 80 years old.  The one in the back left corner is used to determine the quality of the coffee, the more dense the higher the quality.  From there it is separated by quality before the first layer is taken off, in the machines on the right.  

After the next layer is removed in a fermentation process it is laid out to dry, and is constantly shifted (by manual labor) to allow the beans on the bottom layer to be dried by the sun.  It can take up to two weeks to dry but if not enough moisture is removed (or there is too much coffee to dry) it can be dried in a machine.
The pipe shown takes the used water to a riverbed, although they do reuse the water three or four times.  

All of the parts of the plants that are removed during the coffee processing are burned and used to make steam energy which powers the machines.

During coffee harvesting season (our winter) this warehouse is full to the roof with coffee.

They put holes in some of the bags to extract coffee beans to send samples to possible buyers.  Their biggest buyer is Starbucks.  70% of their highest quality coffee is sent out of country, mostly to the United States and Italy.  The lower quality coffee is what remains in El Salvador.

The last step, after removing the outer skin, is to make sure that there are no imperfections that accidentally make their way through each removal phase.  If the coffee is going to the United States it can have no more than 12% imperfections.  If it is going to Italy it can have no more than 4%.

The men and women are doing the same job, but at different stations.  Apparently it is because the women are faster (but I am guessing the men work just as fast when they are not surrounded by women). 
These workers work 8 hours a day, 7 days a week.

After the tour we walked to the original building on the farm, which is now a hotel, and enjoyed a  delicious cup of coffee El Salvadoran coffee.

They use cotton filters, something I have never seen before.

After the tour, which lasted over an hour, I walked to Ataco.  It is a very small town, much like Juayua, but has two churches.

Iglesia el Calvario is on the route to Mirador de la Cruz, a large cross and lookout point.

There are so many species of butterflies in Central America it is like being in the butterfly garden at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, but in real life.
They flutter past as you walk, seeming to play with you like dolphins swimming with surfers.

One thing I love about this town is the old street lamps, which are ornate and found everywhere.

I ate a wonderful vegetarian sandwich at Tayua; they bake their own bread and have a gorgeous patio.  

I forgot to mention that women carry things on their heads.  
For whatever reason men don't.  I saw a couple the other day and the husband (carrying nothing) kept turning around and telling his wife (carrying something) to hurry up.

La iglesia Ave Maria.

Concepción de Ataco is an easy day trip from Juayua.  It is colorful and quaint, and super mellow.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

CA4- Juayúa

Ka-thud!  Ka-thud!  
This is how I woke up, ka-thud after ka-thud.  
Come to find out they were ripe mangoes falling on my roof!  What a delicious loud noise they make.  I figure since I have to listen to it I can collect all the ones that I find.  
I am going to buy a yogur tomorrow and call it desayuno!  

I walked around Juayúa for a while before deciding on a breakfast spot.  I really like this town.
Motocicletas (aka tuk-tuks in Thailand) are the only taxis here.

El comedor.  
Coffee, fried banana, a bean and rice mix (very popular in El Salvador), a vegetable omelette and bread for 1.70$.  You really can't beat that! 

I decided to do the Siete Cascadas tour because my guidebook called it one of the best hikes in the entire country.  My local guide collected me from the hotel.  From there we walked to his house, located just 20 minutes away in a small pueblo.  

He asked me to wait while he gathered some things (like a rope).  And then from there we continued on, never using any form of transportation but our feet.  

Carlos, my guide, brought along Alexander, his cuñado (brother-in-law) who is 14.

We walked through two huge coffee farms (literally, through the trees), and saw a countless variety of butterflies, and insects.  

Look closely...

After the second farm, with the sound of water falling somewhere nearby, ropes were deployed.  

I am not sure exactly where the name 'seven waterfalls' comes from. there were way more than seven.

One of the workers carved this alligator drinking fountain into the rock (so cool!).  Ni Carlos ni Alex carried any water with them, they just drank from waterfalls along the way.

Alex found a white freshwater crab to show me.

This was the only other time that the rope was tied to a tree and utilized.  We didn't repel down the side of the waterfall, because we just had a rope and no other gear.  It was more like we walked down, bracing ourselves with the rope.  It was totally necessary.

I kind of wish I would have pulled the classic Latin American anti-smile in this picture.  With Carlos' appearance and machete it would have looked like a picture sent to my family or the pentagon with a ransom demand.
Dang it.

Before taking this picture with me Alex insisted that he have his machete.  From day one I have noticed that people always have a machete, today I found out why.  It is for protection, and cutting trees.  
So there you have it.

Alex excitedly climbed up a tree to show me a fruit that is used as glue.
Along the route they both showed me all sorts of plants, mostly edible.  I tried two delicious seeds (one looked like, but wasn't, a caterpillar).

At the very end of the tour we arrived at Los Chorros de la Calera, a swimming hole that is VERY popular on the weekends. Carlos said there is a line to get in, and to leave (which is crazy considering how small it is).  The entrance to Los Chorros is accessible without doing the waterfall tour, but the waterfall tour is the only way to go! 

Carlos made me a delicious tomato, pepper, onion, egg, and avocado (found along the way) sandwich on freshly baked bread.  It was delicious! 

This is Alex jumping into the water.
This was one of the coolest hikes I have done.  I got really lucky too because Carlos' brother went in after me with a group of four girls, and they got attacked by bees!  Two of them were worse than the others.  Carlos told me he did this tour a few months ago and was stung six times, while his foreigner was stung 20 times!  When I asked how it happens he says you just have to put your hand on a colony when traversing a hill and then as soon as they get angry they start stinging because they HATE bug repellent.  Ummmm, thanks for the information now, and for telling me to wear bug repellent today, Carlos!  I think people should be given the facts and they can make up their minds for themselves.  Do you want to get stung by bees or mosquitoes?  (Nothing is not an option.)

After returning and resting up a bit I went to El Cadejo Cafe, known for having amazing coffee and a good atmosphere.  I was really excited when I saw that my cappuccino had a heart shape in the foam!  In all my years of coffee drinking no one has ever made me foam shaped like anything.  What a fun surprise. 
It was here at this coffee shop that I saw someone smoking outside, and it made me realize that this entire time I have been here I have not seen one person smoking. 

Oh, I forgot to mention that it was pouring rain!
I managed to get over to Pupuseria Dona Cony, which is just right around the corner (I ate THREE pupusas this time!  At this rate before I leave I will be eating 20 in one sitting).  I was super bummed because, although it was raining a little before I left, I didn't bring my rain jacket.  But in the end it probably worked out better because I took a motocicleta taxi home.  
It was only 40 cents but I gave him 50 cents, because I am generous.