Wednesday, August 19, 2015

CA24- Coffee Tour

The father of the owner of Los Almendros, Roberto, had some business to take care of today and I tagged along.  Roberto had some questions regarding his coffee farm and irrigation.  He recently inherited the coffee farm from his father, and the government offers a service in order to maximize agricultural income, they supply you with expert advice, free of charge.  First we went to San Salvador to pick up the agricultural engineer, and then to Los Pinos coffee so the engineer could show Roberto some ideas, and then we headed to Roberto's farm on the border of Guatemala.  

Los Pinos has a view of Lago de Coatepeque, a crater lake formed over 50,000 years ago.  I was happy with my decision to skip surfing and go on an impromptu coffee tour.  While they were looking at shut off valves etc., I was exploring.  
I never would have come here without Roberto.  Lake Coatepeque is one of those places that is not a tourist destination and so is not that easy to get to.  Now that I know, if I were to return I would like to rent a house right on the lake.  It is so peaceful.  

Los Pinos is a cooperative formed in the 1980s, and one of the few successes of the agricultural reform (instituted by the El Salvadoran government with pressure from the United States).  The idea of the reform was to take land away wealthy elites and give back to the workers, but the problem with this plan is that many people who received land did not manage their crops well (it is not as though farming is easy).  Cooperatives were a way to join together with other workers to own larger amounts of land with a common goal, in this case, coffee.

You are looking at my last pupusas!  

After lunch we picked up some drinks to go, and then went to Roberto's farm.

He lives right on the Pan-American Highway, the world's longest "motorable road."

His house is more like a museum, it is beautiful.  And I have an open invitation!  Which is how I ended up here really.  I told Roberto that next time I come to El Salvador I would like to visit his farm, but next time quickly turned into now.

The land in the distance belongs to Guatemala. 

This concludes my trip to El Salvador and Honduras!  
Right now I am on a coffee farm in El Salvador, and in less than 12 hours I will be on a plane headed back to California.  
Each time I explore a country in Latin America I feel nothing but blessed.  I love how raw and real it is, and that every country offers something different.
Latin America calls my name, and I always listen. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

CA23- La Libertad

After surfing this morning I got a ride with someone from the hotel, and went to el Malecón (the pier), in La Libertad.  El Malecón isn't only a pier, but an entire secured area with restaurants and shops, a successful attempt to have a place where tourists can spend money and not be robbed.  My sights were set on the fish market and fresh ceviche, although I only had my camera showing when I was taking a picture.  It is better to be safe than sorry, although 'safe' to me does not imply not going, it just means that I try to blend in as much as possible.

Ceviche!  Straight from the source.

I stepped out of the secured area of Malecón and explored downtown.  I wasn't sure if it was my imagination as a result of the stories I had heard about the gangs in La Libertad and the robberies that occur there, but I did feel like eyes were on me.  My camera did not come out very often.

Unless there was fruit or vegetables involved... some things are worth the risk.  
They would have done it for me.  

Monday, August 17, 2015

CA22- El Sunzal

El Sunzal is within walking distance to El Tunco (the pig), which is world renown surf spot.  

The wave was unlike anything I had surfed before, it was so powerful. 
It was intimidating being out there because the sun bleached Salvadorians that come to this break are territorial and aggressive.  In my opinion, it is worse than Hawaii.  

I survived.  Whenever I surf, no matter how many waves I catch, I am just happy to be out on the water.  I love the ocean.

My evening ended at the pupusa shop just a short walk away from the hotel.  I have been studying the process in great detail so I can make them at home.  
Whenever I mentioned how close I live to Mexico, Salvadorians are always jealous, saying that Mexican food is the best.  As happy as I am with pupusas, I cannot disagree. 
Pupusas simply don't offer the kind of variety I am used to with Mexican food. 
My choice is always beans, beans and cheese, or cheese, and then how much pickled lettuce do I want...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

CA21- Bahía de Jiquilisco to Sunzal

Technically I had one more day at ICAPO but since I arrived one day early and the longer I stayed the more I didn't want to leave, I decided it was time go.
At 6:10am I was waiting on the sand for a lancha.  It isn't exactly a taxi service, more like someone who wants to make a little extra money and might have some business in Puerto Parada.  The lancha went to different islands to pick up customers.  I, of course, was the only tourist on board.

Ruth lives next door to ICAPO, in the house that makes tortillas.  She was on her way to Usulután to shop.

Much of the journey was a blur, and my timing was impeccable.  I ended up splitting a taxi to the bus station with a family.  The bus had just left the bus station but when it saw the taxi stop so they stopped too, grabbed by things and ushered me on board.  I was sitting on an AC bus headed for San Salvador.  Just 50 minutes earlier I was standing on the sand hoping a lancha would go by.
I had to transfer at Zacatecoluca.  I was told to go up the stairs where you are let off on the side of the highway, but I am sure I look confused when I got to the top of the stairs because I wasn't sure which way to go or where to wait.  Luckily a man with a machete approached me and asked where I was going, and then led the way.

20 minutes later I was on the bus to La Libertad, just a mini bus and a walk away from my final destination, Los Almendros in El Sunzal.
Today was a long, but easy, day of travel.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

CA20- Bahía de Jiquilisco, ICAPO

This morning, at 3:50am, I woke up to "TORTUGA!"  By 4:03am Sofi and I were on the boat searching for the reported location.  When we arrived the female was still laying her eggs.  After she was done, all 100 pounds of her was moved closer to the water so her data could be recorded.

Meet #JM607JM608.  
She is 89.15 cm long, and 72.3 cm wide.

I dug up the eggs and counted, 23 handfuls of 7 equals 161.

When we got back to the San Juan vivero, another clutch had hatched.

ICAPO employees had already collected the data before our arrival so we obtained the perk of liberating the babies.
When these females are mature, they will return to this very beach every 2-3 years to lay their eggs.  That is as long as they don't have a different fate, some threats include, exploitation of their shell, coastal development and habitat loss, oil spills, eating marine pollution, getting caught in commercial fishing nets, and, of course, natural predators.

Good luck, little turtles, you are going to need it!

Volunteering with ICAPO is more like a really long turtle tour.
It is so amazing.  The minimum volunteer stint is 1 week, but it takes this long in order to see  a little of everything.  

Early morning on the boat in Jiquilisco Bay is my favorite time.

A turtle playing the banjo?  What?!  Thanks, Kevin!  Kevin, Melissa's boyfriend, is a graphic designer and whipped up this souvenir for me.  Since the ICAPO location in El Salvador is not as popular as their location in Nicaragua they do not sell ICAPO paraphernalia, and Kevin wanted to give me something to take home (not that I could forget my experience here).  

Later in the afternoon we had some errands to run in Usulután so Neftalí took us to Puerto Parada, and then drove us into town (he lives in Puerto Parada so has a truck as well).

Puerto Parada looks like a sleepy little town but it was everything but during the civil war.  I heard stories from those who experienced it, humans being eaten by dogs in the street, women's corpses on posts, it was horrendous.  And you would never guess

It was time for Sofi, Kevin. and Melissa to go back to their homes in San Salvador (which they were not nervous at all about).  Sofi and Melissa are  studying to be veterinarians, ICAPO is just an awesome side job.  Living in the bay is not an option anyway, because ICAPO is only active April through November, when turtles are laying their eggs, and then the babies are hatching.

We had some shopping to do in town, so I got to try out some new food and drinks.  I also saw tortuga eggs for sale in the market.  I wanted to take a picture but Neftalí would not let me. He thought it was too dangerous and not worth it. I tried to object but in the end he freaked me out and I decided it wasn't worth it either.

This is exactly why renting a car in a foreign country is never tempting to me. 
 If I were driving I would not think this was a street.