Wow – a week goes by SO fast! Saturday night we did indeed head out to the Carnaval in San Miguel with Alexi’s cousin Claudia. We walked through the streets with her and about a million other people – it was incredibly packed! We watched the parade of floats, almost all containing a queen or princess representing whatever company/association they were affiliated with. There were fireworks, vendors selling hats and glow sticks and hundreds of bands from all over the world playing at different stages. It was a pretty spectacular event!
Sunday, we decided to stay home and spend some time with Alexi’s grandparents, as it was our last day in San Miguel. For lunch, we went with them and Lex’s cousins to a nearby town called Chinameca to go to a little food/music festival. We ate baleadas – a type of Honduran filled tortilla of sorts and drank banana smoothies while listening to a band that played Spanish oldies – very fun! We then headed to say goodbye to Alexi’s cousin Erik and his wife and cute little 2-year-old son Marcos. We then packed our things and headed to bed!
On Monday, we woke up at about 5:00 am to catch a ride with Claudia and her mom, Chita, to San Salvador as Claudia had to work in SS that day. After about a 2 hour ride, we stopped by Claudia’s work(which had an awesome view of the city) then ate some delicious Salvadorean breakfast, and then headed to Alexi’s aunt Lucy’s house, where we would be staying the night. Lucy has a beautiful house in San Salvador, and we sat and visited with her and ate some Chinese food for lunch. Alexi’s uncle Olvidio(who is currently running to be mayor of Santa Tecla, a neighboring city) joined us for lunch and afterwards, Alexi played some Spanish guitar for all, for a little post-lunch entertainment.
We were then picked up by Alexi’s uncle Herbert, who took us on a beautiful drive to see a giant crater of an old volcano (there’s a picture of me in a traditional women’s costume of the time in a museum near the volcano) and to see a few different coffee plantations. We then drank AMAZING coffee at a place called Las Brumas and watched the sunset over the mountains and the ocean in the distance. This was one of those amazing moments where you realize why you are on a journey and why it is so great to be alive! He also took us to downtown Santa Tecla (I believe) where we walked around a cool district with shops, an old church and a cool vibe. We then went to dinner with Herbert and his wife Lorena at Tony Roma’s and then went for a drive around San Salvador. We stopped in a cute town that was decorated in Christmas lights, and drove through a town called Los Planes that is known for having the best and most pupusa restaurants in all of El Salvador (more on this town later). We then headed home, completely exhausted. It was seriously an amazing, but tiring day!
On Tuesday, we slept in a bit, then went with Lorena to an art museum in San Salvador (small, but cool), then went and grabbed some fresh pineapple juice and headed to a history museum right down the street. After that, we headed to Pizza Hut (actually a pretty fancy restaurant with a wait time in El Salvador) and then back to Lucy’s to relax for a bit. Lucy had told us about her neighbor that had a recording studio in his house that was willing to show us his studio, so we went over there for a bit in the afternoon, and talked music and recording in Spanish! Her neighbor is in a band called SalSalvadorean Allstars which is a mix of reggaeton and salsa- very fun music!
Later that night, we were picked up by Claudia and her co-worker and went out with them for a beer at a cool, bohemian café/bar. After that, we headed to Las Planes, for none other than the best pupusas in the world (or so it seems)! Los Planes is a city in the mountains of San Salvador, with a cool(almost cold) climate. It was actually pretty cold for us, as we had just come from sweltering San Miguel and we had to bundle up. They also have an amazing, beautiful lookout where you can see all the city lights. The most well-known thing about Los Planes, is that the entire main street is lined with street vendors and restaurants selling all different kinds of pupusas. We went to a restaurant where I had the best and only cheese and avocado pupusas I’ve ever had in my life. SOOOO good! After that, we headed back to Claudia’s house, where we fairly quickly passed out.
The next day, we again woke up super early as we had to catch our shuttle to Copan Ruinas, Honduras. Claudia drove us to Mister Donuts to eat breakfast and to meet up with our shuttle driver, Fernando. After hugging our goodbyes, we were on our way to Honduras! The shuttle ride took about 5 hours, and we got to pass through Northwestern El Salvador, Southeastern Guatemala, and finally through very Western Honduras. It’s apparently the quickest route, but we had to go through 2 border crossings and 3 countries! When we got to Copan, we checked into our very cute hostel, ViaVia, which has a bar, restaurant and travel agency on site – score! The first thing I noticed about Copan was that the prices were considerably higher than we were used to. It’s a small town, with not much around it, so I suppose they are able to hike up their prices on food and tourist activities, darnit! After eating some veggie burgers, we went for a long walk around town and saw the Parque Central, the church in the center of town, and the cute, quaint vibe of the place. We didn’t do too much the rest of that night, besides having a few beers (yes!) and passed out pretty early.
On Thursday, we finally got to go to the ruins in Copan! We were able to walk there from our hostel, as they are only about 1 km outside of town, along a pretty walking path. After buying our tickets, we were greeted fairly quickly by supposedly the best tour guide in the park (according to many online resources), Antonio. Antonio is in his 60’s, and is missing just about all his teeth, but speaks 5 languages and has amazing knowledge of the Maya people and the site. We walked around for a few hours and learned about temples, sacrificial altars, and the amazing and intricate stone carvings with ancient Mayan writing on them.
They say that Copan was like the Paris of the Mayan sites, as it had the best art (and still has the most well preserved, detailed pieces) and that Tikal was the New York City – as it had the highest population and was the largest city. It was a great and educational few hours at the ruins! As we were walking out, we saw some Macaws that lived at the park and took a few photos of them (more on Macaws later). We then headed back to town to eat lunch and do some shopping. They have some beautiful handicrafts here, similar but different to Guatemalan handicrafts. After walking around outside all day, I realized that I had been bitten by a few bugs on my left foot and it was a bit swollen. The bugs are very persistent here, so we are constantly spraying ourselves with bug spray!
On Friday, we decided to head out to Macaw Mountain. A driver picked us up at 10 in a tuc tuc(tiny taxi) and we headed along a bumpy, dirt road to the Macaw Mountain Nature Preserve. We had another bi-lingual tour guide here that took us through the Nature Preserve and told us about the many different types of birds that were there. I particularly loved the Mottled Owl, which has blue eyelids and blinks like a human – creepy but cute! Towards the end of the tour, Lex and I both got to hold 3 macaws – they are giant, heavy, and beautiful and love to poke holes in your clothes and bite off your buttons! After the tour, we walked around for a bit, enjoying the gorgeous scenery, talking to the birds and drank some delicious Honduran-grown coffee. After the preserve, we took a tuc tuc back and walked some more around the city, stumbling upon a cheap local restaurant where we ate quesillo (locally made cheese) empanadas – yum! We relaxed a bit more that afternoon and did some more trip planning (hopefully Roatan, Honduras is next). We then went out for dinner/drinks at a place called Twisted Tanya’s, which is owned by an ex-pat from the UK. They offer a “backpacker’s special” for $7, which includes soup, pasta and dessert (honestly a bit pricey), but it was all pretty delicious. We then headed back to the hostel, where we watched a live band play mostly American cover songs and got a bit tipsy on local beers – woo!
LOTS of pictures this time – hope you enjoy!