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2017 APRIL - EL SALVADOR

MORE TIME ON THE BEACH JUST A DIFFERENT LOCATION

sunny 30 °C

DAY 72 TUESDAY 18TH APRIL

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Today we left El Cuco and move further north up the coast of El Salvador to another beach location El Tunco. No mean feat arriving here in one piece either.

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Byron had advised us to be at the gate by 8am as that was the time the bus we needed to catch would pass the resort. True to his word the bus came barrelling down the dirt road and stopped in front of us at 8.05am. The conductor was hanging out of the door yelling San Miguel, San Miguel. As luck would have it that is where we needed to go. The fare for this chicken bus was US$4.15 for us and our bags.

Most of the road way to San Miguel was dirt so we had a choice of having the windows closed and cooking in the heat, yes it was already very hot even at this early hour, or open the windows and cop a gob full of dust from the bus stopping and starting along the dirt road. It was a catch 22. Just on a hour later we arrived in San Miguel and were dropped outside the next bus station we need to carry on our trip. Look for bus 305 the conductor told me.

We had about a 30 minute wait until our bus arrived. Lyn and Dolly pushed their way on board to secure seats as there was a big line up to get on this bus to the capital. I assisted with getting our luggage stored below in the hull of the bus. This bus ride to San Salvador too just over 2 hours and cost US$9 for the 3 of us and luggage. This chicken bus left at 10.20am. We drove through the capital and I was thankful that we were not stopping. The El Salvador capital is supposed to be one of the most dangerous cities in Central America.

Again arriving at another bus terminal, with our limited Spanish and their limited English a group of taxi drivers advised us we needed to transfer to another bus station. We did recall Byron saying something about this so we had little choice but to believe them. I asked the taxi driver how much (it's essential to establish an fare amount before agreeing to a taxi ride), he asked for US$15. We laughed and Lyn held up her hand saying cinco (five) and at first he said no until I started to approach another driver and then he agreed. Silly really, these blokes should realize they have us over a barrel and can ask anything, but he seemed happy with the offer of US$5, which means he was still charging us more than he would a local.

The taxi ride was about 20 minutes through city traffic so we were more than happy with the price we paid. Just as we reached the mini bus station a bus was about to depart and the security guard with a large gun ushered us hurriedly towards it. So no waiting here, the fare was US$1.50 each but we had to pay the same for our bags which were put on a seat, no luggage hull. So last leg which departed at 1.45pm cost a total of US$9.

Just a short ride, about 40 minutes and the driver advised us to get of when we had reached El Tunco Beach. So, we departed El Cuco at approximately 8am, 2 chicken buses, 1 taxi and 1 minibus later at approximately 2.30pm (7 1/2 hours) we arrived in El Tunco for a total cost of US$27.15 - I love travelling. These days although tiring, are ground roots travel, we sit with the locals, hopefully pay the same fares and enjoy the passing scenery.

So now we are by the side of the highway, across the road we see a list of El Tunco hotel signs pointing down the side street, but of course ours is not listed. A lovely lady crosses the road and in English asks us if we need help. Yes of course we do, thank you. I tell her the name of the hotel, which she does not know, but she grabs Dollys suitcase and starts wheeling it down the road. It will be this way she says to us. Little option but to follow her, we do and at the first hotel she stops and asks directions. Our hotel is about 500 metres down the road and she escorts us, still wheeling Dolly's suitcase and deposits us at the reception with a passing goodbye and enjoy El Tunco. We are almost always sceptical about the people who stop to help, but on this occasion like many others, this lovely lady just wanted to help. Unfortunately, it's the one or two helpers who try to rip us off that make us so suspicious of people offering help. It's a sad fact, but we have to keep our wits about us with everyone until they are proved to be trustworthy.

So our hotel, Eco Del Mar, is the most expensive place we have paid for so far @ US$73.85 per night and on entering the room it shows. This place is nice and a little treat for us. Air con, TV (no English channels :-( ) and there is a little pool. Kitchenette with mini toaster oven and a sitting area, very posh for us.

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El Tunco beach is a bit of a let down, good surfer location but its a bit rocky and rough for us to venture into the water. Lots of the surrounding shops and restaurants are closed today, maybe recovering from the Easter weekend. We find a place to get some food and have an ok burger, although Dolly's fish and chips are shite.

It's hot and the air con room is very welcoming. Although all we can find on the TV is a flash back music channel which suits us ok too.

DAY 73 WEDNESDAY 19TH APRIL

Another hot sunny day in El Salvador. Sometimes I need to pinch myself to realize we are on the other side of the world in El Salvador, can you believe it.

We had a walk around town and beach and a swim in the hotel pool today.

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A few beers and lunch out looking at the ocean view. It's nice and quiet here, not too many people around although a few more shops etc are open today.

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We returned to the beach for the sunset, which disappointingly was not over the water, but still enough to draw a bit of a crowd to enjoy the light.

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DAY 74 THURSDAY 20TH APRIL

Seriously, if we relax anymore we shall become comatose!

The hotel staff knocked on our door this morning to advise that breakfast was included in our room tariff. News to us, but bring it on.
So typical El Salvadorian breakfast is the same as everywhere else in Central America, scrambled eggs with capsicum, beans, cheese and tortillas. No not yet sick of this breaky, over pancakes but can still eat this with glee.

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We sat around today polishing off a bottle of rum, as you do! Did actually make it out to have some dinner and a few beers, like we needed them!

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DAY 75 FRIDAY 21ST APRIL

Time for us to move on again. All this bludging around at the seaside is making us very lazy, so today we are heading to the hills again. Another 100 odd kilometres which took us all day to transverse.

After investigation on the internet and asking the hotel staff here, we sort of worked out that the bus we needed to catch left La Libertad (which is just 10 minutes up the road) at either 1pm, 1.30pm or 2pm. So to be on the safe side we made sure we were waiting up on the main road early enough for the first departure time. There are only 2 buses per day from La Libertad to Sonsonate, the first one at 6am - which we would not even attempt to catch - and then one in the afternoon. So we had to be on the afternoon bus.

This gave us enough time to have a sleep in, a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, a bit of a walk around and then a swim in the hotel pool before dragging our bags up to the main road. We were up there in plenty of time by 12.30pm.

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After only about 15 minutes wait a chicken bus stopped and although it was not the number I had written down, when I showed the conductor our destination he nodded yes and helped load our bags. We had no idea if there was another bus or not. It turns out this guy obviously could not read as he motioned for us to get off the bus just 15 minutes up the beach thinking we wanted Playa Sunzal not Sonsonate! Most definitely my pronunciation was incorrect, but I think his reading skills were lacking also. Anyway we got a short bus ride for US$1 for the 3 of us and a more shady place to wait on the side of the road for the correct bus.

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Next bus we got on will be #287. So we waited, and waited, and waited. Lots of chicken buses passing us but none the one we wanted. Timing wise I think the bus left La Libertad at 1.30pm as the bus we wanted slowed down to pick us up at 2pm. Us and some others also now waiting at the same bit of road we were. Only problem was, the bus the stopped was already full. And by full I mean passengers were already standing on the front and back exit steps. How the hell were we going to get on. The other passengers waiting with us, of course scrambled aboard as they had no luggage to contend with. So we just went to the front door and waited until the people inside squashed up even more and finally made room for us. Dolly was on first with her bag and she made it to the top of the front steps, I was not so lucky and spent the first 30 minutes of the journey on the second step trying to hold on desperately to my bag and trying desperately not to fall our of the door as the bus driver drove without braking around the winding coastal road. Lyn and her bag were taken to the back door of the bus and all I could see as we departed the stop was her hat so I was relieved she did make it on. But truthfully, I think these bus guys live by the motto - no one gets left behind.

Slowly but surely the bus emptied, and our positions became a little safer and more comfortable. The last hour of this 2 hour ride had us all comfortable seated. This 2 hour exciting bus ride cost us US$1.50 each. That was just phase one.

We arrived in Sonsonate bus station just after 4pm and I suggested we go and have some food before we attempted the next leg. I knew the buses to our next and final destination departed every 30 minutes. We found a beautifully air conditioned Pollo Campero (chicken junk food chain) and had some chicken to eat. It was lovely to sit in the cool air and recover from that last bus ride.

At about 5pm we returned to the bus station and found the line up for our next bus to Juayua. We waited about 30 minutes before our bus pulled into its stand. God knows why everyone bothered to line up cause soon enough it was just a free for all with the bus conductor urging everyone to scramble aboard. We moved slowly up the line and it soon became obvious that all the seats in the bus were taken and some people were starting to line up for the next bus. The conductors spied us with our luggage and made a signal to head to the back of the bus so we could load our bags. We managed to get on the now very full bus that was standing room only. Dolly managed to wangle a seat, and old lady stood up for me to sit but I refused. Lyn and I stood the whole way, but it was only about 30 minutes after the initial 30 minutes getting out of the city traffic. This bus ride cost us US$0.50c each.

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Todays travel of just over 100 km, cost us a total of US$7.00 for the 3 of us, and a few grey hairs. We left our hotel in El Tunco at 12pm and arrived at Casa Mazeta at about 6pm.

From the bus stop we had to walk about 8 blocks through town to Casa Mazeta, where we have a triple room with private bathroom for US$30 per night. I have booked us here for 4 nights.

Dropped of the bags then back out to find a beer, which of course we did. Golden US$1.25. It is a little cooler out here at night, being in the hills and all.

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We also found a supermarket from where we purchased supplies for a sandwich dinner, since we'd had the chicken meal so late. And we found a bottle of pina/coco juice, which went very nice with the last bottle of rum that I was still carrying.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 21:52 Archived in El Salvador Tagged beach bus el chicken juayúa tunco Comments (1)

2017 APRIL - NICARAGUA, ON TO LEON

OUR LAST DAYS IN NICARAGUA

sunny 32 °C

DAY 63 SUNDAY 9TH APRIL

Scrambled eggs, with toasted bread roll this morning, was something a bit different. Eggs and the view were nice. It's Palm Sunday today, so being in a Catholic country that is a big deal. We could hear the fireworks going off all during breakfast and we could see crowds and movement down at the Cathedral. Not motivated enough by the religious significance to go have a look, we just enjoyed the view from our balcony while eating breakfast.

Finished packing our bags we deposited them down by reception and checked out of our room. We are catching the 3pm bus to Leon so have time to kill until then. We are going to try to visit the lookout again today, after our failed attempt yesterday arriving after the gates had closed at 5pm.
The first taxi I flagged down and that we climbed into wanted to charge 200 Cordoba's = A$ 8.86 each way, this was not acceptable and we exited his vehicle in a hurry.

Next taxi was happy to take us for 100 Cordoba's = A$4.43 each way (same price as we paid yesterday) and I managed to con him into waiting for us at the top for 10 minutes before he drove us back down. View from the lookout was pretty awesome. You could see the whole valley with the town of Matagalpa sitting in its base, with housing crawling up the slops of the surrounding mountains. This area is supposed to be a major coffee area but we still did not see any coffee plantations from this vantage point either.

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Our ride took us back into the centre of town and was happy when he received the 200 Cordoba's = A$8.86 for his trouble. Still with lots of time to kill we went in search of the coffee museum which was supposed to be ok if you got a couple of hours to kill, which we did. Managed to find it but the gate was closed and there was a lady there who told us the museum was closed today. Why have staff there just to tell punters that the place is closed? Very odd. So we had a bit of a wander around the shops, sat in the square watching the proceedings. The overflowing cathedral was holding mass until 12.30 when suddenly all the ice cream vendors went into a frenzy trying to attract the exiting church patrols.

We had lunch of a enchilada and a cold drink at one of the food shacks in the square. Dolly as usually was not impressed with the food, she does not like tortillas in any way shape or form, so this was not a very appetizing lunch for her. Not to waste the food, she gave hers to a beggar that was hovering nearby the food shacks.

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Back at the hotel to collect our luggage I think they were trying to tell us that they wanted to charge us a fee for having left our luggage. So this is a good time to confirm that we don't understand any Spanish. She could not get herself understood so just ended up giving up and watched us as we left the hotel with our luggage.

On the street it was impossible to flag an empty taxi, the cleaning lady suggested we walk down the street and as luck would have it an empty taxi pulled up. To the bus station sur (south) please! Ten minutes later we were there with just 1.5 hours to wait for the bus to Leon. Yes we were way early but I wanted to be waiting here at the station rather than somewhere else and not get on the bus.

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Our chicken bus departed on time at 3pm and it was not nearly full so we all had seats. It was a pretty good ride as they played all English speaking music (which is unusual) and it was not too hot in the bus. The fare was C$75 = A$A$3.32 each and we did not get stung anything for the luggage. The bus pulled into Leon bus terminal about 5.30pm and we found a taxi to take us to the hostel I had pre booked.

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Lazybones Hostel - triple room US$28, shared bathroom & no breakfast, no kitchen, but has a pool. Turns out our room is ok but the toilet and shower is down then up 29 steps, so a little far for the ones that need to go in the middle of the night. So not a good choice, but I did not know this and lots of places were already booked out in Leon so just going to have to live with it.

Bags in room, we headed out straight away to find a cold beer, of which we did in a sleazy bar, but the beer was cold and cheap so all good. Feeling a little more refreshed we had a walk around, stopping for a easy pizza/hot dog dinner before another beer in the main square next to the cathedral. It was dark by now but lots of people out and about for a Sunday night. There is a bit of a breeze tonight so not so bad as we have been told it is hotter here than in Granada.

Bit more of a walk around on our way back to hostel. Dolly and I opted for a dip in the pool in lieu of a shower - to cool and clean off.
Will explore more tomorrow.

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DAY 64 MONDAY 10TH APRIL

After a relaxing morning at the hostel, no breakfast included here, so just coffee. We still had bread and the tomatoes that I had purchased on the bus yesterday, so that was breakfast. A quick dip in the pool to cool off before we went out to explore a bit of Leon.

It was quite warm, with a little bit of a breeze so not has hot as Granada had been when we were there. We found a supermarket to return to later for supplies and randomly walked the streets.

Yesterday we had seen a rooftop bar that we decided would be nice for a drink and a lookout so we headed in that direction. It was about 2pm and we were the only patrons enjoying a bucket of Victoria Frost buy 6 pay for 5! We also had some overpriced chicken wings to nibble on. This was a nice bar but the French owner was doing a big no no while we were there. We saw him pouring cheap rum into the expensive rum bottles that he had on the shelves of his bar. What a scabby bastard, people are paying the price for the top shelf rum and actually getting the cheaper one. Not that there is anything wrong with the cheaper one, that is what we have been buying and drinking, but when you are in a bar and paying for the good stuff you should be getting it. Sorry Mr Frog, but you have been caught out and I am putting you on trip advisor!

Anyway, sufficiently hydrated we took leave to walk around town and spy the many churches dotted around the streets of Leon. We also had a quick stop at the markets where Dolly bought some new bras and we purchased a couple of bandanas.

Went to the office to get some info about our shuttle to El Salvador in a few days but staff had already gone home as it was after 5pm. So that seemed like a good cue for us to have an afternoon bevvie. 4 x 1 litre Viccies later C$50 = A$2.22 each, we were done and trying to stagger back to our hostel. Somehow managed a stop at the supermarket to buy supplies for a sandwich back at the hostel.

Another dip before dinner then relax before bed after our big day out on the town.

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DAY 65 TUESDAY 11TH APRIL

Another hot day in downtown Leon. No breakfast supplied at this hostel so we just had a banana that we'd purchased yesterday from the supermarket. They do have free coffee and hot water for tea until 1pm so at least our caffeine fix is satisfied first up.

As usual we lazed around all morning, using the pool to cool us down before heading out mid afternoon to find some more food. We peeped into a café on the way to central park and Dolly and Lyn spied mash potato so we were going to eat at that establishment even if they served it with dog shit. Which luckily for all of us they did not. Dolly & I had ours with a chicken drumstick served with vegies in a gravy and Lyn opted for shredded chicken and vegies. Have not seen these pair so happy in days! The 3 meals cost us a total of C$145 = A$6.50.

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After lunch we walked back to the Gekko Trails office where we booked the shuttle to El Salvador as they sent me an email this morning saying we could spend tomorrow at their hostel after we check out of our accommodation. We wanted to check the address of the hostel so we knew where to take our luggage in the morning. The hostel we are at have signs up saying that guests cannot hang around at the hostel waiting for their shuttle (all shuttles leave either at 8pm or 2pm) claiming they are not a bus terminal. Not very friendly, but fair enough I guess. So loaded with the information of where to go tomorrow we crossed the road to return to the Via Via bar we drank at yesterday, only to be advised they were out of Victoria Frost 1 litre bottles. Well this was enough to lose our patronage and we stood up and left the establishment in disgust.

Walked back to the central square and sat at the café on the square in front of the cathedral. Beers are a little more expensive here C$29 = A$1.30 each, but it's got good people watching traffic so we stayed for 2.

Had a walk around inside the cathedral which is supposed to be the largest in Central America.

Leon Cathedral (Catedral de la Asuncion) is the largest cathedral in Central America. The cathedral is located in the centre of the city of Leon across the street from the city's main plaza. The cathedral opened in 1747, however construction originally began decades years earlier. The cathedral was named to the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) World Heritage list in 2011. Tunnels under the cathedral once linked it to other churches throughout the city, however the city now utilizes them for the local sewage system.

Cathedral of Leon The cathedral is most known as the burial place of Ruben Dario. His tomb is located in the centre of Leon Cathedral beneath a white stone statue of a weeping lion. Many of Nicaragua's wealthy and elite are buried beneath the cathedral including Alfonso Cortes, Jose de la Cruz Mena, Miguel Larreynaga, and Salomon de la Selva , however they are not accessible by the public. There is also a courtyard in the middle of the cathedral called Patio de los Principes that has a fountain and flowers.

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Returned to the hostel before dark for a cooling off swim. It's hotter here today than yesterday even with the small breeze moving the trees. We have been very grateful for the pool here the last few days.
Dinner was sandwiches washed down with a bottle of coconut rum.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 10:50 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged bus chicken leon matagalpa Comments (0)

2017 MARCH NICARAGUA, DEEPER IN

CHICKEN BUS FROM SAN CARLOS TO GRANADA

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DAY 44 TUESDAY 21ST MARCH

We had a relaxing morning as today is a travel day, but our bus does not depart until 3pm. We hung around at the hotel using the internet until checkout time which was 11am. We were able to leave our bags while we had a last little stroll around town and then back to our usual restaurant for a beer (at 11.30am, is that too early when on holidays?) and something to eat.

We walked via the huge big yellow church on the hill.

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Yesterday while sitting in the restaurant we saw another patron eating chicken wings and chips so this is what we decided to have for our lunch. Lucky when it came to order there were some young Americans there to help us ask for chicken wings. It took 30 minutes for our food to come out but this gave us enough time to finish our beer. Nice every so often to have a meal that does not include rice and beans. Not a bad deal for C$140 = A$6.20 each.

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We lingered over lunch until about 1pm when we decided it was time to go collect our luggage. It seemed we had walked this path many times before so it was only just after 1.15pm when we were back in our lunch seats and ordering our last C$19 = A$0.87 Victoria Frost beer, our farewell to San Carlos.

Just after 2pm we dragged our luggage the short distance to the bus station. It seemed that a lot of the shop owners were saying adios to us, perhaps we had stayed in this little stop over town longer than others, or just the fact we had luggage and were leaving they bid us farewell.

We were at the bus station by 2.10pm, lucky there were benches that we were able to sit at and wait for the bus. The station was a hive of activity, surrounded by shops and swarming with walking vendors selling everything from food, drinks, fake jewellery and belts to a lady (who was in great need of her own product) selling bras!

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I had a walk around taking a few photos of some colourful chicken buses, not realizing that just before 3pm we were instructed to board one of these un-coach like machines.

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We sort of knew it was going to be a long ride when the first 25 km took about 1 1/2 hours to transverse. This was a long distance bus for us, but it was the normal getting home bus for the locals, so we stopped at just about every 2nd tree to pick up or drop off passengers. At least the seats were comfortable and there was plenty of leg room, even for me. It was not air-conditioned, but there was a fair breeze coming in through the windows so although the travel was slow, it was not uncomfortable. Throughout the journey we all had 2 seats to ourselves intermittently shared with oncoming and offgoing passengers.

At one stop, the bus conductor (guy collecting the money and loading the luggage), there were great huge heavy tubs loaded onto the roof of the bus. This was done by 2 other men lifting the tubs onto the conductors head. With this load he scaled the bus loading ladder and passed the big tub to men waiting on the roof, this was done with the great weight balancing on his head. A man sitting next to Lyn advised us it was queso (cheese). I was impressed, especially when he repeated this action about 15 times lifting the tubs up onto the roof.

The trip continued and continued and continued. We witnessed a beautiful sunset, I took photos through the dirty bus windows. Darkness fell as the bus continued, stopping and starting as it picked up and dropped passengers. The end of the line finally came just before 10pm, after we had driven through a very quiet and deserted looking Granada.

Not having any idea where the hell we were, the bus stopped in a back street with no visible street signs. The conductor pointed us in the direction of the central plaza so we started to walk in that direction. I had pre booked our hostel accommodation, thank god, and had a map that I could follow from the central park. There was a security guard standing on the corner so I asked him for directions to Calle Estrada, he did not know but did not hesitate to flag down a passing car to get directions. Luckily for us the driver spoke English and shouted out the directions to us. Another plus we were not far from the hostel and only had to drag our luggage for about 10 minutes.

We checked in and were shown to our room. First up was a coffee and tea, even though we had not eaten since the early lunch none of us seemed to mention needing any food. It's surprising how exhausting sitting in a bus for 7 hours can be. After 3 tepid showers we went to bed, it was midnight by now and although we had all 'napped' in the bus we still seemed to feel buggered.

Catching up on internet, I posted photos until about 1am and then crashed.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 10:39 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged bus san granada chicken carlos Comments (0)

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