Hola de Mexico City and El Salvador

Trip Start Apr 30, 2008
1
4
30
Trip End Apr 17, 2009


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Flag of El Salvador  ,
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

We were a bit apprehensive about our trips to Mexico City and El Salvador. We were pleasantly surprised by both. While the air pollution affected both of us (Candy had to stop wearing contacts), the temperature was considerably cooler than Merida (65-85 degrees) and the experience was very worthwhile. We certainly appreciate clean air a lot more!

We wish we had more than two days to explore Mexico City. We took a double-decker tour bus to get a sense of the city. Many of the city's broad streets were modeled on the Champs d'Elysees in Paris. On our second day we took a tour of an interactive museum of economics sponsored by the Central Bank of Mexico.   We both really had a wonderful time. We had the opportunity to make and print a copy of our own special version of Mexican currency. At last, "Ray-sos" are real.
After the museum we walked through the city while trying to buy tickets to Lucho Libre (The masked-Mexican wrestling). Our seats were far enough from the action to be safe, but close enough to recognize that even though it´s fake (sorry Phil), it still really must hurt. Our seats, ironically purchased at chain of bookstores in Mexico City named "Gandhi", were in the last row of the box seats. Behind us was an 8 foot tall chain link fence to separate the section from the general admission. We did have to hold trays of popcorn and beverages while the vendors climbed the fence and then we would them their products...

 


In many cities in the US, you find neighborhoods like Chinatown or Little Italy. Well, a suburb of the Twin Cities is called Little Canada, yet we´ve never been able to find any Canadian food--until now. Near our hotel in Mexico City was a place called "Jugos Canada" (Okay, it was a juice bar and restaurant near the Hotel Canada). While it may not be the authentic Canadian food we've been searching for, their tortas (grilled sandwiches) and fresh squeezed juices (orange, pineapple, and another 10 or so) were amazing. We ate or drank there at least three times. 

It was an interesting time to be visiting Mexico City. Our understanding is that the current administration is working on reducing corruption in Mexico (a portion of which is due to the demand for drugs in the US). High ranking law enforcement officials were recently assassinated. All around the city were banners of support for the cause. Hopefully, the reaction we saw has been a genuinely unifying event for the people of Mexico.

The beginning of our stay in El Salvador was an experience we will remember forever. The country´s international airport is about 30 miles from the city of San Salvador. We took the advice of our guidebook and took a mini-bus into the city. Without a doubt, there were 40-50 people in the van. Ray was "lucky" and was pushed to the back bench with his backpack blocking all forward vision. Candy stood surrounded by people who just kept coming. Did we mention that El Salvador is mostly mountains with very narrow valleys? Ray and Candy disagree on whether this experience tops the "maxi-taxis" in Romania. We do agree that we would like Eric to visit El Salvador and settle the dispute for us.

San Salvador has a significant American influence from all the guest workers in the US who have returned to El Salvador. (On the map to our hotel was a landmark for "Texaco". At first, Ray thought this was yet another Mayan/Aztec word that he couldn´t pronounce. Then he saw the signs for Wendy´s, Burger King, and Tony Roma´s.) 

We quickly headed out of San Salvador to Las Rutas de los Flores (the route of the flowers). This mountainous region is filled with coffee plantations, waterfalls, and people of seemingly endless talents. We stayed in a town called Juayua (we couldn´t pronounce this until a day or so after we left---"whuh-HI-ya"---leading to several dicey moments getting on the right buses). At the small hotel we stayed in, we were welcomed into an amazing group of friends. Less than four hours after arriving, we were listening to wonderful music, sitting on handmade cypress furniture, and getting to know amazing people. 

We took a day trip out of Juayua to other towns on the Ruta de las Flores. Weekends are great days to be in these small towns as it seems everyone from nearby comes to the area around the town square. In coffee country, all the men seem to have machetes (often with elaborate leather "holsters").

We also hired a 15 year-old guide (Ilmer) to take us through the coffee plantations and to amazing waterfalls. We not only hiked to the bottom of a major set of falls, we also climbed to the peak of another set. The water from this set of falls is collected in pools to be diverted for hydroelectric power. We were able to swim in one of the pools. This pool was connected to another pool by a tunnel. A nice Salvadoran about 45 years old was at the pool with what we think were his parents. The father convinced Candy to swim in the pool. I  The son tried, unsuccessfully, to convince Ray to become a "real" Salvadoran and take the tunnel to the next pool. Ray took the bridge instead.

Our El Salvador waterfall hike turned out to be great preparation for our adventures in Guatemala. Tune in next time to hear about our adventures climbing a volcano and to see Candy´s unique way to toast marshmallows.
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