Juayua, El Salvador
Although Casa Verde was clearly the coolest place on the planet, we thought we should continue on our holiday to see what else Central America has in store. La Ruta de las Flores (the Route of the Flowers) was next on our hit list, however it wasn't quite the right time of year to see flowers. But it did have plenty of food, markets, souvenirs, rolling green hills covered in coffee plantations and, most importantly, hiking.
The main reason I wanted to visit this area was to complete the 7 Waterfalls tour. Danny was neither here nor there about yet more waterfalls, but he came along for the adventure. This time it was just us and our Spanish-speaking guide for a five hour trek through beautiful forest, past a few flowers, lots of coffee plants and plenty of cascades. Many falls came straight out of the rocks rather than over the top of them, forming fantastic patterns on the way down. There were long narrow drops as well as wide curtains, some that formed swimming pools at the bottom and others that we needed to rappel down. Rappelling in El Salvador was a little different to back home. All we used on this tour was a helmet and a rope. No other safety equipment whatsoever. No harness, rappel device, carabiners, gloves - not even shoes. If we let go of that one, free-hanging, flimsy piece of rope, we were toast. I guess it added to the thrill factor, which is always a plus in my books. In summary, great trip.
Juayua was popular for its weekend food festival, where it seemed that all the local folk showed up with extravagant displays of cooking prowess. Long tents were installed around the centre square and down neighbouring streets, ready to accommodate the hoardes that arrived en masse. Most stalls were similar, selling barbecued meats, salads, rice and tortillas. I managed to find something to suit my eating habits, while Danny went crazy on the animal carcasses. It proved to be a great way to draw the tourists to this pocket of El Salvador.
We wanted to explore the area a little while we were here, so we caught a bus to another town on the route, Ataco. Ataco was small, much quieter than Juayua but more picturesque. Cobbled streets, colourful buildings adorned with various murals and locally made handicrafts seemed to be all that was on offer. We tried some corn cake, which tasted exactly as you would expect a sweet, moist cake made with corn to taste like (actually it was quite nice). It had a sleepy vibe and didn't hold our attention for long, but it was nice to visit.
For some reason we thought it would be great to cook Mexican for dinner in our hostel - you know, because we hadn't eaten Mexican food for so long. Tomato and corn salad, refried beans, guacamole, tortilla chips - it was just as good as restaurant food, only healthier. Danny could get a job out here easily. In fact, the idea of living and working in Mexico was something that we had discussed several times. The laid back lifestyle, amazing weather, abundant travel opportunities and the cultural experience all appealed to us, but logistically we weren't sure how we could make it happen. It was a topic we would come back to repeatedly over the course of our holiday, and ultimately led us to make a decision on our return to Australia that would change our lives dramatically.