Dawdling along La Ruta de las Flores – stomach parasites not being the most accommodating travel companions – we encountered small colonial town after small colonial town, coffee plantations galore and even a gourmet food festival (although we could not find the roast iguanas and snakes that the guide book promised).
It was hard to drag ourselves away from Attilio’s hospitality in Ataco – the scent of the pungent floripundios wafting through the garden in the evening, Rosario’s excellent cooking, and Attilio’s never failing enjoyment of life were hard things to leave. Attilio even introduced us to his friend Eduardo, a journalist for the national rag: Prensa Grafica. In our less than perfect Spanish we were interviewed, and anytime now should gain fleeting fame thanks to Eduardo´s forthcoming article.
From Ataco we weakly peddled to Juayua, and on to Santa Ana. Hostels Casa Mazeta (Juayua) and Casa Verde (Santa Ana) are very highly recommended for anyone passing through this way.
The back road from Santa Ana to Suchitoto was beautiful – tracking a river, with densely forested banks and constant birdsong. Although we started out at just after 6am the heat was serious by 9.30am. Thankfully we had a nice breeze to cool us down marginally, enabling us to carry on until almost midday before surrendering to the call of the shade.
Suchitoto is enchanting – originally El Salvador’s capital, sight of intense fighting during the Civil War and now seat of quintessential colonial charm complete with plaza and picturesque church. However, sat in a bowl next to a lake it is devilishly hot. The sort of place where all hammocks are occupied between the hours of 11am and 3pm, and where sitting very still induces profuse sweating.
Here we hooked up with Korla who we met back at the language school in Guatemala. Just coming to the end of her one year stint volunteering at the Centro Arte para La Paz she gave us an insight into life in Suchitoto, and reassured us that we´d found the best place in town for a licuardo (fruit or milk shake)!
Pushing onwards in the heat, we climbed out of Suchitoto along the beautiful road to San Martin and back to the Carretera Panamericana. The highway barrels through San Martin, and straight through El Salvador heading for Honduras. We barreled along with it for a while before seeking shade from the noon sun at Finca La Paz. Styled as an eco-tourism and education centre the owner is protecting the wilderness on his land – creating a haven for wildlife, plants and birds. We decided to camp there for the night and were treated to a dramatic walk through the finca at dusk with a storm brewing overhead. The path ended at a giant phallic statue deep in the jungle – the owner´s very own creation, and rather an interesting addition to the property! Stumbling across a concrete representation of ‘meat and two veg’ in the gloaming was so unexpected that we struggled to stifle childish giggles as our guide explained that this was a serious symbol of fertility. Ahem, yes but it’s still a giant cock in the woods – chortle, chortle!
From the Finca we headed on past volcano Chichontepec, to San Miguel. And there you have it, the story so far.