Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Exploring El Salvador

Exploring El Salvador

The first day Courage, Loyal and their mother headed out to a store about 100 meters away to see what they had.  They just got to the store when a truck came driving along the main road sounding their loud speaker.  They had the bed of the truck full of fruits and vegetables.  The guys told them they wanted some, but asked if they could bring it closer tod  the hotel/marina.  They loaded the guys onto the truck’s tailgate and drove the back tmo the hotel.  Then they bought $27 worth of fruits and veggies that filled our cockpit table.  These appeared to be home garden quality, worms and everything, but they were great.  I washed them all in some bleach water and some worms came out.  We mostly store them in the cockpit to try to keep from having too many guests onboard.  That was one of our easiest provisioning missions ever!
Kids watching fishermen on dock.
Fisherman's paddle and hollowed out log canoe.
Fisherman's hollow log canoe.


The dock here is questionable, but the people are so friendly that it makes up for anything lacking.  You join “the cruiser’s club” for $2./day/boat for use of the hotel which has 2 pools, showers, internet, 30% off restaurant, and fresh water usage.  The dock is $.60/day and we tied up the first night since we had not yet done our customs and immigration and since they were so generous to help guide us through the sandbar waves.  

The fishermen shared their bait fish with Integrity.

We spent much of our time in the pool for the next day or two and everyone’s heat rashes faded.  Sooooo refreshing to cool off in a pool!!!!!  The mosquitos weren’t nearly as many as in Chiapas either and we finalized our mosquito netting enclosure (other than some sewing of the Velcro to the screen which will be ongoing for another week or so).  We really haven’t sustained any bites here either, but we’ve seen a few outside of our netting.  Overall, it seems we are doing better with both mosquitos and heat. 

View from our restaurant.

We have had some great squalls and are improving on our preparations.  Our cockpit tarp has to be dropped due to high winds that come in front of the lightening storms, the laundry has to come in from the lifelines, the hatches have to be closed, the fruits/veggies should come in, etc.  There was more to do the first night, by the second night we had more preparations done.

The problem with the second night is that the 4 adults were at a restaurant on shore when we began to feel the pre-emptive winds.  So were all of the members of Grace, a boat we met in the marina.  Unfortunately they had left their hatches open and walked to dinner, so were quite a distance from home.  We rushed to get and pay our bill, took one of them with us, then scrambled through the ever-increasing winds and waves back to our boats.  We got dropped off and started our run to bring everything in and close the hatches.  Courage took Grace’s owner to his boat.  He just got it closed up when it began to rain.  We, on the other hand, had more work to do and didn’t quite get sealed up in time.  We got things indoors, but not all the hatches were closed and sealed.  

The rain starts strong and can drench you in a matter of minutes.  We got some water on our bed that night, but overall, it worked out pretty well.  Fun to watch the lightening and thunder passing by.  Interesting to see it on the radar.  Great to get a chance to help someone else out too.  Courage brought him back to the restaurant to join his family for dinner.  He was soaked when he got back to the boat!! 

We are enjoying the resort immensely, swimming much of every day and Innocence is officially a swimmer without her lifejacket!!  Not only that, she can dive down to get things from the bottom, etc.  She’s become a very competent swimmer.

There are 2 parrots which live in a 55 gallon drum mounted in a mango tree.  We try to feed them, but they bite.  Always fun to interact with.  

There are also some indigenous deer, they have a male and female as well as a one month old baby.  We gather up fallen leaves and feed the deer pretty much daily.  
                     I don’t know how they’d survive without us feeding them ;) 

Valiant has also been working hard while on land.  He’s been taking his first steps.  He can stand with ease and is now linking some steps together.  He loves his pool time and thinks it’s great to throw things in and watch the other kids dive for it. 

We took the whole family on a day trip to explore the local area.  We left our resort area and went to a nearby town, Heradura.  This required us to catch a bus to get out of our peninsula, then transfer to another bus that goes toward the town.  We could also take a 4 km dinghy ride up the mangrove estuary, but that doesn’t give us nearly the local experience.  The first bus was $0.50 each, the second $0.25.  They filled up pretty quickly to standing room only.  

The people were so generous to give up seats for parents with children.  Valiant made many friends and was passed up and down onto different people’s laps.

Cows in the road.
There was nothing marked at the intersection where we transferred busses.  There was a triangle of greenery with chickens, cows and dogs wandering.  Fortunately Loyal and Grandmother had been there the day before and let us know when to get off.    The transfer plan was to get on any bus pointing east toward the town.  We really didn’t know the routes or markings on them.  It worked. 

We got off at the beginning of town.  It was a Saturday so they had a flea market set up along the road.

Vitality at her candy concession stand.

Vitality immediately found a table just her height with bags of candies on it.  It was hard to keep her moving with all these options.  

We bought some bananas for a snack, then turned in to the regular indoor flea market style market.  This market was more focused on food.  It was great and the people loved seeing the blonde kids come through.  The floors were uneven, minimal lighting, flies everywhere, but everything you would be looking for was there.  Seems like a very happy, close group of people in there working together to make a living.  

The flea market.

Fish for sale.

The fish were laid out whole on the counter, some filleted in half and sun dried, with flies just walking all over them.  I suppose if you’re going to cook them, it’s OK, but you’d have to sell and eat that stuff in a day or else you’d get maggots it seems to me.  Not sure what their turnover is, but unless it’s pretty fresh, it’s going to be a problem.  Didn’t look that appealing to me, but it works. 
The kids looking out the door at the ice cream parlor.

Then we came out the other side of this market and walked a bit to an ice cream shop.  That was nice!  We got some cones ($0.90) and bars of ice cream ($0.40) and had a refreshing snack.  Then we walked to a bakery, got some cookies, then continued to the edge of town which was on the estuary.  

Restaurant on the mangrove estuary.
There was a cul-de-sac of restaurants and we stopped for lunch.  Really nice view, open walls on all sides and estuary on 3 sides.  We ordered one of each type of meat – fish, beef, shrimp, and gallino? (chicken-like, some sort of fowl, but not chicken).  

The two boys played with some local boys in the estuary waters “fishing” while we waited.  We went and watched them cook our meals, which was impressive to say the least.  

Cooking our meal over fire.

They had 2 BBQ type pits that they would put wood in, then cooked everything, the rice, the meat, on these fires.  They also hand washed all of the dishes also.  Makes you appreciate stoves and dishwashers!!    

Cassidy's fish bites back!!

They had refrigerators for the drinks and ice chests for the meat.  They even went down the street and came back with a flat screen TV for the couple at the table next to us, transforming the restaurant into a sports bar.  I’m not sure what exactly occurred, did they borrow it or buy it as a new addition, but they turned on a soccer game.  After cooking our meals, the ladies came out of the kitchen (there weren’t many guests here), and took Valiant for a tour of the restaurant.  They really seem to like holding blond babies.  The food was good, the atmosphere impressive, the staff attentive!
Bag-o-bags-o water.

We were thirsty on our walk back and stopped at the same bakery for some water.      They sell you a big bag full (maybe 20?) of 500ml bags of water for $1.  I’ve seen people drinking stuff from bags, I guess the packaging is much cheaper this way.   So we ripped off the corners and all had a bag of water.  We had what we needed and it was heavy to carry, so we gave a bunch to some construction workers along the way and some ladies selling fried bananas on the side of the road. 

Innocence drinking her bag-o-water with a straw.

Sugar cane going to market.
On the bus rides home, again it was full and again people went out of their way to make a seat for parents with kids.  Somehow on the transfer bus Loyal and the baby got on through the back door and I got on through the front door.  Not ideal!!  Baby was crying and the walkway was full.  

Local housing, note volcano in background.
Loyal began handing the baby up and he got passed up to me.  He laid down and I was hoping to stand with him and rock him, but multiple people insisted that I take their seat and they didn’t seem to be happy until I did.  Innocence ended up on a local grandmother’s lap, the grandmother seemed pretty pleased to have her as a lap child.  Innocence promptly fell asleep after our long day.  On departure, Uncle Loyal had to pick her up from the lady’s lap and carry her out. 
Worn out boys on bus.

This was such a great and fun way to meet the people, see the customs and local atmosphere!!!  I loved it.  We wore the kids out completely, but I think it was great for everyone involved.

We are soaking up the pool all day today and preparing for a likely departure through the surf tomorrow.  We are going to load up on water (not sure how, the dock water is more than questionable with sediment and taste of salt, etc.), fruits, veggies, bread, etc. 

We will head to a Nicaraguan island if all goes well where you can anchor at the base of a volcano!  Loving it here and looking forward to the next adventure!!  Win-win!!
Loving every day!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Chiapas, Mexico to Bahia del Sol, El Salvador

Refreshing - Captain goes swimming under sail - this is not always a good sign!!

Cassidy doing international travel!
This was a nice crossing, saw some thunderstorms along the way.  We even changed course once to try to avoid the brunt of a storm.  Very spectacular to see thunderstorms out on the ocean. 
Valiant refreshing in pool.
Cassidy in hammock ready to catch Intrepid.
Cassidy and Loyal refreshing

Again, we used our little cockpit pool to cool down.  We were under sail, so couldn’t stop easily, so Courage came up with a great plan.  He rigged some ropes off the back of the boat and we proceeded to jump off the bow tube, then grab onto the rope as the boat passed by, then pull ourselves onto the back swim step.  Even Intrepid, now an old hat at it, was going in.  First with an escort to make sure he made the rope grab, then on his own with a watchful eye.  

They also lowered the hammock to water level across the back, so you could come in and grab the hammock and kick back in the shade for awhile before coming back up.  Uncle Loyal rigged up a rope rescue to lower Vitality in and out of the hammock to visit Courage.  We were at 2.3 knots in the morning for the swim and had some short, but successful attempts to keep up with the boat.  In the afternoon swim, we were going 3.2 knots.  This was harder to manage.  Grabbing the rope wasn’t too hard, but pulling up the back swim step was a challenge and keeping up with the boat a near impossibility.  Good exercise, fun and refreshing, so overall, great idea.
Cassidy dragging on the hammock.
Cassidy is all in.
Hanging on the bridle under the boat.
As we arrived at Bahia del Sol in El Salvador, we got ahold of the hotel “Bahia del Sol” by radio.  They guide you in over the surf on the sand bar outside the estuary.  They used to guide by jet ski, but today was a ponga.  There was another boat waiting, Dolce Vita.  They told him it was big surf and asked if he was up for it.  The ponga wasn’t going to come out of the surf since it was relatively big, so they said to just aim on the ponga as you came through.  We watched Dulce Vita take a few big waves and roll on in.  He later told us he got a big sideways while he was putting on his tether.  It was great to get to watch him go first.  And we are up!!  

The kids and I buckled in for the surf.

I sat with the kids on the roof so that if a wave came over we would be as high up as possible.  We strapped a rope over our laps and cuddled in.  It was a great spot!!  We headed into the waves.  We could see a wave coming and off we went surfing it in.  It was a great acceleration.  After a nice surf apparently we were overdue to turn to miss hitting the beach, so we took what felt like a 90 degree turn across the waves.  A little concerning, but that was the way to go.  Apparently our guides over the radio were indicating to “turn,” “turn,” “turn hard,” so we went.  We only surfed one wave, I thought for sure we were going to take a few as we went through, but it worked out perfectly and I’m looking forward to the exit over the waves!!  We are spending some time here waiting until the sandbar to open after a storm passes.  Looking like it may be passable Tuesday and Wednesday.
Welcome to El Salvador - flying the flag.
As we are entering a new country, we have to go through customs and immigration process.  The immigration officer was out for the day for a personal emergency, but may be back by 7:30 pm.  The port captain took our passports and did his paperwork.  Amazing how many times they can all fill out similar forms.  Much redundancy in the systems, no different than the US, just the way governments seem to function.  Loyal went and waited at the office for 1.5 hours that evening, but the immigrations officer did not arrive.  The hotel kindly offered that we could walk throughout their grounds, but requested we not leave the grounds until finishing our customs and immigration process.
Coastal village as you enter

The next morning they came and found us in the pool.  They brought a nurse and had to do a health exam.  I was starting to wonder what they may think since the children all had heat rashes and mosquito bites, so they were all spotted.  Turns out they only had to do it on the adults.  She took our blood pressures and temperatures and wrote them down.  She didn’t even take my temperature since I was in the pool, so she said I’d be cold.  So what do they do with this information?  What if our blood pressure was elevated?  I sort of understand the temperature so we don’t bring in some sort of infectious disease, but really?  And so we passed and got to stay, they were very friendly all of them.
More of the coast of the bay.
Next, they headed out with Courage to the boat.  Apparently they had to make sure we didn’t have any expired fruits and vegetables.  We had just been given some cans that were expired, but still good from our friends who were commuter cruisers on Blue Jacket and didn’t want to store it until next year.  Fortunately, we’d eaten what we could of it, but we had to open the cans in front of the officer and empty them.  Why on earth do we need them to tell us what and when it’s safe to eat these things?  I understand the fresh fruits/veggies because those can carry insects and pests, but really, canned goods??  Good thing we’ve got big brother looking out for us and helping us make decisions. 
Integrity has the best seat in the house.