So in fact the only reason that El Salvador made it onto our “list” was because of the troubles in Nicaragua meaning a trip there is not viable at this present time. So instead, with a few days to spare in the schedule, we decided to head into El Salvador and, in particular, to base ourselves in the charming town of Santa Ana (and at one of our favourite hostels of the whole trip to date, Casa Verde). Well worth the effort especially when we day tripped on local buses to the charming Ruta de las Flores, a beautiful series of villages each with very colourful houses many of which were then adorned further with bright murals. Simply stunning.
We timed our visit well as we went on Sunday and thereby were able to indulge at the week-end food markets which made for interesting viewing as well as for tasting. There was a lively atmosphere and everyone seemed to be out enjoying the sunshine, food and generally have a nice time meandering around. Apart from 3 other back-packers on our first bus journey, we didn’t see any other foreign visitors all day which all added to the authentic and non-touristy experience.
We were lucky with the buses too – although they apparently only go every half an hour, we spectacularly timed each of our arrivals at the “bus stops” (aka places near the edge of town where other people seemed to be gathering (official bus stops are pretty non existent in this part of the world)) at the right time and were normally on a bus within only a few minutes taking us to the next village for the princely sum of 30 or 40 cents a head.
This area is the heart of El Salvador’s main coffee growing region and they take their coffee preparation very seriously in this part of the world – it is a process that it is to be enjoyed and not rushed in any way. I’m no coffee connoisseur but the final product (drunk black) tasted very good albeit it was incredibly strong: I found that one cup was sufficient for the whole day!
Our favourite village was Ataco where the local mural artists seems to have outdone themselves – it was so colourful and pretty. Here we were a million miles away from the harsh neon of so many modern cities – and it was simply charming.
All in all, a great day out albeit, thinking back, we didn’t actually see many (even any?) of the eponymous flowers but apparently we were visiting in the wrong season. Oh well, perhaps this gives us an excuse to return in the future?