With three weeks off work over Christmas and New Years, we were quick to make plans – quick plans! Over the course of three weeks we celebrated Christmas with my family, Norwegian Style. We then proceeded to hop over the pond to Canada in time for some Canadian Christmas cheers and celebrations before venturing on to some fun in the sun and reunion with friends in El Salvador.
This morning, we left our beloved Central American pearl, Playa El Tunco (and Hotel Mopelia)…
In October-November last year, we spent about a month at Hotel Mopelia in El Tunco. We got to know people and where to be. We got a routine – sort of – and generally just had a great time. After touring down to Panama, we are back in El Tunco and have quickly acquired the same routine again.
Easy? – No!
Logical? – No!
Straightforward? – No!
Quick? – No!
Did we get through? – Yes!
Border crossings in Central America are complete gong shows!
We woke up early with the turkeys in El Salvador and hit the road. We had a big day ahead of us, as we were to cross two borders in one day.
In order to leave El Salvador and enter Honduras with a vehicle the following events had to take place:
– Recognize which unmarked building on the El Salvadoran side you must go to to get the registered to leave the country.
– Find another unmarked building to have vehicle importation permit cancelled.
– Drive through no-man’s land and wonder which country the people you see belong to.
– Approach Honduras’ border, get stopped by border patrol, hand over passports and title of vehicle. Vehicle VIN is checked.
– Be lead to unmarked office number one. Get our passports and title of vehicle back.
– Be told to go to unmarked office number two. Have our passports stamped.
– Return to office number one. Be told to go get copy of passport stamp, passport and vehicle title.
– Return to office one with copies.
– Fill out form outside office.
– Return with form to office one. Be told to go to the bank to pay vehicle importation fee.
– Walk across border area and over a pile of rubble to enter bank. Bank only accept local currency and only cash.
– Go outside to shady guys with big wads of cash to exchange money.
– Go back to bank. Pay vehicle importation permit fee. Get change from different teller before getting the receipt from teller one.
– Return to office one. Be told to get copy of form and receipt of payment.
– Go to copy shop (again!)
– Have passport stamped with car importation permit (two pages!)
– Two hours and a lot of head scratching later: Good to go!
We drove through Honduras in three hours. The road was horrible, at best. Deep, crater like pot holes covered the road in both directions.
The border crossing between Honduras and Nicaragua went by in a similar fashion. In addition to the time consuming, illogical events of entering Honduras, we had to buy a specific third party insurance, fumigate the vehicle and have a curious, non-thourough vehicle inspection by a chatty police officer.
We are in Nicaragua!
Our first night after leaving El Tunco was spent on the beach in Las Flores, further East in El Salvador. The 170 km drive through most of the country (it’s a small one!) went by without any problems. However, a couple interesting encounters along the road is the rule rather than the exeption around these parts. Cattle crossing is as common as the pot holes and corn kernals that are left to dry on the road. A guy in a hammock on a truck is just amusing. B-Rent and T-Dawg: Somewhat of a Hammy-Scoot, yeah?
A little off road adventure eventuelly lead us to Las Flores, semi-known for it’s nearby surf break Punta Mango. We got a camp spot on the beach between swaying palm trees and chuckling turkeys and chickens. They got even closer when the owners of the property decided to feed them one meter behind our van. It woke us up well before sunrise!
Getting in – and out – of Las Flores required a massive effort on Honey’s part. Not only was the dirt road leading there partly washed out in the rainy season, the rocky hill down to the beach was also really steep and bumpy. After that obstacle we had to keep our pace to get across the sandy beach before climbing a speed bump/castle wall to enter the camping property. All of this had to be repeated – in the opposite order – to get back out. Our Honey is a Gem!
Las Flores is a beautiful beach. It is a great place to visit if you would like some peace and quiet, as you will likely be one of few there (especially mid-week.)
If you did not bring gear to go camping at Las Flores and you don’t feel like paying the big bucks to stay at one of the surf resorts, you can chill with this family!
Seven years of being together cannot go by unnoticed, so we went for a little road trip to celebrate ourselves. Keep looking if you would like to see what we get up to on date-day!
We stayed in the town of Concepcion de Ataco for the two nights we stayed in the area. It is known for its many murals and colonial style architecture. On the weekends it appearently attracts a crowd of visitors from San Salvador. We were there mid-week and were the only tourists in a many mile radius.
On November 14, the big day, we drove thrugh the main part of Ruta de las Flores from Concepcion de Ataco to Apaneca and then on to Juayua. With considerably more action going on in Juayua we decided to spend the main part of our date-day there.
The main square is a lively place for a market and for socializing. One side of the square is occupied by the main cathedral, the opposite side is taken up by city hall and the tourist information office. Outside the tourist information we soon saw a lone guy dressed in a quasi-military uniform sit down on the curb. He was in his mid-thirties and constantly playing a wooden game consisting of two pieces of carved wood attaced by a string. On piece has to be swung up so that it slides on to the other piece. We went inside, inquired and decided on going on a hike to a nearby waterfall and a visit to a coffe plantation. Mr. Wooden Game was to be our guide, as it turned out.
Unfortunately most the conversations went like this: “This is an old house.” “This is a very old church.” At one point we walked by a wider part of the road painted up to resemble a 100 meter race track. We asked who the current champion of the town is, the reply was a look up to the sky and “Jesu Cristo.” I did not really know where to go on with that one.
After a beautiful hike we reached the waterfalls, which are actually part of a hydro electric plant. It was really pretty and in retrospect we regretted not bringing our swim suits. Guess who snapped this shot?
Our guide, Mr. Wooden Game, left us mid-day for another hike. It was perfect timing for us to grab some lunch. We had been told about R+R Restaurante and decided to check it out. The restaurant was full of city officals and their Japanese visitors as we entered. Observing the happy crowd, we were pleased with our choice. The incredible food and the complimentary glasses of wine for the honeymooning couple were very much enjoyed and appreciated. The painted walls and bath tub filled with plants in the bath room made it all even better. Recommended!
Part two of our date-day was a visit to a coffee plantation. Not only do they grow and do all the work to make coffee, they also grow fruits, herbs, vegetables and flowers.
Our visit to the coffe farm finished off with some very fresh and tasty coffee in their testing room. We got in the van and returned to Concepcion de Ataco just as it was getting dark. We parked safely and went out for dinner. The pics from there on in are private.
Even though it might appear we went to Ruta de las Flores on our own, we did not. The Mopelia ping pong trophy came with us. We named him Roar (because it is a Norwegian name that sounds pretty bad-ass in English) and he also had a great time, however a little rougher than our holiday. Either way, we all made it back to El Tunco safely.
With heavy hearts and sad faces we left our family at Hotel Mopelia in El Tunco on Tuesday morning. We managed to leave because we know we will be back. What a wonderful place!
Our last night in El Tunco was Monday night and time for the weekly Mopelia ping pong tournament. We had been (easily) convinced to stay so that Kyler could attempt to defend his title from the past week. The tournament attracted a big crowd of people and all together 29 ping pong competitors. After some intense games, Kyler handled the pressure and won again!
The reasons why we stayed for a while in El Tunco/Hotel Mopelia are many:
Gilles, family and friends, thank you for a great time!
While in El Tunco I was not great at updating funlovingliving! Somehow the days went by before I knew it. From our new temporary locale in Leon, Nicaragua I am therefore taking a look in the rearview mirror to share with you what we have been up to.
A little while ago local Roberto took us on an adventure to Cascadas de Tamanique (Tamanique waterfalls) nearby. We got on a chickenbus (old, flashy, decorated American school bus – typical in Central America) in El Tunco and enjoyed a 30 minute ride to Tamanique through lush El Salvadoran landscape. Then we hiked another 30 minutes to reach the waterfalls and river at the bottom of the valley.
Roberto had told us that sandals were appropriate footwear for the hike. It did not take long until we realized that hiking boots would have been better. It was steep and muddy. We slid under and inside our flip flops. Kyler attempted the barefoot approach, but due to insects and thorns on the path that is not to be recommended.
Cascadas de Tamanique unvailed themselves as we reached the bottom of the valley slope. They consist of different deep pools at different elevations, making it possible to jump from one pool to the next before climbing back up. Really cool!
A 10 second countdown photo of the gang. Takk for turen!