Big City Trip — San Salvador

Barillas Marina, El Salvador

Yesterday I was up at 5:00 a.m. for a private car ride into San Salvador, hoping to get new visa pages and a printer, and see a bit of the countryside. For $100, a private car and driver was available for the day, and Francisco, my driver, was very accommodating and helpful.

He dropped me off at the US Embassy, a beautiful property on the edge of the city, and after just an hour and a half, picked me up again for a visit to Las Cascadas, a huge, modern shopping mall with an Office Depot! Found a great new Epson all-in-one wireless printer, some replacement business card blanks, extra ink cartridges, helped along with Francisco acting as my “business manager,” not uncommon in Central America. Once we finished with my business, Francisco had to stop at Barillas’ city offices, so I enjoyed the drive through the city and a pleasant wait with the security guard.

San Salvador is a beautiful old city, sitting on the shoulders of a volcano, with clean streets, fairly uniform sidewalks, and a look of prosperity about it. After the 13-year civil war that finally ended in the 90s, the country is united, prosperous, and proud of its democracy. And clearly, the US interests prevailed, rightly or wrongly, evidenced by the Burger Kings, Office Depots, shopping malls, and English signage. The city seems clean, tidy, well-organized and fairly safe, and like any other Latin American city, full of armed security guards everywhere.

Making Pupusas

I told Francisco I’d treat him to lunch if he found us a good local place to eat, so on the way out of the city, along the freeway, we stopped at a rest-stop equivalent lined with Pupuserías – little entrepreneurial shops specializing in the local comfort food pupusas. These are like empanadas, though made with rice flour, stuffed with everything from cheese to beans to flowers and herbs, made to order, and accompanied by a relish made of cabbage, carrots, citrus and jalapeno, all eaten by hand. Francisco and I each ate three, topped off with iced hibiscus tea, and the total bill was about $5. What a country. He explained to me that this place is known locally as the “pueblo de pupusas” or “pupusa town” because there are over 200 separate vendors in this one little stretch of freeway rest stop. Delicious!

The other task while here was to find a cheap Salvadoran cell phone so Ole could communicate with Independence of the Seas more cheaply than with our US cell phones (at $3 per minute for incoming calls, a 30-minute conversation costs a fortune!). No luck in San Salvador finding any phone less than $45, so we stopped in Usulutan on the way back to the marina and found a $20 phone, a $20 card, and back in bidness. There are now regulations all over Latin America, though, that require any cell phone to be purchased and/or licensed by a legal resident of the country, ostensibly to keep track of illegal transactions of one sort or another. So part of Francisco’s service was registering the phone in his name and handling the finances. It didn’t seem too far outside the bounds of custom for this type of transaction to take place.

The local philosophy seems to be “when the door is closed by some legal restriction, use the window.”

 

Visiting Usulutan for Groceries

Ole decided to order a cleaning kit for the water maker, which is coming from the States. We opted to order it here because the marina is proud of being able to import boat parts duty-free. The fridge was getting low on fresh produce again, so I joined the other cruisers in a van trip to nearby Usulutan, the county seat for the district of Jiquilisco, where Barillas is located. Half the ride into town was leaving the property via a dusty dirt road that passes through the cane fields – the town itself is just 15 minutes once the van reached the highway. [Read more…]

Jan’s Filthy Smoking Habit Inspires Unique Cultural Experience

Marina Puesta del Sol, Nicaragua

Awaiting the President of Nicaragua

We arrived the morning of Friday, March 26 after a passage of nearly 140 miles and just a bit over 24 hours. On our arrival, we were surprised to find we were the only cruisers at the dock. Roberto, the marina owner, told us that while we were welcome, there would be limited use of the facilities because the President of Nicaragua had reserved the entire property for Easter week, and was scheduled to arrive on Monday. We wiped the salt off the boat, took a dip in the (HOT!) swimming pool, and enjoyed a dinner out with the full attention of the staff – being the only customers raises some interesting concerns about financial viability of a spectacular place like this. Unless the rate for chartering the entire property for a week pays off… [Read more…]

The Reason We Have No Pictures from January On…

As we prepared to fly home on February 20, we found ourselves with a total of three suitcases, two briefcases, a chart tube, a back-pack, and a tote bag in addition to my purse. All told, we figured we brought a couple boat-units worth of stuff along, everything from varnish to gaskets to spark plugs and oil filters. Each bag weighed in at 52 lbs., and the tote bag and backpack probably weighed in at 25 lbs. each. We managed to check the three suitcases and carry the backpack, chart tube, briefcases and tote bag successfully aboard the airplane and then to the Hotel Santo Tomas in San Jose for our forced overnight. We aimed at taking the bus into Puntarenas on Sunday, the 21st. [Read more…]

Wrapping Things Up in Norway for This Year

Painting the Roof

Gjaeroy, Norway

The first week of June was our last week in Norway, and lucky for us, the weather turned sunny long enough for Ole to coat the roof of the house, which was rusty and in serious need of attention. As he often said this visit, “now it looks like people live here, instead of just sheep.”

[Read more…]

Exploring Almirante Bay

On October 1, we cheerfully left the dock, picked up 100 gallons of fuel, and headed out with four other boats from the marina for a week to ten days’ worth of relaxation. In the group were Pamela Jean, a 50-foot Formosa cutter from Texas with Bill and Pam aboard; Mariah, a 63-foot Choy Lee sloop with Evelyn and Dave from Key West; Serenity, with Steve (who’s the staff captain on NCL’s Norwegian Jade); all following Guavi, with Ariel and Michelle from Puerto Rico out to some of the islands and anchorages in Bahia Almirante.

Cayo de Agua (Water Cay)

Our first stop was Cayo de Agua (Water Cay), where one of our marina-mates has property he’s hoping to turn into an eco-resort. The weather was fantastic – the sea flat as a table – which was a good thing, because Cayo de Agua is right up against the Caribbean. We anchored on the south side of the cay, off Daniel’s dock, where we were greeted wildly by his three mixed-blood hound dogs who have the run of the place when Daniel isn’t there. [Read more…]

“Wild Hogs” in Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro

Wild Hogs! Five of us on four scooters, each of which had its own unique mechanical problem. Mine kept stalling in idle; Trevor and Sandy’s was smoking like a chimney and stinking up the place; Jennifer’s handlebars were crooked; and Drury’s had minimal suspension. At $60 for half a day, it was pretty expensive, but off we went. [Read more…]

Where the Chocolate Trees Grow

Green Acres Chocolate Farm & Factory

We chose to anchor near Camryka because we had heard of a little farm called “Green Acres” that happens to be their neighbor. Cruising friends had strongly suggested stopping in for a walk around the property, as Dave and Linda Cerutti, the owners, are manufacturing chocolate from the cacao trees they found when clearing and improving their property. We were a bit shy about just going over by ourselves, but when we saw a lancha speeding up to their dock with some tourists inside, we jumped on the phone and asked if we could join them for a walk. [Read more…]

First Look at Dolphin Bay

Camrykaland, Dolphin Bay

At Anchor, Dolphin Bay
Bocas del Toro, Panama

This morning we explored Ground Creek by dinghy, but again, too late in the morning for any serious wildlife spotting. We decided to head about 2 hours south to Dolphin Bay on the mainland, departing about noon. [Read more…]

Exploring Conch Bay, and an Expensive Lunch!

Punta Caracol, Bocas del Toro

This morning we opted to explore the head of Conch Bay by dinghy, following a creek for nearly a mile through the jungle. It must have been too late in the morning, as we didn’t see or hear much in the way of animal or bird life, but we rowed over to a stilted palapa full of hammocks belonging to the lodge at Punta Caracol and decided to follow the dock/path to the lodge itself. The path crossed the tip of the peninsula, then turned into a dock running about 100 feet from shore, creating its own crystal clear lagoon. The stroll to the restaurant took us past the charming accommodations – little private 2-story cabanas built right on the pier, each with its own veranda facing the bay equipped with kayak and snorkel gear. We stopped at the front desk and inquired about rates — $300 per night for lodging and 2 meals a day. Eek. Lunch at Punta Caracol was superb – but expensive for Bocas. Seafood stew with lobster, calamari, shrimp in a coconut base for me; grilled fish for Ole, 2 pina coladas and 2 glasses of wine — $50. Setting and mood – priceless. A lunch like that called for a major nap, after which we headed north to the next bay of Isla Colon, Ground Creek, where we anchored for the night.