We’d heard about the Ruta de las Flores, Juayua, and the weekend food festival, from a handful of travellers in Guatemala. And it sounded as though it were comprised of the stuff that we wouldn’t want to miss. Mainly, food. Lots of interesting, cheap, local food. We were there.
It required backtracking a bit from San Salvador, but it was easy enough. Buses headed for different directions leave from different bus terminals in San Salvador. Our destination, and others to the west of San Salvador, are served from Terminal de Occidente on Blvd Venezuela. We first travelled to Sonsonate (on a deluxe bus, which had cushy seats and a compartment below for our luggage) for the relative high price of $1.30. (The standard chicken bus is also an option.) At Sonsonate we changed to the 249 that would take us to Juayua. El Salvador’s chicken bus system is easy enough to navigate, as each route has a number, a destination, and even a schedule (in which we’re not sure how much faith to put in.) Said schedule can be found here.
We arrived in Juayua, and wandered over to the first hotel in sight. They showed us a room with a bathroom for $15/night. With perhaps my most successful negotiations on this trip yet (if this even counts) I asked if they had anything cheaper, and the lady shrugged and said we could have it for $10. Score! We unloaded the packs and booked in for Friday and Saturday night.
This is as good of time as any to rave about Salvadoran people. So far the people in this tiny Central American country have been absolutely charming and incredibly helpful. I’d read somewhere that despite the problems with gangs and drugs that affect El Salvador, the people are a constant highlight. Even known gang members will turn on the charm in an interview. I have no doubt about the validity of that statement. From crowded bus rides to hotel staff to restaurants, I’ve chalked up more shared moments and knowing smiles with Salvadoran women than I did in two weeks in Guatemala (nothing against Guatemalans). There’s a feeling of openness and welcoming that, considering El Salvador’s very tumultuous and very recent history, is somewhat surprisng. One of these outstanding locals is the lady who runs the hotel we were staying at, El Mirador. She is a heavy-set woman, with a good handle on English, and her sense of humour and charm were palpable from the beginning. Small gestures such as letting us use the telephone for a local call (no charge) or saying it was no problem to pay for dinner the following day, showed a level of trust and respect that was most definitely reciprocated.
When we woke up, there were market stalls that congregated around the main square. There were a couple of smoothie and juice stands, and two of the restaurants in the centre had set out tables and food in front of their doors. But that was about it. We found out during the day that the food festival that happens every weekend in Juayua was not happening that particular weekend, due to the presidential elections. We enjoyed what food was on offer, which was delicious, and cut our losses. We planned to take off the following day towards the coast – it had been awhile since we were on a beach!
We planned the buses to get us down to Playa El Tunco – The 249 back to Sonsonate, then the 261 to La Perla, and then any bus along the coast the final stretch to El Tunco. We could also take any bus labelled La Libertad from Sonsonate, but they were less frequent. We arrived at Sonsonate in the morning, and milled around the bus stop for the 261. It was some time before the first person informed us, simply, “No,” in regards to the bus we wanted to catch. After a lot more waiting, and asking, and waiting, we gathered that the bus traffic was severely limited this particular Sunday, also due to the elections. We would have to take a bus back to San Salvador, and from there go south to La Libertad, and then finally to our destination. Not keen to fight our way through the city on this particular day, we decided to head back to Juayua for one more night, and then try again the following day. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen for you, and there’s no point in fighting it.
We caught a bus back to where we’d just come from (at the transit is cheap, at around 25 – 50 cents a ride), and rocked back up to the hotel we’d left that morning, to a hearty laugh from our landlord, and the reassurance that our room was still available.