Monday, April 30, 2012

Enchanting El Salvador

Under the Volcano,   El Salvador

    Central America is dotted with dozens of impressive, conical-shaped volcanoes, many still quite active. We visited one close up at Lake Coatepeque, El Salvador, recently with our friends on SV Tension Reliever crew Rosanna and Rick. With helpful guide, Leo, driver Carlos, and, yes,  personal police escort for the trip, Raphael, we toured the Santa Ana Volcano, the village, and nearby 'agua cascadia'  (waterfall).  We also checked out several Mayan ruins covered by ash , including Jaya de Ceran and San Andres (600-900BC). Our accommodation that night was what you could call minimalist; an older 'one star' hotel, crumbling into the lakeside below.  You could see that once it had been a charming colonial building with a cool, breezy veranda and a stunning view of the pristine lake and volcano . We were the only guests and seemed to cause a minor intrusion to the cocina staff.
Early next morning the intrepid travelers were off again.

    When the driver announced we had a flat tire which would take a while to fix, we all piled out and ambled down the dirt road where we encountered a primary school. They were just out for recess and peeked through the fence at us. Soon many little smiling faces were gathered around and the principal invited us in for a visit. Everyone Ooo-ed and Ahhh-ed at  Rosanna's photos of the Acapulco cliff divers, and wanted their picture taken with the Gringos. We bid them adieu and were off to a cascading waterfall deep in the forest. A tuk-tuk (tin can on wheels), took us careening over a dirt track, the last few hundred yards, as the roadway petered out. Then after traversing an extremely rickety ladder across the falls, where one could easily plunge down the abyss to certain death with one false step, we pulled our overly-safety-conscious Canadian selves together, and scurried home to the relative security of SV Chantey.

Back in the estuary we decided to take a dinghy ride to a small village nearby for provisions. Mangrove swamps are a maze of channels and we were soon all but lost. We called out to a couple sitting on an attractive patio in their lovely home, and to our delight  she responded in English. We were soon back on the right track. The next day there she was at Bahia del Sol with her husband Alex and beautiful daughter Nadia!  Sana invited us to join them for tea next morning at their lovely home. We discovered to our surprise, that Sana was born in Bethlehem and met Alex on a business trip there. They live with Nadia, 15 and their other daughter in San Slavador, and visit the summer house when they can. Sana and Alex welcomed us in like family and will have a lasting impression of the warmth of the Salvadoran people. That makes two people we know of that were born in Bethlehem!
Recess at Coatepeque!

Killer Bees!
     We arrived home to the buzzing of bees circling our V-berth. We shooed them all away, or so we thought. In the morning we found that our neighbour SV Bravo had been driven out of their boat at 5am by a swarm with thousands of bees! Apparently, the new queen was seeking a home for her entourage, and chose their boat to set up shop. The stern was literally covered with an army  of very busy yellow jackets preparing to build a hive! Somehow they managed to stuff the bees in black garbage bags and then suck them up using the nozzle of a vacuum cleaner. We also discovered  if you get swarmed at sea, just go the the 50 mile offshore mark and they will suddenly disappear knowing they are getting too far out to return to shore. Wow! Another close call for Chantey V.
Jam session with Bill and Espiritu

The Honeymooners in Costa Rica

We are now buddy-boating with Rick and Roseanna on SV Tension   Reliever down the blustery Nicaraguan coastline to Bahia Santa Elena, our first anchorage in Costa Rica. A scenic, landlocked bay unfolded around us with burnt siena tinged mountains and aqua blue waters loaded with fish and sting rays swirling around us. Absolute silence engulfed us, except for sounded like the intermittent sounds of small children giggling in the mangroves. Turned out to be the small  Mackaw Parrots, almost invisible with their lime green plumage, cackling in the trees. A log in the estuary suddenly opened his big yellow eye at us. Yes, there are Crocodiles lurking about in the weeds! Next day we went snorkelling on a glistening white shell beach. As we dinghied ashore one last time, Georgie spotted two jet black Howler Monkeys swinging through the tree tops! They slipped away into the canopy, but a little one's white moon face still peeked out from above taunting GP. Finally he too swung his long, curly tail into the trees and was gone.
Howler Monkeys Hangin' Out

An Imperfect Storm

On arrival in El Coco we were stunned to hear that we had narrowly missed un unseasonably late Papagayo windstorm which blew through Bahia del Sol a couple days earlier!  Storm force winds gusting up to 70 knots reeked havoc on the docks, pulled boats off their moorings, and dragged anchored boats hundreds of yards! One cruiser was having dinner on the dock with friends when the wind piped up. He watched in horror as his own boat drifted by dragging the anchor! One poor sailor hit the concrete dock and his J36 sailboat boat is now a total write off.  Our hearts are really feeling for our fellow cruisers today, whom we had left enjoying such a peaceful anchorage only days before.

El Coco, and Granada, Nicaragua

The funky, beachside village of El Coco has been a cheerful, and safe haven to chill out in for a few days.The Costa Rican shopkeepers keep the streets swept immaculately, and always have a friendly smile ready. We took an excursion inland to Granada, Nicaragua, thanks to local tour operator, Eric, who offered to take Georgie for a few days so we could go! The tour escorted 8 of us Gringos to a crater lake and active volcano with gases wafting up all around us. We also visited the town of Masaya on sprawling Lake Nicaragua, for lunch , before arriving at Granada, the oldest city in Central America. Granada is a faded remnant of its' former glory, The tourist are now trickling in after many years of civil war, but many of the historic buildings are in disrepair and the waterfront seems lonely and desolate.  However, our accommodation at the Alhambra Hotel on the square was exquisite. The antiquated colonial hotel with its' breezy palm-shaded  courtyard and pool were just the thing to rejuvenate two sea-weary sailors. From the verandah we watched the small ponies and carts carry supplies and people up and down the alleys just like in the wild west, and observed the families and merchants passing sultry afternoons in the central plaza.
Pony Rides with Winston

Ancient Granada

Alhambra Hotel

Back at Marina Papagayo we prepared to say goodbye to our dearly beloved First Mate, Georgie. George is flying home to Victoria this week due to the high temperatures, which, when they reach 85 degrees, will bar him from flying as cargo from anywhere in Central America for several months. This has been major dilemma for us as it was unpredicted, and therefore quite a commotion. Thankfully, our dear friends (and saints) Michelle and Gary have agreed to watch over the little fellow until our return. We will surely miss him, but know he is in good hands and happy to be back on Terra Firma.

Farewell to the First Mate Georgie!
 Quote for the day

"If you think you can, Begin!
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."



  1. Sounds like a wonderful trip. RIOT is off to Salt Spring Island for the around the island this weekend. A tad cooler here! Let me know if you ever need crew. Linda Ellen

    1. Thanks Ellen. We could sure use that tad cool right now -we are hitting 33 most days! Best of luck to Rob and the Riot crew on RSI and Swiftsure.