09 June 2010

Mayan ruins


I had an alarm set since we had to be up and on the road early today. I didn’t hear it go off, though, with earplugs in. Marcia woke me. There’s no running water today, which means we’ll probably have running water tomorrow and the day we leave for home. (I hope, I hope, I hope…)

We had breakfast at 6 and we are supposed to be on the road by 6:30. I glanced at the front page of yesterday’s paper…Brad Pitt is jealous of Johnny Depp. Hmmmmm…


We left the Casa at 6:45 and arrived at the Tazumal archeological site about 3 hours later. We walked through the museum, wandered the site, took some pictures and then did some souveniring when we left the site.
Our bus driver told us that yuca con chicharron is a local specialty and we should try it so we stopped at a street-side vendor and partook. We all got smalls…that was plenty for me, some had seconds. I was feeling a little “off”…

The woman preparing them got out a small, Styrofoam plate and lined it with a piece of banana leaf. Then she put a gob of mashed yuca root on it (the root of the yuca plant, it grows in long roots about as thick as my wrist), topped it with cotillo (a sort of slaw with shredded cabbage, carrots, onions, jalapenos in a vinegar base), a tomato-based cooked salsa (very slightly spicy), and some pieces of fried chicharron (pieces of pork fried crispy, like bacon, only the pieces are much thicker than bacon). They were $1 per plate. It was very good, you just have to keep brushing away the flies.

I’ve seen yuca root grated and fried like onion strings but never boiled and mashed like this.

The total bill for 11 people with cold drinks and tip was $20.

(La Curva)

On the way back, we stopped at another archeological site…Joya de Cerén. This one has an active archeological dig going on. The village here was buried under volcanic ash around 400 – 500 AD. Now, you can walk around the top of the dig areas which are covered with roofs and see the layers of ash and dirt as well as the house construction and placement. Since the people living there at the time had little warning and basically just fled, there was an incredible amount of artifacts recovered in great condition. There wasn’t digging going on while we were there but you have a great overhead view of the sites.

Joya de Ceren archealogical site

The area between the dig sites is beautifully planted and landscaped. It’s like a botanical park. We saw several torogoz (the national bird of El Salvador)…it’s a cool bird with blue and green coloring and a distinctive tail that looks like 2 circles at the end of strings. When they take off and fly, they go fast. Luis (our driver) also pointed out cacao trees with pods nearly ripe (where cocoa beans come from…the pods grow from branches like most tree fruits but they also grow directly from the trunk, like Brussels sprouts) and the yuca plant that contributed to our lunch. I’d always assumed that yuca was the same thing as our yucca but they’re not even close.

Torogoz - national bird of El Salvador

Cacao tree with cocoa-bean fruits

As we were leaving, the women wanted to hit the restrooms before we hit the road but we discovered they were locked. We were talking about stopping at a gas station when Luis came back with an attendant to unlock them for us. As we were trouping back to the baños, I said to Cecilia, “Amigos en lugares altos, no?” (friends in high places). She agreed.

Joe was hungry and wanted to stop for lunch (I thought we already had eaten lunch…) so we stopped at a place called La Curva about half the way back to the Casa. Kathy says it’s a chain but she’s never eaten there.

Kind of a strange place… the menu said it can handle social events for up to 600 people. The tables all have white cloth tablecloths, the waiters have starched white shirts with black cravats and put your napkin in your lap for you. There are big-screen TVs all over. When they seat you, they bring you a cup of shrimp consumé.

The soccer match in progress was Argentina vs Germany and Marcia and I were commenting on how odd it looks to see players in short shorts. Everything these days is the knee-length baggy shorts that make guys look like they’re wearing skirts. Eventually we figured out that this was a replay of a ‘classic’ game from 1986 (the World Cup final). That would explain the unfashionable shorts…

I was still not feeling tip-top and didn’t want anything to eat but had 2 bottles of Coke Zero and sorbeta. Marcia got a cheeseburger and fries and it came with 2 ketchup packets. My sorbeta turned out to be a scoop of Neapolitan ice cream.

Bottom line, it’s a place with delusions of grandeur. The cheeseburger was ok but not worth the $7. Most of the menu items were expensive. We pretty much blew the budget there. Kathy said she wouldn’t be taking delegations there.

In the parking lot on the way back to the van, there was a mango tree with fruit hanging on it. The fruit hangs at the ends of ‘strings’.

Somewhere after the restaurant, traffic on the highway came to a stop. We couldn’t see why.
There was a bus a couple of cars ahead of us and in the stop-and-go traffic, a guy jumped off to take a leak by the side of the road. The traffic kept creeping on (he really had to go) and when he was done, he had to run to get back on his bus.

When we got a bit further on, we saw it was a police blockade. They do that sometimes to check IDs. They looked at Luis’ ID then returned it and waved us on.

Back at the Casa, Joe, Marcia and Kathy walked to La Nevería to get ice cream. They brought me back some mango. Major yum! It’s my favorite here and I always try to have it at least once.Water was running when got back. I took a shower and it felt wonderful! I was wiped and went to bed at 8:30.