Friday, May 9, 2014


Getting out of El Tunco seemed to be a bit tricky. Well, not actually. We're on a no plan plan and more or less only know what we're doing or where we're going 1 day at a time. When trying to figure out transportation to Nicaragua we kept failing in booking anything in time. Shuttles filled up fast with travelers headed the same way we were. This meant a couple more days hangin' in El Tunco. When we finally did manage to move on we rode in luxury. We splurged and enjoyed a direct bus to León but it was well worth it. Air conditioning (something we haven't felt since we first arrived in Guatemala) to combat the 90+ degrees and humidity, reclining seats, movies and even meals. It was as if we were flying back in the day when flying was something special to experience. There were even bus attendants, if you will, walking up and down the aisles bringing a breakfast of scrambled eggs, rolls, rice and beans and a fried plantain. Sandwiches were served for lunch and they also provided pillows and blankets. Totally worth it on our 9 hour bus ride passing through Honduras and into Nicaragua.

Our first stop was León. A colonial city and Nicaragua's second largest city after Managua. The city was founded by the Spaniards in 1524.

We made it in time to find some street food. The cheapest, most authentic, and equally if not more delicious than what you can find in restaurants.

I feel like a lot of times chicken, especially grilled chicken, is simply that - grilled chicken. Not from our beloved ladies manning the grills around here. They really know what they're doing. Every piece is so juicy, cooked perfectly, and with the best smoky grill taste you could hope for. We're all pretty passionate about good food, so eating is always a highlight of our day. 

A wide array of tortillas filled with potatoes, cheese, meats and veggies. Some are slightly sweeter, others simply savory. There's always a great spread of sides that get plopped on your plate as well. If you want to grab it to go, you get a giant banana leaf to hold all your goodies and act as your container. I love that. 

Chicken, gallo pinto (rice & beans), aguacate (avocado), repollo (cabbage) and some queso fresco. A super salty, pretty mild cheese that's very likely to find it's way into a lot of things. 

La Plaza Central

This is the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of León. It was built between 1747 and 1814 and has endured earthquakes, volcanic eruptions of Cerro Negro, and civil wars. This is the largest cathedral in all of Central America. Beneath the cathedral lies several tunnels that connect to other temples that once provided an escape route and refuge when terrorist attacks from Dutch, British & French pirates struck the city. 

We would later tour the roof of this cathedral and stand between these two fine gentlemen. 

This friendly ice cream man asked that I take a picture of him. When I went to do so he wouldn't look and smile but instead looked away and handed Josh the ice cream bar he had already sold and handed to him, acting out his daily routine. 

Oh, P.S. León means Lion

Toña. The incredibly delicious beer of Nicaragua. There's 2 beers here: Toña and Victoria. I suppose we're quite spoiled with our massive beer selection in the States and I don't want to bash the beer that's been quenching our thirst, so, I'll just describe them. They lack flavor and go flat very quickly. Yeah. We've taken up making our own version of a Chelada when we can to spice them up a bit. It's like a bloody mary but minus the vodka, sub in beer, and no tomato juice. It's the poor man's margarita as Joshua deemed it. We add salt, lime, worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. It's actually pretty delicious. 

Our hostel, ViaVia. Plenty of open air and hammocks and a hangout for travelers and locals alike. 

The interior of Cathedral Basilica 

From atop the Basilica overlooking La Plaza Central 

The extremely narrow stairways of the cathedral 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

El Salvador & Semana Santa

Time to move on again. We packed up and prepared for a new country entirely. South to El Salvador. Sayonara to Guatemala. It was a beautiful country packed with rich culture and history. Looking back it was suuuuper cheap too! It also felt less tailored to tourists, which is cool. You really get a good sense for a different lifestyle and way of doing things.

We caught a direct bus to San Salvador (the final one of the day) an actual minute before it left. It was smooth sailin' through the border crossing and the bus even showed movies. We arrived in San Salvador, la capital, in the early evening. Everything had a new feel to it and we knew we loved this country immediately. It reminded me of our family road trips down to Florida, when you stop for gas, or dinner, in the late evening and you're finally far enough south to get that balmy, breezy goodness you've been waiting for. We stayed in the city for 1 night and we were happy to catch the lunar eclipse with an unobstructed view from our hostel patio.

The next morning we were picked up and reunited with a friend from MSU, Javier! We caravanned with some of his friends from the city to the coast, only about an hour away. We enjoyed Javi's beautiful beach house on Sihuapilapa Beach. It was the beginning of Semana Santa, or holy week. For weeks people had been preparing for Easter and the entire week leading up to it. Just about everyone has this week off from school and from work. It's kind of like our Spring Break in the States. We beat a bit of the the massive flock of people that would be headed to the coast over the next couple days. By mid-week, and the weekend especially, all the beaches would fill up with city folk, and travelers as well. It was time to relax, as well as heavily party, on the beaches for a few days. 

This house was so amazing! Thanks again to Javier for the hospitality.

Pools cascaded down the mountain, in which the house was designed to flow with. 

Javier then took us to a neighboring beach and one of El Salvador's most popular beach towns, El Tunco. Tunco is a word used for "pig" in Spanish and got it's name from a giant rock formation that sits a quick swim away from the shore at the end of the small town's main entrance to the beach. 

There were some caves down the beach we explored one morning. 

Joshua, passing through shallow waters & squeezing through a narrow passage into another cavern

El Tunco has some of the best surfing in Central America. We met surfers young and old and from around the globe. Many of them worked 6 months out of the year and spent the other 6 here or hitting various beaches in Central America. Livin' the dream. The waves here were great and the water was STRONG. Great waves to boogie board in too. Thanks to many hours spent in the water with my brother, Jeff, growing up, I felt like I had a good handle on things in the water. You taught me well brother. Some of the best and most fun waves I've swam in in many years, but damn, you really feel the mighty power of the ocean here and you quickly realize you could easily get into some trouble.  One good pummeling from a wave acts as a quick reminder of who's boss. 

Sand scrub action. The beaches are filled with black sand, that's not mud.

One day we swam out to "El Tunco" and joined some local kids in jumping off. 

Lindsay, Melissa & Marissa scopin' things out before swimming out

Once making it out against the current you have to walk around to the backside of the rock and more or less rock climb your way to the top. All while avoiding the waves crashing against the rock and some tides pools filling and emptying with the waves. 

Surfer dudes

The Salvadoran "plato típito", or traditional dish: la pupusa. A delicious corn tortilla filled different combinations of various things. Pork, cheese, beans, jalapeños, chicken and more. These were our go to meal ($0.50 per pupusa). The beans and cheese blend was my jam all week. 

The best part: la salsa de tomate (tomato sauce), a cabbage and onion slaw and pickled jalapeños, carrots, and onions. 

And of course the always plentiful and perfect fruit

Colorful tree-house like bar/restaurant 

Mermaid Lindsay Lou

Hoop jammin'

Lindsay Lou photo cred on some of these here

We ended up spending an entire week in El Tunco and the end of it meant parting ways with dear Marissa. We took to the streets and fire hooped and then danced in the rain so I guess you could say it was a pretty fun farewell. 

'Til the next time Mernnnn! We love you!