Ruta de las Flores and the food fair at Juayua
Since my wife and I are serious foodies, we just had to go to the food fair that is held every Saturday and Sunday at the little mountain town of Juayua, a stop on the Ruta de las Flores. The fair was authentically local, with hardly any overseas tourists in evidence. The handful of people dressed a little more expensively might have been San Salvadorians. What places like Gran Via in San Salvador are to the affluent city folks, this fair is for the common folks living in towns and villages all around Juayua. There were dozens of food vendors selling freshly cooked El Salvadorian delicacies, beer stands purveying the ubiquitous Pilsener and the slightly better tasting Suprema, even a few pastry and coffee stands and plenty of stray dogs to add some local color and clean up after you if you simply hate to throw away your leftovers. We stuck to chicken and shrimp, though the ball shaped sausage seemed tempting if one didn’t care what was inside it. There were also long lines of craft and souvenir stands where we purchased little gifts for a few dollars apiece for friends and family back in the States. Beautifully made gift bags of the famous El Salvadorian coffee, selling for mere $4 a pound, seemed like a good bet and we bought three of those as well. In true Salvadorian fashion, none of the vendors were pushy or even that interested in making a few bucks off of the only two tourists at the fair. The fellow with the huge boa constrictor had quite a line waiting to be photographed with the huge serpent draped around their necks.
The fair is held every weekend until 5PM. Hundreds of vendors set up stalls all around the town square and in the alleys radiating from the square. There was a sort of center stage with loud music and even an emcee interacting with the crowd.
The ninety-minute drive from San Salvador to Juayea is quite comfortable as roads in El Salvador, even the mountain ones, are surprisingly good. The road to Juayea is full of furniture vendors selling locally made tables, chairs, beds and even cribs and highchairs. Small pick-up trucks ply their taxi trade up and down the mountain roads, hauling as many as fifteen passengers crammed into a standing room only pick-up bed. The money collector, yielding the more comfortable flat bed to paying passengers, finds a way to hang on to the truck using just one hand while collecting the fare and making change with the other. This is the lowest per capita use of gasoline I have ever seen for getting from point A to point B. There is nothing like necessity to make one frugal.
On the way to the mountain towns on Ruta de las Flores, we stopped for several photo-ops, the most impressive being a spot near the sugar cane fields with the Cerro Verde, the country’s tallest volcano, framed in the backdrop. Another spot had six volcanoes in a row. I wish I had a panoramic camera to squeeze them all into one frame.
For a four-hour trip to Juayea and back, we were charged $90 for two persons by Leo (7189-9853), the driver who is informally affiliated with the hotel. It was probably in line with a tour company’s price of $140 for two but for an eight-hour trip, which we had already decided was going to be too long a day. Upon our return from a wonderful food fest and a beautiful drive through the countryside, we flopped into the comfy bed in our Hilton room, turned on the plasma TV hoping to find something interesting and comprehensible (meaning in English) to watch, when lo and behold, I lucked upon a Vikings-Patriots football game in the second quarter with Vikings leading by three. It was a nail biter almost until the fourth quarter when Patriots pulled off a comfortable lead and won the game. Ruta de las Flores, Salvadorian food fair and American football - could one ask for a more perfect day?