Cha Ching! White people will pay to walk in the woods!

Published: July 13th 2013
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I can't take credit for the idea, but I love the way the picture turned out.
The drive from Suchitoto, El Salvador to Conception Ataco, El Salvador was the only completely uneventful trip. It was only a few hours. We left Suchitoto early afternoon and we arrived in Ataco early afternoon. Although the cities were very different, they had some similarities. For example, they were both very quiet – where things (including restaurants) close down very early. They are both completely the opposite of touristy. We were in Suchitoto for 1 night and Ataco for 3 – those three nights in El Salvador were the most “back road” of our whole trip. Lots of people looked at us with curiosity, but the energy was friendly. Our first night in Ataco was one of our quietest nights. We toured the town, which took about 15 minutes. We walked along peaceful cobblestone streets, taking in the beautiful, colorful murals on all the walls of the buildings. After our walk, we enjoyed a chill dinner and then we went to bed.

The next morning, a few of us set off for more papusas. We thought that the market would be open in time, but unfortunately it wasn’t. My roommate was particularly disappointed, and

I could have posted dozens of mural pictures.
she wandered around asking (the universe) for papusas. Fortunately, we found a small grocery were we bought 18 rolls, cream cheese, cookies, orange juice, yogurt, and waters – all for $3. Our plan for the day was a little unclear. All we knew was that we were doing a “4x4” tour with a local guide. The tour ended up being equal parts awesome and totally random.

Our guide was very interesting, very knowledgeable, and he didn’t seem to have a filter. A straight shooter, he just told it like it was from his perspective. Almost everything he said was “quote-able”. My favorite was when he was telling us his background. Apparently, 12 years ago, he was penniless when a friend of his sent him a couple of tourists and asked him to take them hiking. At the end of the day, they asked him, “how much?” He shrugged and they ended up tipping him $25 each. Then he said “All of the sudden, I was like cha ching! White people will pay to walk in the woods”. It was hilarious, but most because he wasn’t kidding. Haha. My second favorite was when I

This one, while not the most colorful or new, was probably my favorite.
asked him what the major exports were for El Salvador – again, with a straight face, he said thoughtfully “coffee… guns… weed…” (Note: Our tour featured two of these, but I’ll leave which two to the imagination.)

Our 4x4 meant that we a bunch of us piled into the back of a pick-up truck and then drove through muddy, mountainous, bumpy roads. It was scary. It was fun. I could say more, but it would be better reenacted in person, so I’ll leave it at that. We stopped at a couple of beautiful overlooks, and then we ended up taking a break at a hostel our guide owned. His mom was there and she took our order for lunch (which for me ended up being freshly caught fish – maybe the most delicious meal of all). Random element: there was a duck on the property wandering around literally looking for a fight.

After our pit stop, we headed further into the mountains to a coffee farm. We all planted coffee plants. Then some of us went for a hike in the woods, while others relaxed at

I think this is an ice cream store. I didn't go there. But, people did call me Sarita on this trip.
the coffee farmer’s house. I chose relaxing. Although I’m 90% sure that it wasn’t officially part of the tour, I spent much of my time interacting with the farming family. It’s hard to rank the countless experiences on this trip, but… for me… the time with this family was among the top. Their lives are about as culturally different from me as can be. The family included a very young married couple, with 3 small children. The husband worked the coffee plants. The wife seemed to manage the household, which was very, very simple. She taught us how to make tortillas by grinding corn, mixing in water, and then grilling them on a wood-burning stove. The eldest child was Isobel, an adorable 5-year-old. It was clear that they had very few experiences with white tourists, and there we had a shared fascination with each other. I am a person who often speaks in exclamation points and I can get excited about most things. But, the simplicity and genuineness of our time together was so special.

After the hiking, time with the family, and lunch, we soaked in some hot springs for a couple of hours.

4x4 adventure. Pic stolen from Clara.
The soak was perfect after the 4x4 morning, as well as the weeks of long travel. For me, there was definitely a sense of the trip winding down, and it was nice to just relax and take it all in.

Additional photos below
Photos: 26, Displayed: 25



Also stolen from Clara. Most random tour of the trip.

Our guide made the day unique and cool.

It was cold when I got dressed -- I didn't mean to really wear this tank top.

What a good group. (Thanks again Clara)

Two of my new friends are Catholic.

What a view

Tucked away for safe keeping.

Let's go plant some coffee.

Admiring one of the chicks.

Showing us her home

Posing for the camera

I'm hamming it up, obvi, but it was harder to grind corn than it looked.

Watching the tourists.

Simple home.

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