Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
The next destination from Santa Ana was Juayua; pronounced ‘why-you-uh’. We’ve given up completely on pronouncing or spelling this properly so it is now called the J city. The direct bus isn’t regular, departing at 6.40am, 9.30am, 12.20pm, 1.30pm, 4.30pm and 6pm. We chose the 9.30am bus as it’s meant to take about an hour and we wanted to get there before lunchtime. The purpose of getting to this town was to see the famous food market, which is known for its exotic food in which locals come from all over El Salvador to eat. The food market is only on Saturdays and Sundays so we timed our trip to arrive in Juayua on Sunday.
The bus was another typical loaded up chicken bus with locals also trying to get to this food festival to eat or sell their things. The ride is very beautiful as it runs next to the Santa Ana volcano and through numerous “fincas” (coffee plantations) in the mountains. According to the locals, the higher altitude produces better quality coffee.
We arrived at around 11am, mainly due to our bus leaving late and taking the best part of 20 or more minutes to get a block away from the bus station with gridlock traffic. We then walked to our hotel – Hotel Anahuac which was advised by Carlos from the previous hostel in Santa Ana and was only a block away from where the bus stops. This hotel is also a very beautiful hotel as it had a very colourful mural in our room. Rooms are also again $25 for a night, including private bathroom with genuine hot water. This seems to be the going rate in El Salvador, although we could search a little harder for cheaper if we wanted I’m sure. The hotel even had a beautiful garden in the middle with hammocks to relax. The only downside to this hostel is the staff use the kitchen to make breakfast for the guests. So if you have your own breakfast, its usually a bit of wait to get into the kitchen. If you want a large kitchen Id suggest going to the other hostel – Hostal Casa Mazeta which is the same price. Besides this, both hostels are about as equal as each other.
The famous weekend food festival of Juayua
After taking half an hour break on arrival and dropping off our bags, we ventured off to the food festival. Wow was it crowded. Tents and tables were set up and the whole town had a barbeque smell drifting through it. The main food area was filled with little barbeque stalls, which mainly all very similar BBQ meat items. The smell was so overwhelming I had to have a taste.
If you walk past, some of the places will give you a small free sample. One of the samples was so amazing we had to order it straight away. We opted for BBQ ribs to start with – which for $5 got you ribs, rice, salad and tortillas (with melted cheese inside them). Mmm this was delicious! After this we chose a mixed BBQ platter which came with chorizo, steak, and ribs for $6. This platter had a lot more meat then the first so was much better value and again a really tasty dish.
Even though these meals were over double our usual spend on lunch, it was a delightful change from the usual local comedor dish of the day. When we finished our meals we walked around to see if we could find any strange dishes we read about in lonely planet such as Armadillo or eel. The only obscure dish we found was BBQ frog.
I had to get out of the BBQ area as I was getting hungry again from the amazing smells. We walked around, and didn’t really find much else. I was expecting more sweet shops and other types of food shops but the main event appeared to be BBQ. Travelling tip; if you don’t like meat or BBQ’s, this is definitely not the place for you.
We walked off to the main square which has a pretty fountain in the middle. There is also a church on the western side of the plaza (Black Christ of Juayua) which is also beautiful and worth taking a look at. In the main plaza was a man holding a large snake. For $1 you can hold his snake, of course we weren’t going to say no to this. I didn’t really enjoy holding it as it slithered around my neck which was a weird cold feeling.
The town also has a lot of different and beautiful murals to look at. The below mural was my favourite as it is a painting of the main square during a festival.
We then ventured off to another part of town that seemed to have live music. It was an opening for a bank so it had a stage set up with musicians playing. They also had several large piñata’s for the children, which was funny to watch. The children bashed the piñata as hard as they could, some completely missing and when the candy finally came out in turned into a mosh pit, with grabbing screaming and everyone trying to get as much candy as they could. The piñata was completely destroyed and all that was left were scraps of ripped up newspaper on the ground.
Feeling a bit hungry again due to the BBQ smell of the town, we decided to go and look for something new to try. We saw a little girl in the square eating a long stick of fruit coated in chocolate, so we decided to copy her and buy one as it looked awesome. The fruit is frozen so when it is dipped in the chocolate the chocolate actually hardens and is a bargain at $1.
We were still hungry so on our way home we ordered some fries covered in mayonnaise, ketchup and cheese. This was nicknamed by us as The El Salvadorian “poutine”.
Overall the food fair was good, but we didn’t see anything different that we couldn’t have bought elsewhere in El Salvador and everything was definitely at an inflated price here.
7 waterfalls hike
The next day we chose to do the 7 waterfall hike “Siete cascadas tour”. Our hostel offered this tour for $20 per person, however from looking around online we saw the same tour was offered at Hostal Casa Mazeta (the other hostel in Juahua) for less if there were more people. There were 5 girls in our hotel that wanted to go as well, so since we had 7 of us the price was reduced to $14 per person.
We met our guide Carlos at 8am. The other couple from this hotel didn’t show up so after waiting for half an hour we left. Carlos then took us to his brother’s farm house where he picked up ropes. The girls were confused as they thought we were going on a hike and didn’t even know we were going to rappel/abseil down the waterfalls. We knew what we were in for by reading other reviews online. Carlos’s brother joined us as well, both carrying large machetes with them. The initial hike was through the coffee plantations in the mountains, with beautiful views of the mountains and lots of coffee plants. According to our guide Carlos each coffee bean picker received $1 for every 25 pounds they picked and on average during harvest season they picked 100 pounds per day receiving around $4 for the day. This is quite sad considering one starbucks coffee is $5.
The path then seemed to disappear and we were walking up and down rocky and muddy terrain. After about an hour we reached the first waterfall. To get to this waterfall, Marcel then set up the first rope climb. He set up the rope so we could rappel down the first rocky terrain to view the waterfall. This wasn’t too difficult as it was dry and rocky so lots of places to put your feet when going down
When we got to the bottom we then had to walk over smaller cascading waterfalls to reach the large waterfall. This is when we all got wet. If you are wearing hiking shoes, they won’t stay dry no matter where you step. Toby decided to change to his flip flops, which later on he realized was probably a mistake as they suffered some terminal damage.
We then rappelled down to see a few more waterfalls. Some of the hike was through rivers, and flowing water making it more of an adventure. We then got to the longer drop. This was terrifying as we had to rappel down a flowing waterfall. It was very slippery and pretty tricky to get your feet in the right spots. Toby actually slipped once but was holding onto the rope so was safe.
The thing that was most bizarre was they had brought their two dogs along (Chiquito & Lipi) and they were able to make it down without any problems. I’ve never seen dogs climb like that before.
At the bottom we had an amazing view of multiple waterfalls, and stared upwards in admiration of being able to rappel down.
The final stop was our swimming location. The waterfalls emptied out into a pool of water, so it provided a great spot to cool down after our long hike.
Our guide then took us into the caves behind the waterfalls. Now this was scary! The last waterfall has a man-made dam to hold water and is where the locals receive their local water from. There are tunnels connecting the waterfalls that you can walk/swim through. He led us into the dark caves which had only barely a head height worth of air space at the top, and I had to swim. We all held on to the top of the cave and pushed our way out to the other side. This was scary but such a fun adventure.
I recommend this tour for anyone going to Juayua. As it was so unexpected and an adventure I will never forget.
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/