Saturday, February 29, 2020

Finding Water in the Dry Season

Greetings from the middle of the dry season.  When we first arrived in El Salvador in the middle of the wet season, we found a damp, green jungly landscape teeming with plant and animal life where it seemed we could see the vines growing during the course of our lunch break.  We rolled the dehumidifier from room to room and kept closet doors open to keep the air circulating and the moldy smell at bay.  I disregarded as exaggeration the warnings of friends that the dry season would erase all the green and the leave the hillsides a dusty brown.  What I didn't understand - until now - is that "dry season" really truly means it simply will not rain from November to May.  I figured it meant it would rain LESS, not that the sky's taps would suddenly, simply turn off from one day in November to the next.  

But they did and we haven't seen rain since.  The landscape looks more like Northern California in August than Central America in February and the unpaved roads, now at least more passable without rivulets breaking them up, are inches deep in powdery dust. The burning sugar cane fields leave chunky, black cane ash as the only thing falling from the skies these days.  The local kids call it "black snow."  There is a dry, cooling wind blowing through almost every day and despite leaving a thin, sooty layer on everything within hours - we keep windows open to take advantage of the natural air conditioning. And I'm going through a lot of lip balm.

Yet the hot months of March and April are still to come. 

Given the above, we've been motivated to seek water in our explorations and to visit places that might be spoiled by the daily afternoon showers I've been promised will eventually return.  The obvious choice has been to get out to the beach, which we've done a lot of.  Within 45-90 minutes' drive from home, we've explored rocky surfing beaches, sandy, strolling beaches, volcanic black-sand beaches far too hot to walk on barefooted, and golden sand, reef-protected beaches with calm pools to wade in.  

Almost-black sands of El Zonte beach.
Confidence abounds

Showing off his surfing/martial arts moves

El Tunco attracts an international crowd and earns it's nickname "Surf City"

Golden sands of crushed shells and coral at Los Cobanos due to the nearby reef. 
Huge black rocks courtesy of any one of dozens of volcanoes also nearby. 

Los Cobanos at low tide makes for great soaking in the calm shallows.

El Tunco's waves captured in rock formations.

We even went out whale watching... and actually spotted some whales and dolphins.  From the little fishing village of Los Cobanos with a local guide we headed out towards the reef that protects this stretch of coast to see if we could catch a glimpse of the migratory humpbacks.  Full disclosure: my own photographs turned out disappointingly like Where's Waldo the Whale? and these below were later sent to me by our guide in an attempt to lure us back for another trip.  But this is what they would have looked like, had we been about a quarter mile closer.  Still - it was pretty dang cool to go out a few miles in a little launch, sea spray in our faces, and get neither sunburned nor seasick. 

Whale watching in six person launches from Los Cobanos. 

Given the size of our boat, maybe I should be relieved I didn't see ole' Barnacle Bill THIS close?

Spotting spotted dolphins
And finally, we found water in a surprising place: way up into the hills at the Cascadas de Tamanique.  With an embassy group, guide and two armed "tourist police" officers accompanying us, we set off early from the little town of Tamanique, traversing dried corn fields and cow pastures and hiking deep into an incredibly steep gorge to find the mirage-like falls. More than just one single falls, we found a system of cascades, deep pools and small slides into the pools. After splashing around in the pools for a good while, we then made the torturous ascent back to town.  By then the heat of the day had set in and the hike was occasionally on all fours due to the incline and rendered more than a few of us stopping to decide if we needed to throw up or just die there. Let's just say I won't be doing that again, so I'm glad I have the memories and photos. 

Dry season and it looks like there's not a drop to drink.

Until you descend steep and deep into the gorge...

And find the series of cascades at Tamanique

Incredibly relieving and surprisingly deep pools.

That'll part your hair!

Smooth rock slides
All work and no splashing around for the Tourist Police on duty.

Local daredevils threw themselves into the little pools below

Finally, after being revived by an infusion of Gatorade and some sitting in the shade, we made it back to the van and dropped out of the hills towards the coast.  Just west of the busy touristy beach town La Libertad, we stopped for lunch at Cadejo Brewery, a very popular local brewery restaurant perched cliff side and sporting the craziest over-the-surf wave pool I've ever seen.  It was quite a ride for those who braved being smashed into the giant concrete beer-hoisting arm sculpture by the high-tide waves crashing over the bow every few minutes.  In hindsight, I wish I'd joined them but I was too focused on recovering from the hike with some lunch and lemonade instead.  I'll have to save it for another day. 

After all, we still have two and a half more dry seasons to go.




Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Wordless Wednesday #1

Welcome to Wordless Wednesdays!
Okay, this one has words, but only to introduce an exercise I've wanted to do for a while.
I'm going to pick one photograph per week that speaks to me and offer it without explanation.  Those of you who know me will understand that it will take every ounce of restraint in my bones not to explain in some way.  Some will be humorous (to my sophomoric sense of humor, that is), some pensive, some just pretty - interpret however they strike you.  I just hope they will spark a smile, a thought or have some significance to you through whatever lens you view them.  

Let's start.