After breakfast, we took a panoramic city tour of San Salvador, passing the National Palace and the Catedral Metropolitana in the city center, a military museum and then, we set off to explore Joya de Ceren (Jewel of Cerén), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the first of five Mayan archaeological sites we will visit. The military museum had an incredibly detailed relief map of the area showing all of the mountains, cities, towns and villages, well worth the stop just for the map. Inside were some very powerful paintings depicting the struggles of the Mayan people through history.
Relief Map of the Area
Monument to Heroes and National Palace
Located about 30 minutes northwest of San Salvador, Joya de Ceren was a farming community buried under an eruption of the Laguna Caldera volcano c. AD 600. Because of the exceptional condition of the remains, the site provides detailed information about the daily lives of ancient Mayan farmers who lived here. It was discovered during the construction of grain-storage silos in 1976, when a bulldozer exposed a clay-built structure and is still being excavated. Evidence suggests that the inhabitants were able to evacuate as the eruption destroyed their village, but they left utensils and textiles behind that provide revealing glimpses of Mayan life more than a millennium ago. From Joya de Cerén, we head to the border of Honduras — bound for the town of Copán. Because of a series of long traffic delays caused by protestors blocking a major highway in San Salvador and later by a fatal accident we arrived at our hotel in Copán quite late and were happy to forego dinner and just head to bed.
Truck Traffic at the Border
It was a long day.
We had a leisurely morning and one last breakfast around the pool before Juan picked us up for the ride back into the airport in Managua where we will meet the other four travelers.
It has been a fantastic visit to Nicaragua, our fellow travelers are a wonderful fun-loving group of people and today we move on to the main part of the trip and where we will meet the other four members of our party to begin The Route of the Maya.
Not far from the airport Hector has the drive pull off the highway to a little side road lined with food stalls for a “little surprise”. There must have been about 20 food stalls all making the same thing . . . pupusas, a Salvadoran staple, similar to a tortilla but stuffed with beans or cheese. We watched as these little morsels cook on round gridle, turned by hand and then served piping hot with accompaniments on the table, innocent looking mixtures of vegetables and peppers hot, hotter and blistering. The pupusas were an instant hit!
Driving into San Salvador, Central America’s second-largest city and the capital of El Salvador is a bit of a shock, horrible traffic, smog, fast food chains, strip malls – it almost feels like home and that’s not a good thing. It is much more modern looking than Managua and has an American feel to it.
Our hotel is actually in a residential district, it is a small hotel but nice. We settle in and then Hector takes us for a walk to orient us to the Antiguo Cuscatlan neighborhood. First impression not good, there is an armed guard near the front door of the hotel – hmmm. We walk about a block and see two more armed policemen and I don’t mean little hand guns they have BIG ASS guns, semi-automatic weapons and wear what looks to me like swat gear, strangely it does not make me feel safe. Seemingly every corner has one or two armed policemen, usually two. Hector explained that there have been problems with gangs and the heavy police presence is a deterent, hope it works but I am happy we are not spending much time here.