Sail Gemini

El Salvador

(New:  November 29, 2003)

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Marina Barillas  Coffee Plantations  Pyramids  Cara Sucia  San Salvador  Gulf of Fonseca

El Salvador--Where Volcanoes Rule and Wildlife Begins for Gemini!

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At the risk of out-doing ourselves at every stop, we have to admit that the wildlife in El Salvador was exquisite, as you can see from this monkey eating our banana at Marina Barillas.  In almost every photograph, including this one in the Gulf of Fonseca, at anchor bordering El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, a volcano looms in the distance.

Note:  Click on any photo to see the full-sized picture.

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Underway voyages combine moments of excitement from a migrating turtle with hours of peace, especially for the off-watch crew members.

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Crossing the international boundary, Gemini and Compaņia take turns hoisting the flag of El Salvador.

Barillas Marina

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After being escorted into the estuary by Luis, the "human GPS", we were treated to a delightful and exclusive resort atmosphere.  Egrets and herons along the riverbank, Salvadoran fishermen in canoes--even the president of El Salvador escapes to this remote paradise.  He was gracious enough to pose with cruisers for photo opportunities, including a rare moment with TIn Can's Louie & Sharon. 

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 Here Sharon proudly displays her tablecloth embroidered with unique experiences from their recently-completed circumnavigation.


Life is good!

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Internet services at the palapas and a flat calm anchorage make "work" much more fun.


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A short hike put us smack in the middle of a tropical forest, with monkeys, hand-carved canoes and an introduction to the "maranon" tree--the tip of this bright red fruit holds the cashew nut!


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Feeding the monkeys was great fun for Diane, Les & El Regalo's Theresa.

Cara Sucia comes to Barillas

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After spending three days with family friend Elena in her town of Cara Sucia (see below), we convinced her to bring her three delightful children to this elegant resort to share a bit of the good life with us.  They were excited to visit our sailboat, but the pool and other facilities at Barillas Marina put everybody in a "Hollywood" mood.


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On one of our excursions, we passed a ballet school, evidence of the tradition that good art thrives even in the hardest of times.  We also enjoyed visiting the other marina in El Salvador, Bahia del Sol, where, after catching up with cruiser news and partying at the restaurant, owner Marco treated us to a free overnight stay at their very nice rooms.  Again, volcanoes smoking in the background!

El Salvador Coffee Plantations

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Our first adventure outside of the marina, a land trip to the coffee plantations and nearby basket-weavers gave us a glimpse of volcanoes and local customs.  One of the most delightful discoveries was that we were in the land of $1.50/lb coffee again!


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Celina of "Discover El Salvador" led this tour for Gemini,  Delfin Salar and Swamp Angel, captured here in a rare montage entitled "Canadians Eating".  Fluent in English and knowledgeable about the history and customs of her country, Christina is a delightful person and takes very good care of her troop.  One of the few professional tour agencies, they can be reached at (503) 768-0514 or email them at


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Mayan ruins hint at lifestyles from 5000 BC.  The ancient structures and surprisingly well-preserved ceramics at Tazumal brought a sense of religion to the premises.  


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En route back to San Salvador, we visited San Andres and Joya de Ceren, both of more recent origins, about 600-900 BC.  San Andres seems to be the site of religious festivals and social activities, while Joya de Ceren was the living area.  An eerie feeling comes over you as you sense that the area was abruptly abandoned--theory has it that the citizens evacuated just as volcano Laguna Caldera erupted and covered the city with ash.  Tragic though this event was, it covered the city with ash, creating an environment that preserved the artifacts intact. 


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A field trip to the ruins gave students a chance to study archeological events and show off for our cameras.

San Salvador

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Cautiously exploring this land of uncontrolled gun ownership, we enjoyed a delicious Italian lunch at a restaurant introduced to us by Celina's husband Max, and marvelled at the detailed pictograms by the famous artist  Fernando Llort on the city's churchfront.  A visit to the Llort workshop was a "must" for shoppers.



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Emboldened by Les' uncanny sense of direction, we rented a car with Maverick and ventured back to San Salvador on our own.  Joe exchanged badges with the local police while we negotiated for a new tire with "Taller Elena"--an experience that turned out to be a delightful exchange with the local "llanteros" (tire changers).  Rental cars do not always have good tires but ours reimbursed us for the cost with no questions asked.



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Only 15 minutes from downtown San Salvador lies this lovely escape from the hustle and bustle.  Les and Diane pose on the floating steps in the pond and Joe, Barbara and Les rest in a shady nook.  Exquisite grounds, unique plants and a peaceful environment were the perfect way to wrap up a day after almost being arrested for photographing the American embassy.

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Now we're talking "native"!  A wonderful Salvadoran friend, Elena, invited us to her home in Cara Sucia, near the border of Guatemala.  The drive along the coast was breathtaking, and the country life there was a refreshing change from the hectic city.

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We visited the not-yet-excavated Archealogical site of Cara Sucia, where a modest building introduced us to a guide.  Toting a rifle, he escorted us around the grounds, where grass-covered mounds hinted at ruins yet to be discovered.

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Another unique day: at the beach with Elena's friends, who live in the grass-covered shelter earning crabs and other food in exchange for coconuts.


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Elena's small banana field gave us a few more hours of native joy--though Mario and I were glad to return to the house for a cold drink and some rest after following Elena around with her rapid banana-slashing machete.


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Goodbye to Nina, Mario, Elena and Evelyn--and thanks for a slice of genuine Salvadoran life!

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It was difficult to leave, but we must push on to rendezvous with family in Costa Rica.  A parade of boats (Compania, Journey, Maverick, El Regalo and Gemini) followed Luis along the river to set us free for our next adventure.

Gulf of Fonseca

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We can't figure out why this bay is not on the top 10 cruising spots for Central America.  We enjoyed our stay immensely, and suspect it's just a well-kept secret.  The island of Meanguera offered protection from the NE winds, and Isla Conchiguita was a 1-hour voyage to escape the southerlies.

Click here for more from the Bay of Fonseca

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