La Vida Orgánica

After three weeks meeting the definition of a “surf bum” it was time to leave Sunzal and start exploring what else El Salvador had to offer. The timing couldn’t be much better, the swell had completely dipped off to the point the sea was as flat as a pancake and my Colombian wing man had arrived armed with a spectacular new camera with a zoom in lens capable of seeing craters on the moon.

J U A Y U A  &  R U T A  D E  L A S  F L O R E S

The plan was to head to Juayua and climb Volcán de Santa Ana and spend a few days stopping off at the little villages along the “Ruta De Las Flores.” I’d had this area recommended to me by Jess and her travelling buddies when they stayed at Surfers Inn for a few days. They spoke of quaint little townships with amazing street art, food festivals and obviously as the name suggests, roads lined with bright coloured flowers.

We made our way to Juayua early Thursday morning. The bus left directly outside Surfers Inn which was convenient, it gave us an extra few minutes in bed. The journey from Sunzal was super easy and required two chicken buses, the first to Sonsonate which took about 2 hours and then another bus which took about 30 minutes. It’s such a small country nowhere should take much time to get to as long as the bus times connect up in your favour.

As soon as we arrived in Juayua we headed for breakfast at the nearest restaurant we could find. For $2.50 I had the Desayuno Tipico, which is eggs, beans, platano and tortilla. I washed this down with a bottle of water. Whilst at the time I thought this was a mega deal it’s become apparent that this was a pretty pricey breakfast in El Salvadorian terms. The average wage here is $6 a day and that’s generally got to feed a family so blitzing half a days salary on a breakfast and drink is astronomical in local terms. However, it was a great breakfast and served with a big smile and was a relief from the people working in El Tunco.

I’d had Casa Metzla highly recommended to me again by Jess and her pose. We made our way there with the expectation of climbing Santa Ana the following day. On the map, the volcano looked closer to Jauayua than Santa Ana city itself. On arriving at the hostel, Darren the owner, informed us that there isn’t a direct road to the volcano from Jauyua so if we wanted to do it from here it was going to be a 4am start to make all the connecting buses. This didn’t sound like a option worth considering. We decided to spend a few days in the town which had nearby access to all the villages we’d had recommended to us and to then travel to Santa Ana on Sunday to trek the volcano on Monday.

We decide to walk to one of the nearby waterfalls called Los Chorros (Not to be confused with the Mexican sugary donut stick covered in chocolate sauce). Just as we were leaving the hostel a couple walk in through the front door. Pip and Ross are from Lambeth in London so we start chatting about Brixton and all the amazing eateries that place has to offer. Pip’s favourite restaurant in Brixton Village is The Joint. I like this woman’s taste. As conversation evolves they find out that Jonaton is from Sweden but is Colombian, they work out that Jonaton is Christian’s brother who’d they’d spent time with in Chemuc Champay, Guatemala. Small world. Or maybe not given the strength of the Gringo Trail. But it was a nice moment.

The guys joined us for the walk to the nearby waterfalls, Ross and I chatted about football most of the time. He is an Ipswich fan, so I reeled off as many “legends” as I could remember from the Fison days. Kiwomya and Dozzel was about it. That’s all they’ve ever really had Ross confirms.

Our plans of spending a few days in the area and climbing Santa Ana on Monday overlapped so we made plans to travel together as a little group.

The walk to the waterfall through deserted country roads and coffee plantations was really nice. A group of tiny little puppies waited for us on one bend in the road. Six puppies but in pairs of three very different coloured dogs. You could not believe that these were from the same littler. 5 of the puppies looked pretty frightened and backed off and took cover behind some barbed wire. As the five retreated one marched forward and presented himself to Pipa, she picks him up and they have a cuddle. When Pip put the little fella down it was obvious he didn’t want to leave her.

We were told not to take any valuables because there had been robberies on this route before so sadly I do not have any photos.

Occasionally locals would shout out “hola” from behind a coffee tree and then start giggling as we looked round to see who it was.

The waterfalls themselves were a little disappointing but the jungle backdrop was quite special. Many trees, some crazily big.

On the walk back Pip’s new best friend was there waiting for her. Again the other 5 shuffled away whilst the little guy boldly steps forward for another hug. There was a bond forming here and it looked hard for Pip to put him down.

Whilst these puppies were undeniably cute I’ve got to say that this trip has completely killed any affection I ever had for dogs which was probably quite minimal to start with. I don’t think I have been anywhere where so many dogs roam the streets barking and just generally being really annoying. There’s a dog next to the hostel who basically does all he can to force his way through thin fencing to get at you when it’s pretty obvious you’re on the other side of the road and have no interest in going anywhere near the property. It’s just noise pollution. What is a chilled, tranquil, little town is ruined by Los Perros who do nothing but bark 24 hours a day.

Just when I think I’m safe from the annoyances of the various dogs scattered around the continent, the hostel dog sits himself right in my face and starts cleaning his balls. I just can’t escape the continued bombardment of dogs in general. On another occasion just as I’m settling down to read my book a random dog tears into the building and the two of them spend 10 minutes having a “play” flight which doesn’t look very playful to me.
I sound like a moaning old man here and I should be able to zone out and not let these wild creatures doing what nature has endowed them with bother me so much but it’s constant, there is no hiding place or sanctuary from it.

Watching the hostel dog humping another dog aggressively as I eat my poached eggs and soldiers is the final straw. I’m done with dogs.

The hostel, minus the dogs, is sick. It’s got an amazing garden, a ping pong table, a mega kitchen with a great blender and an impressive DVD collection.

We spend a couple of days travelling between the little villages checking out all the street art. By far the most impressive is found at Ataco. There are many small streets lined with really cool murals, all really creative and bright. These villages are so quaint it amazes me how they have become a hub of such artistic flair.

Here I discover a local delicacy called “Quesadilla”, which is not be be confused with the Mexican cheesy tortilla flat wrap. This is a sweet number although I think it has some cheese in it. I first discovered it hot out of the oven, absolutely sensational. I refuse to eat this other than hot.

S A N T A  A N A

It’s another relatively easy chicken bus ride to Santa Ana. It’s massively notable how the buses inland are way more relaxed in their methods of operation. No bus conductor screaming at you to get on and off the bus as it is still moving. You enter the front, pay the driver who generally smiles at you and you get off at the back. There is no regaton music playing either. It’s a stress free experience which makes a change.

Santa Ana is the second largest city in El Salvador behind San Salvador, the capital, with a population of 275,000.

The “city” sits in a bowl and is surrounded by volcanoes and mountains. It’s a relatively developed and Americanised city in that there are the usual chain restaurants and shops selling branded shoes and clothing. There is however a massive cathedral in the town square which preserves some character.

We stay at Casa Verde which seems to be the only hostel that any traveller passing through Santa Ana stays at. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have recommended this place to me.

I like it primarily not because it has a swimming pool, comfy beds and a DVD room but because the spice rack is unreal and the kitchen is stocked with every utensil imaginable including a decent blender. I’m starting to separate myself from my nutribullet back home, other devices of equal proportion do exist. This ones got four speeds and the fourth dial goes to town on everything. Reports of Nutribullet releasing a 1200 watt powered blaster back home seems a bit excessive.

It’s also got a nice terrace with good views of the city and the surrounding countryside.

We arrive by mid day on the Sunday and stroll around the city, running errands and shopping at the market for a massive “super full moon” dinner up on the terrace.
Between the four of us we dish up an impressive meal of Spanish tortilla (potato omelet) made by Ross, curried ratatouille by Pipa, guacamole by Jonaton and a spicy salsa salad made by myself.

We eat under the light of the super moon.

This was the perfect pre volcano trek dinner.

In the morning I make smoothies and porridge with fruit salad, cinnamon and cacao for everyone. This trip has been pretty unbelievable for home cooking I have to say. I’ve hardly eaten out at a restaurant the whole 12 weeks I’ve been away. That’s to change after today’s trek. Pip and I have our eyes on vegetarian pizza from Papa Johns.

S A N T A  A N A  V O L C A N O

Wow wee! What an absolute beauty this is! And what a little pose to walk with.

This is not a walk you can do solo sadly, the volcano is operated by the tourist board and there is no escaping paying the entrance fee of $3 plus $1 to the guide. The bus journey to and from Cerro Verde where you start the walk costs $2 in total.

There are three volcanoes in the Cerro Verde national park, Izalco is the next most impressive volcano. You can walk this but Santa Ana is the biggie and has great views of Izalco, the nearby Lago de Coatepeque and a bright blue sulphur crater lake.

Guided walks with two guides and policemen set off at 11am every morning. The bus departs Santa Ana at 7.45am ish each morning. You miss this bus and you won’t arrive in time for the guided walk unless you get an expensive taxi. The bus arrives at about 9:45 so there is a little bit of waiting around but the gardens at the start of the climb are really cool and offer good views of the near by Volcán Izalco.

The reason for the policemen is because in the past tourists have been robbed climbing the volcano. I can think of easier places to rob people than having to climb a volcano to do it.

The trek itself is a relatively easy 2 hours to the summit. The summit is at 2,381 meters above sea level but you start at 1,800 so there isn’t much climbing to do. It’s a beautiful walk up with incredible views pretty much the whole way. This walk differs massively from all other volcano treks I’ve done, where the routes are primarily lined with thick trees and vegetation offering next to no views at all until you reach the summit. Here the views are great from the very start.

The terrain isn’t steep and it’s a generally easy walk. There’s a 10 year old boy and his 12 year old brother doing the walk, they are fine with it.

The weather in mid November is top draw, it’s toasty and the sun is shining and there are few clouds in the sky. My luck is changing I think! However the clouds do start to roll in little by little and the by about half way the smaller Izalco volcano is covered in cloud. I start to fear the dreaded cloud forest from the summit of Santa Ana. Thankfully when we arrive at the top it is only the west which is dense cloud.

Importantly the crater and the east are free from clouds and the views are outrageous.
As soon as the crater comes into vision it’s a big “wow” moment and I’m blown away by how spectacular it is. It reminds me of the Tongarua crossing in New Zealand except on a larger scale. It properly blows us all away. The crater is massive with so many layers of differing coloured volcanic rock. It’s bloody deep and the crater lake is a bright turquoise blue emitting bubbles and sulphuric smoke. It doesn’t smell of rotten eggs though. It’s also amazing because you can get right up close to the crater edge and peer down. There would be a fence all the way round if this was England.

To the east is the impressive Coatepeque lake which adds to the spectacular scenery.

It quickly turns into my favourite volcano trek I’ve done. It’s the cheapest by a long way, it’s the easiest, it’s spectacular, it’s very different from anything else I’ve seen and I like how it’s all encompassing, anybody can enjoy the spectacle. This for me is the must do volcano trek in the continent thus far!

As we start to descend our minds wonder to tonight’s feast! Pizza! A piece of me knows that I am about to leave the “capitalist system” for a week or two and enter the blissfulness of a organic farm where all produce is grown on the premises and there are no vices in sight, especially refined sugar. This is my final super before returning to veganism and detoxing myself of sugar.

I feel guilty for spending my money in an international chain, I feel a bit guilty for eating filth and it’s also about treble the cost of cooking for myself or eating at a local establishment. That said, I’ve been good for 12 weeks, minus the occasional sugary baked treat, so I shed the guilt and share a 16″ vegetarian bad boy with Pip and Olivia, a Swede we have picked up on the trek. I’m still peckish so I order the cinnamon rolls. It’s pretty rare that the final product looks better than the picture, in this case it blew the picture out the water. I massively recommend to anyone with a PJ’s near them to try the hot cinnamon rolls. Different level!

T H E  B U B B L E

I leave Santa Ana early the following day and make the two hour journey to The Bubble. It’s an organic farm in the sleepy countryside near San Andres. I’ve stumbled across them whilst looking for opportunities in El Salvador. They’re also on and the brilliant

The project stands out to me because it’s far more than just an organic farm, it’s an educational facility to young children in the area offering them English lessons and a valuable insight into a sustainable and more conscious lifestyle and offers an alternative life of falling into a gang or working in an American owned call centre in the capital San Salvador.

I’m keen to learn lots about permaculture and see it as a good opportunity to practice lots of Spanish which has slipped whilst paddling about at sea for three weeks and hanging with Brits.

All the reviews are really positive and rave about the three vegan meals a day. I’m super excited to check it out and have my own experience there. See the link below for a bit more info on what the project does.

I’d called ahead to The Bubble to let them know I would be arriving at about 11am and was told to wait at the bus stop outside the San Andres Ruins. I wait reading my book patiently and after about an hour a young lad and a girl greet me. Mario lives at the farm having attended as a student for a couple of years from the age of 18. The girl, Jo Jo, is a French traveller having arrived the day before me. Between them they have reasonable English. I probably could have done with them knowing less but we converse in a mix of Spanish and English as we walk an hour down a dusty rural dirt track to the farm.

It’s very remote and there aren’t many shops, people or houses. It’s very quiet and very pretty, the mountains loom large. I like it already and I’ve not even arrived.

On arriving at The Bubble I note the dense jungle and the amazing art previous volunteers have painted on the walls.

I’m introduced to Gloria, one of the two founders. Gloria is from Colombia, she has a Che Guevara tattoo on her upper arm, she greets me with a big warm smile and a hug. It’s a nice introduction to the farm and it makes me feel very welcome.

I’m instantly served up an impressive lunch of pineapple salad, vegetable rice and cabbage soup. There’s so much I have three helpings. Mario confirms that most of the food has been sourced from the garden. After lunch he shows me around the garden and points out everything I’ve just eaten. Wild cilantro, basil, miracle leaf, chaya (something like spinach), pineapple and numerous others herbs. I ask where the tomatoes come from. That’s from the local market and isn’t grown on the farm due to the amount of water required to grow the tomatoes. It’s deemed too labour intensive and not a good use of so much water so they have opted to grow leaves and other plants that do not require so much work and water.

The garden is full of good stuff and numerous banana trees of varying types, standard, red, platano and some which seem to stay green forever. I love the banana tree because they have massive lush green leaves and an interesting looking purple flower which hangs beneath the fruit. It’s a crazy looking tree.

There’s a massive avocado tree which sadly isn’t bearing fruit because it’s out of season but I can imagine when it is season this thing will yield a big harvest. It’s huge.

There’s a few sacred San Pedro cactuses as well. This one is about 14 years old. They grow super slowly.

My first impressions of the garden is it’s a bit of a mess. There are leaves everywhere and lots of weeds. When watering the plants that evening I suggest cleaning up the leaves but am told not to because they will soon rot back into the earth providing nourishment for the soil.

Mario shows me the compost heap which is basically two giant holes dug into the ground. Food waste is thrown into it every day. There is a massive mound of mud from the two holes which sits untidily in front of the holes. My job is to move the mud to a near by concrete area to make room for people to access the compost heap easily and to build a roof over the compost to keep it dry during the rainy season. It looks like a never ending job.

I’ve already decided that I like the place and want to stay here for as long as possible which is about 10 days. My 90 day visa expires on the 30th November so I need to get to the capital of Nicaragua and extend my visa so I can stay in the four country zone of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua for longer without being fined stupid amounts of money.

Sadly this is going to cut short staying at the Bubble any longer than 10 days.

I’m writing this five days into my stay here and I truly would love to stay longer than 10 days. My days start at 7am, I clean the outdoor kitchen, help Mario prepare breakfast, which is always massive and exceptionally wholesome, eat breakfast, chillax and let the nutrition work its way into my body, help in the garden, do the compost heap, water the plants, chop fire wood (I love this, the axe is massive and heavy and it feels like a huge work out chopping thick branches into smaller pieces), always to the sounds of Jo Jo singing and playing her guitar, eat another massive nutritious late lunch, snooze this off, read, write, chat, practice Spanish, help the kids who come to visit with their English and assist in the preparation of a big fat dinner for anywhere between four or seven of us depending on the number of people visiting. By 10am I am well and truly ready to hit the sack. It’s such a rewarding and wholesome day which flies by.

I can feel my body really appreciating the connection with nature and the return to a diet completely free of process and chemicals. It’s such a great feeling to walk out into the garden and pick so much of your breakfast, lunch and dinner in the knowledge that it is unaffected by chemicals and pesticides and not a penny is going to some multinational wanker with the sole intention of getting rich whilst fucking the planet and everyone who lives on it.

It’s quickly noticeable that Mario is an insanely good cook. Gloria is too but for a man of 21 this guy has some pretty good skills in the kitchen. He makes up amazing salads from next to nothing in the fridge. He’s exceptionally creative and passionate about his cooking. This love comes flooding through in his food and I hope my gratitude and thanks have been warmly received. I’ve learnt a lot from both Mario and Gloria in the kitchen department.

One day me, Mario, Jo Jo (armed with her guitar) and two of the young lads who learn English here set off for the local market to trade ornamental plants, herbs and spices in exchange for essentials which aren’t grown at the farm like tomatoes.

I’m amazed because as soon as we set foot in the market everyone knows Mario and there are requests coming from all angles for certain types of plants. We have two crates worth and these quickly get handed out in exchange for lots of produce. We don’t need to physically pay for very much.

Jo Jo plays some acoustic Bob Marley tunes as an added little bonus for the venders. She’s got a great voice and plays the guitar beautifully. It’s a really nice afternoon.

It’s such an amazing project and Gloria is an incredible woman. A great conversationalist and very interesting to talk to. She speak Spanish, English, French, German, Hindi and is learning Dutch.

One evening with just the two of us left round the table after dinner we start to chat about consciousness and how this affects our eating habits. I speak about how I feel like I have an issue with food in the context that I can’t stop eating and have an addiction to refined sugar that I’m finding really hard to shake. Giving up meat and booze has been easy but sugar feels like a never ending battle.

Gloria describes acts of conscious eating as a process to help me control my intake. She notes I eat very quickly and suggests being more conscious of the whole process of devouring what’s on my plate. She stresses that we should avoid doing anything mechanical, that’s not just eating, any task that does not require thought needs to now have thought applied to it. In the context of eating she recommends I think actively about every spoonful that enters my mouth, chew slowly, savour all the flavours and textures and in doing so the food will be digested properly and thus fill my stomach the way it is designed to be filled. Consequently I will become full quicker whilst eating less. It makes perfect sense. She relates this further to eating sugary stuff. I don’t necessarily have to deprive myself of something that brings me happiness, just be conscious of every mouthful, savour it more slowly and I will take more enjoyment from it over a longer period of time whilst eating less.

One evening Jo Jo and I make the trek to the nearest village where they have Internet. We both have a few personal admin things to attend to. It’s getting late and we are both hungry. Jo Jo has never had papusas before so we eat a couple of these before setting off for The Bubble. We walk past several shops selling chocolate and donuts and the like. I make a bit of breakthrough with my sugar addiction. In a few days spent at The Bubble eating just natural produce I no longer crave the sugary stuff. After 10 days I should be well on track for giving up again. Unless Papa Johns comes into vision and then I might just have to have the cinnamon rolls!

Back at the farm it’s noticeable that nothing goes to waste here. It either goes on the compost heap or it is used one way or other. For example, the rough skin on a pineapple is fermented with cane sugar for 10 days to make low alcohol level beverage. The roots of some plants I’ve dug up are lined along the perimeter and will grow upwards to from a fence. The leaves off some bigger plants I’ve had to chop down to make way for cacao trees feed the chicken. I don’t think I’ve had to put anything in a bin other than my contact lenses the whole time I’ve been here and it makes me realise how wasteful in general I am and how much plastic I acquire on a day to day basis. If I can eliminate it here then I should be able to back home.

Whilst working on the compost heap I’ve had the help of a young lad called Armando, he’s 14. He speaks no English. I’m meant to be helping him with his English but it is very hard shovelling mud and trying to hold an English lesson with someone who knows next to nothing. Nevertheless I try. It’s also good for my Spanish as I explain what I am saying in English in Spanish.

He’s a great worker and we make quick progress in three days working together. He carries the buckets full of earth with gusto. I’m dripping with sweat but he’s pretty cool it seems.

I tell Gloria what a hard worker he is. She then tells me his story. He’s from a near by village where the entire family for generations have been riddled with drug and alcohol problems and he has a brother in prison. He comes to the project because he wants to do something better with his life. He doesn’t come because he has been told to by his parents and at 14 he’s made an important life decision to do something more fulfilling than his predecessors or closest relatives and it’s a good symbol of how powerful and effective this project is.

One of the other lads, Sanche, who is a little bit older than the others at 21 gives me a run down on El Salvador and the problems it’s faces and the issues which I have not been exposed to but makes El Salvador a notoriously volatile country to live in.

He tells me that one of his close friends was killed because he was behaving drunk in a gang territory. The gang warned him about his behaviour and the potential that this would bring the police snooping around. He was warned with a beating. Sadly, he performed this act once again shortly after his kicking and this time there was no second warning. Sanche informs me he has not touched a drink since as he believes that could have easily been him.

He tells stories of having his trainers and skateboard taken just because he’s entered a zone run by a certain gang. It is not uncommon to face interrogation when travelling between towns. They want to know why he is in this zone, they ask for ID, they ask him to take his shirt off so they can inspect whether he has any tell tale gang tattoos and he will be warned not to return. Having a girlfriend from a different town is almost impossible he complains.

The gangs have their own unique tattoos, normally a series of numbers and letters, quite commonly inked onto their face. I am yet to see anyone with a face tattoo but if I do I will be sure to walk in the opposite direction.

He describes the level of extreme gangs whereby they kill for $5.

It all sounds pretty horrible.

Sanche has big plans though, he doesn’t want to live a life of fear anymore. His English is really good. He talks of getting asylum in Spain and then being able to live anywhere in Europe. I break the news that that won’t include England pretty soon so he needs to get a rush on.

One evening in conversation with Gloria I raise the issue of crime in El Salvador. Everyone refers to it as being highly dangerous with one of the biggest murder rates in the world heavily documented but from everything I’ve seen I just can’t imagine these people inflicting such hatred on each other. They are too busy preparing or eating tortillas and papusas for fighting.

Gloria lays out the fundamental issue. The North American and European demand for both medicinal and recreational cocaine and heroine. Previously under different administration, but notably Clinton she stresses, there were trade relationships with Colombia and Peru. 40% of purchased cocaine and heroine was for medicinal use in hospitals and the remaining 60% was for illegal consumption administrated from the very highest level.
Clinton was one giant drug dealer essentially. When Colombia imploded the Mexicans stepped in and took up the trade with the US. They have now blown it with gang infighting. This now leaves other Central American territories free to pick up the trade. El Salvador seems to be that country according to Gloria.

Whilst completely non visible to me, a lot of the activity takes place in the capital city, San Salvador. Large quantities are received into the various gangs within the capital. They then recruit gang members to distribute these large amounts to “safe houses” all over the country from where the merchandise then makes its way north across the various borders.

The process of gang recruitment is an issue which affects all the provincial townships surrounding San Salvador. Kids as young as 14 are asked to move large quantities or stash amounts at designated depositories in the countryside. If anything goes missing or something can’t be accounted for it’s the end of the road for that person.

The average wage here is $6 a day. So when a 14 year old is approached and told they can earn $50 for moving a “package” they jump at the chance with very little thought. They are then at the mercy of the gang who act with complete contempt for the smallest infringements.

I asked Gloria what her thoughts were on decriminalisation of all drugs such as adopted in Portugal and how this would affect the strength and prevalence of the underground gangs here. Her response was interesting.

She dismissed having any real interest in government policies and hope that they would intervene to make a decision for the benefit of the masses. History and evidence shows that decision making at this level is based purely on finance and making money for the very elite with no consideration for the people and the environment. This is prevalent across the board, food, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, oil and gas, and many more industries. Consequently she stressed that it was far more important that you as an individual have the consciousness to change yourself. If you are conscious that the fundamental problem stems from our collective misuse and you act upon that then there is no reliance on a corrupt government making a decision to assist your living conditions and quality of life.

Talking of corruption the last four presidents of El Salvador have all ended up in prison for theft of large sums of money from the country. The most recent arrest being 3 months ago.

But from what I can work out, as a “gringo” you’d be seriously unlucky to get involved in any trouble here. It is obvious you are not a member of a rival gang, unless there is a gang who have whales, boats, planes and triangles tattooed on their legs. You’d also be pretty unlucky/ foolish to stumble across a gang territory in San Salvador. I’m not actually sure why anyone would go there. It sounds bleak in general.

In regards to the impact The Bubble has on the local community I think it is massive. It’s noticeable that every kid that comes here is full of confidence and enjoys the environment. They love the food as well and I hope little by little this form of health conscious living can reach a bit further because it’s heart breaking when you see an obese teenager feed her three month old baby several packs of Cheetos on the bus and then launch the packets out the window.

For the 8 years The Bubble has been in existence it has provided the local kids with a safe heaven from the negative influences of gangs and provides a life education beyond what they receive at school and at home.

The project is well known in the area, everyone knows Gloria and talks of The Bubble with a big smile. I can see this has reached out to many in the area over the years.

The project is also an amazing learning curve for volunteers. Gloria is a wealth of knowledge and insight, I feel like I could ask her anything and she could spend the whole day talking in depth about it whilst recommending numerous books to read on the subject. I’ve also learned a lot with regards to growing produce in general. For example, the cycle of the moon is absolutely paramount to the timing of which you plant and chop anything down.

I’ve also learnt how to make an organic pesticide.

This might sound ignorant but did you know that to grow a pineapple all you need to do is just plant the spikey bit off the top into your healthy soil and watch it grow? I just assumed pineapples grew from trees.

I could see myself living this lifestyle 100%, and for $76,000 I could. The Bubble is up for sale and has been for a year. Gloria wants to return to Colombia so the project is up for grabs. It’s a 3,000 square meter piece of land. 2,000 organic farm, 1,000 la Casa which sleeps ten. There is also a swimming pool which has about three fish living in it right now. If this was closer to the surf then I’d have been seriously tempted.

Our final super was spent at a Papusaria out of town. Chespi, one of the guys who previously lived at the farm for two years drove Gloria, Mario, Jo Jo, Mauricio and I to the restaurant.

Given Nicaragua does not have papusas and I’d led an exceptionally healthy diet for the last 10 days i took it upon myself to eat five of the finest papusas you’ll find in the world!
I’ve never seen a menu with so many choices. There were 12 to choose from.

I like how these papusas were of the “Christian” variety. Eating 5 didn’t seem so wrong. It was heaven and a fitting end to a brilliant stay at The Bubble.

The experience has been brilliant in every regard and I’m now considering wwoofing my way round the whole continent. At $10 a day I think it’s a fair contribution to an amazing cause. For the food alone it is worth it. Everything else, the learning, the people, the kids, the music and the conversation is a huge bonus. I cannot recommend this place highly enough to anyone thinking of coming to El Salvador. Minus the singing at the local church, it’s a beautiful place to connect with nature, yourself and great people.

Here’s a really nice drink I learnt to make which is dead easy.

Frozen bananas
Freshly squeezed orange juice
More water than orange juice

Blend it thoroughly until there are no bits. It should be nicely cold and watery in consistency. Throw some ice in if it’s not freezing cold.

And here’s another easy but dead tasty recipe; onion salad passed down from Gloria’s mum.

Soak the onions in a thin layer of rock salt and lime water, add tomatoes, cucumber, celery and some basil. Sprinkle this on top of rice or a curry and it’s a winning formula.

Next stop Nicaragua where papusas do not exist!

Stay sharp



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