Monday, April 8, 2013

Riding Motorcycles in the Jungle Day 5

Day 5 - Monday Feb 25, 2013 -- A Trip to the Market 
(and how to pack 60 lbs of cheese in a carry on)

Today, we didn’t go ocean fishing as we had planned.  We had a good recommendation for a fishing guide from Guillermo and talked to him on Saturday in La Libertad.  I suggested that I stay in the car, so we “wouldn’t pay the Gringo price.”  After a few minutes, I saw Bobby waving to me to come in, so I opened the door (and set off the car alarm, as I was in a locked car, in a somewhat seedy area).   The guide was an American ex-pat, and a very decent guy, as the first the first thing he said to me was “the fishing is terrible right now.  Both offshore and in-shore.   You should come in the rainy season if you want to catch a lot of fish.  However, the boat ride is beautiful…”  His price was $300, which “includes everything but the beer”, which is actually a really good charter rate.  So we decided to skip the fishing and go to the market today instead. 

Today started not with breakfast, but with a 6 am ride with Norberto to the little town of Tapalhuaca, where he milks cows every morning.   After a pleasant hike through some jungle, past a banana field, around a mango tree and under a cashew tree, we came to the corral, and the milking ‘stall’.   Next to a small stream, there were two small trees, two short ropes, a bucket, a stool, and a large two-handled plastic jug.   Bobby’s uncle showed us how a local dairyman works.   You get a cow, put a rope around the horns and cinch it down, and tie the cow to the tree.  Then you get her calf out of the corral, let it feed for a few seconds, so the cow lets down milk.  Then you tie the calf to a nearby tree, get the bucket, your stool, and tie the second rope around the cow’s back legs, so it can’t kick you, or the bucket.  Then you milk the cow by hand.  When the bucket is full, you pour it into the jug.  When the jug is full, Norberto carries it down the trail and gets another one.  When the cow is empty, you untie the cow and calf, let them go graze and repeat the process.  About 30 times.  With no running water, soap, etc.   They sell milk for $0.35 per bottle (a quart, I think).  Each cow produces 12-18 bottles.   “Pasteurized milk costs more,” Julio told us.   A young dairy cow goes for $1100.  They are a mix of breeds – all different colors.  Few black and white Holsteins.

If you stay to the left, instead of turning through the jungle path, In the middle of nowhere, down a narrow dirt farm path, you come upon a flat spot with a full regulation soccer field, complete with concrete drainage.   It was the El Salvador version of Field of Dreams.

After milking was done, we went back to Bobby’s uncle’s house, where Bobby’s aunt fixed breakfast for the three of us.   Once again, guests eat first, while everyone else waits.   Scrambled fresh farm eggs cooked in butter with red peppers, sausage links,salty farm cheese, and rolls.  Very tasty.   The ceiling in the farm house had exposed beams – you could see the roofing tiles, and air gaps at the eves.  Bobby’s uncle rested in a hammock and chatted a little with us, while Bobby’s aunt put on some favorite music.   Boogie songs from the disco period.  No kidding – boogie woogie, BeeGees, Tina Turner mix CD.  Then on a walk through the kitchen she showed me the metate grinder that her mother used – a family heirloom.  This is the life.

After some visits to Bobby’s other relatives in Tapalhuaca (who live across the street, but due to a long-standing dispute of unknown cause, they don’t speak to each other), and programming a universal remote for Julio, so he could select the Spanish language on DVDs again, we went back to San Pedro.  We picked up Siria and Jose (the most active 2 year old you can imagine) and drove to the market.   On my shopping list – a hammock.   We needed a replacement for William, and they knew which were good quality.  And I had Siria, a local, who knew where to go and how to bargain (and she also speaks Spanish, unlike me.)  And I wanted to buy a melon.   Not to spoil any surprises here – I ended up with a lot more than one hammock.  Purchases I’m NOT bringing home include a watermelon, two Galicia melons, and a papaya – all of which were very tasty after a dinner of rice, arachara steak, and salsa fresca.    Lunch today was the local version of Kentucky Fried Chicken – Pollo Campero.    If you want to try it, there’s a chain location in Boston.

We then went to buy cheese.  50 lbs of it.  And 1 can of Coke. 

And then planning went a little weird, Latin style.  One of Bobby’s relative’s girlfriends (who Bobby’s never met) called, wanted to take us to dinner.  Bobby politely turned her down since we’re leaving tomorrow.  Then Nixon called – he and Roxanne had a package for us, and some cheese (which Nixon makes).  So after traveling ½ way back home, we met up with Salvador, traded cars, leaving one at a gas station.  Bobby and I were invited by Salvador to hop in the back of his pickup.  I did, but hesitated to sit down, as this was the greasy truck bed where the transmission parts were shuttled last week and I was wearing my tan shorts.  Sr. Salvador saw me hesitate, and got an old towel from the cab for me to sit on.   Then while Bobby and I enjoyed the scenery from the back, we made some detours, picked up some invoice paperwork, paid somebody wages, and then pulled into the main bus station.   As Bobby and I were in the back, multiple hawkers came up to us to solicit us to ride their particular bus.   Siria then got out with Jose, took the tomatoes that the bought, and rode a bus home.   We couldn’t figure it out – I think she just went home so she could start cooking dinner.   Everything happens, when it happens.   We eventually met Nixon and Roxanne, wandered a mall for an hour, ate some ice cream cones, and when parting were given another 12 or so lbs of cheese (not labeled for import, or at all), and a bag of other gifts and stuff.  And then were told that the highway was shut down for two hours in the direction we needed to go.   So we drove the long way back to the gas station, starting in the opposite direction, and through many side streets.

At the gas station / transfer stop (which I know well – we’ve seen it nearly every day I’ve been here), we again traded cars.   Salvador spoke up to the young, shot-gun toting security guard – I heard something about “banyo?”  Essentially, we were told, nah, you don’t have to go inside – you can all go pee on that wall over there… I’ll keep an eye out for you.  So we had protection, while the four of us relieved ourselves by the back wall behind the gas station.  And I thought the guards were there to keep people from peeing on the back wall.  Silly gringo.

Now, back at Salvador’s casa, after dinner and a shower, and removing one tick, Bobby and I are puzzling out how to pack up 60+ lbs of cheese (some legal to import, some not), hammocks, pottery, 6 pairs of sandals, various gifts, chocolate, horchetta mix (plastic bags of off-white powder), bags of stuff we were given to take back, a 2-foot long machete, 16 lbs of dry beans (a gift for Sis. Herrera, hand-picked by Norberto), and one Ayote squash, given to me by Salvador’s father (which I’m trying to find a polite way to leave here).  Salvador very helpfully offered that we should just go to sleep, and the women would pack our bags for us in the morning (we’re leaving before 7:30, and I’m certain there will be a breakfast cooked from scratch before we go).

Maybe, that is.  I just saw the weather on a news segment.  Dallas is in a blizzard, with forecast for a lot of wind and snow tonight.  “Do NOT travel,” the weatherman said.  Seriously?  Dallas only gets a blizzard once every few years.   And it’s tomorrow?  At least the cheese would be cold.

So… maybe we will be here a little later in the morning than planned.  I’ll let you know.

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