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    Frumpy Mom: Enjoying some sweaty fun in El Salvador
    • October 11, 2023

    If you’ve ever wondered if your sweat glands still work, I have a way to test this. It’s called “Visit El Salvador.” This could be the country’s new marketing campaign.

    I don’t normally participate in activities that produce much perspiration, or as they called it for ladies in the olden days, “dew.” Occasionally, I’ll sit in the sauna at the gym, but I can guarantee you that I never produced as much dew as I did on our weekend trip to El Salvador.

    I know, many of you are thinking to yourself, “El Salvador? Wasn’t there a terrible civil war there?”

    This is true. They did have a civil war there during which government-backed death squads shot down their own citizens for the shocking crime of demanding to make more than 15 cents a day picking coffee beans, which was at the time the main crop of the country. The workers were starving while the plantation owners got rich.

    Many Salvadorans fled the country back then and came to the U.S. But the war has been over since 1992. The street gangs who used to also plague the citizenry have recently been tossed into jail, and all the people I met seemed quite happy about this, though it remains controversial.

    So, things are looking up there, and the tourism business has improved to the point that there’s actually something to do there except surf. Previously, people mainly vacationed there to enjoy the world-class surf breaks.

    I know you’ll be astonished to learn that I don’t surf. I do, however, enjoy flowers and soaking in hot springs, which I know makes me a weirdo, but what can I say?

    I’m a major cheapskate, so when I found a temporary deal where I could fly to El Salvador nonstop for $135 roundtrip, well, I said, “C’mon. Let’s go.” That’s how I pick all my trips – based on the availability of ultra-cheap airfares.

    Now you understand for that price you can’t wear clothes or use the toilet and you have to fly tied to the wing.

    Okay, I’m lying about that part, but we could only bring a small bag that would fit under the seat in front of us, in order to avoid paying exorbitant baggage fees.

    I’ve done this type of flight a few times now, and it’s always an adventure to figure out how to cram all my clothes into a tiny case and still have room for my toothbrush and comb. I also need to be able to smash my purse into the case, because I can only get on the plane with “one personal item” the size of a flea.

    I look at this as an interesting puzzle, and so far it’s worked out. One key is that I bring a sweater or jacket with capacious pockets, so I can jam as much stuff as possible into them. Trust me, you do not need a jacket in El Salvador because it’s almost on the equator, but it helps you cram stuff.

    On the way home, I worried about trying to get my small cache of souvenirs into the same bag, but I figured if necessary I could just pull out the clothes and wear them. There’s no rule against wearing three layers of clothes onto the plane. However, amazingly enough, I was able to get the bag zipped, even with all the stuff in it.

    So, you are probably wondering what one does in El Salvador. Well, the country is a green paradise covered with gorgeous rainforests. We hired a guide and driver from EC Tours and did the “Ruta de las Flores,” which goes up into the mountains, where it’s reasonably cool and there really are flowers everywhere. And waterfalls. And volcanoes. And hot springs.

    We spent a day at the Santa Teresa Hot Springs resort, which costs the enormous sum of $10 for admission and gives you access to hiking, numerous hot soaking pools, cold soaking pools, and there’s also a restaurant and bar. There’s another hot spring resort next door, but we’ll have to wait for the next trip to check that one out.

    We also strolled around cobblestone streets in the cute town of Ataco, enjoying the many murals and drinking delicious local coffee. Until recently, coffee was the primary crop and export of El Salvador, and the culture is everywhere. (Nowadays, I was told that it’s been superseded by sugar cane.)

    People are incredibly kind and friendly there, although there isn’t much English spoken. If you don’t speak at least a little Spanish, you’ll spend a lot of time making hand gestures or – for those of you who are tech-savvy – using Google Translate.

    The official currency is the U.S. dollar, which means you don’t give yourself a migraine trying to sort out the conversion rate for dollars versus the local currency in your head. Next door in Guatemala, the rate is 7 quetzales to the dollar. Just try to figure that one out quickly while you’re deciding whether to buy a trinket.

    It’s so humid there that the slightest exertion meant I was perspiring like a dockworker in summer. After a short walk to a waterfall, I was so wet I had to change clothes, and I never went in the water. But I figure that I probably sweated out 10 years of toxins, so I really can’t complain. I got the sweat lodge experience without having to go into a sweat lodge.

    We loved El Salvador, and I’m already planning to go back. It’s a five-hour flight with beaches, volcanoes, rainforest and hikes. Just like Hawaii, except a lot cheaper. Check it out.

    (Hey, want to talk to me? Email me at [email protected])

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    ​ Orange County Register