The more I travel, the more travelers I meet are avoiding Salvador altogether. All the countries in Central America are supposedly dangerous, but probably El Salvador has the worst and unjustified fame of them all. We woke up to leave Honduras early morning, expecting a very long day on the buses. After wasting a good part of the day trying to leave the island, we caught the last bus from La Union towards the beach “El Cuco”. Unfortunately, we only got as far as the beach “Las Tunas” – a “very dangerous” place, with intense “gang activity”, according to the Lonely Planet guide. Turns out to be a very chill place, no tourists at all, and most of the hotels closed, or at least not expecting anyone (or at least not at 7pm when we got there). Few drunk guys wandering the streets, plenty of kids and locals queuing for cigarettes and grocery at the supermarket and few street food stands serving food by a billiards bar filled with young “and extremely dangerous gangsters”.
Traveling in two (or more) and walking around for a good deal has its advantages – like finding a cheaper room, with AC, for only 25USD, compared to the 2nd cheapest one we found, for 35USD. And I still can’t picture the person who started the fashion of cramming two double beds in one room, sold as double. Few pupusas later (the traditional salvatorian street food), washed down with some “Pilsener” beer from the supermarket nearby, I didn’t care anymore, and here we are, ready to waste a good night in a random place, each having his own double bed. Luxury. However, the sleep was so good with the AC on – a very first on my trip so far, and the beach was nice and empty in the morning.
The destination for the next day was Playa El Esteron, next to El Cuco – hostel “La Tortuga Verde”. That’s maybe less than 10km straight line on the beach, or 25km, 3h and 2 bus changes + a taxi away. Let the adventure begin! Trapped just like on the previous island, we wasted a couple of hours waiting for a bus that would never pass on that road. Before changing to the second bus, we decided to take our backpacks for a walk along the road to enjoy the nature (and the scorching sun). We walked for a while in the shade of mango and cashew trees, dropping their delicious fruits in our path – a temptation hard to ignore. So I pick up a cashew nut in its skin, and start playing with it, looking for a way to crack it open. Tara sees me and decides to take “the matter” into her own hands, or… mouth. So she quickly bites the cashew with both sides of her mouth. If you’re from Europe, you probably think “and what’s so special about that?”. I didn’t want to bite it since I picked it up from the dust, but soon we found out why it’s NOT so healthy to do it. Did you know it’s a plant related to poison ivy? It was painful to watch Tara scrubbing her lips for few good minutes with bitter mango to try to remove the rash.
Our last part of the trip to the hostel was a dusty 4km road we decided to walk. A bad decision turned good by stopping for beer in every bar on the way. The hostel was probably a good place to hang out, volunteer and surf, but with expensive food and no supermarket (“super”) or street food in the vicinity. The highlights of the stay there were a walk to rent kayaks (but one store was closed and the other had only two single kayaks available), a beach fire that lasted about 2min before collapsing, and a sunset boat ride we didn’t even pay for as they forgot the tubes for water-tubing and the beer.
Although quite far away from the Southern beach of El Esteron, taking the bus at 8am gave me enough time to reach Santa Ana, where I got news that Tinkerbell is waiting to be picked up. I rode the bus with Rachel and Sandra, who had a different destination in mind, but also ended up in Santa Ana due to an unfortunate change of bus terminals in San Salvador. And their change of itinerary created the opportunity for me to get a good haircut by a Swedish hair stylist! Thanks, Sandra!
My expectations about the bike were met: lousy patch-up job, with no new parts ordered, completed by promises that “we’ll send you new chrome pipes from the USA”. Did all I could to arrange a good transport to Panama without suspecting those are just promises. Though I am thankful it’s running and I can use it, I was left with some bitter taste. Couple of days later, in San Salvador, I found out they even disconnected the front turn signals which would normally light up, by design, when the engine is on.
Thanks to the Belize meeting, I was introduced to Hernan from Panteras club in El Salvador, and I got to meet him over a change of oil. I spent a few hours in his house/workshop, meeting a few other club members, and almost got patched 🙂 The lack of a leather vest was not a problem, as the club president, Marvin, quickly shows up with a long black leather trench coat to offer. Not only it’s big and it’s hot like hell here, but the thing is 2XL!!! Good joke, Marvin! And I have to thank Hernan again for a nice evening trip to the top of the hill, a trip I took with a passenger – my adventurous CouchSurfing host. I had a full day in San Salvador and met nice people. Never felt unsafe. They have their own shopping malls with Pizza Hut, fast foods and they also dress up nice. It’s not a poor country, so don’t avoid it in your next trip!
Whole journey map