A Travellerspoint blog

El Salvador, part 2

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New Years in El Salvador is a family holiday. We have spent the past few days at a couple beaches: Playa San Diego and Playa El Tunco. Similar to Christmas Day, the beaches were full of families on New Years Day. Latins know to have a good time--they have us gringos beat on that point, hands down. And naturally, we had another Bagdad night New Years Eve.
Many El Salvador beaches are known for their surfing. These are also swimmable, though strenuous.
Backing up, we spent a couple days in San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador. We enjoyed the city, much moreso than Santa Ana. A Sunday afternoon in Centro was fun. First, we rode the bus (20 cents). There is a wide disparity between rich and poor in El Salvador, and therefore folks try to make money in any way possible. It is common for someone to get on the bus and give a sales spiel to his captive audience, selling vitamins, or in our experience, toothbrushes. Good ones, too, four for a buck!
Once in the center of the city, there were myriad examples of folks selling anything and everything, all packed together in block after block of stalls. More jeans than I knew existed, shirts, underwear, socks, shoes, food, hammocks, watch bands, CDs, DVDs, fireworks . . . how does it all ever get sold? At one point, a Latino woman looked at us with a very confused look on her face, and said in perfect English, "What are you guys doing here?" As in, "are you crazy?" We both laughed.
Found a great local restaurant that night where all the locals come to eat . . . pizza! It was great, and they had NFL on the TV.
Back to the beach.
Today, we took a bus with our new amigos from Canada to a small village up the mountain, and went for a hike to a waterfall (la cascada). Our guide, Pedro, took us across his farmland to a sweet mountain stream with pools and waterfalls. The chilly water felt great after working up a sweat.
One more night at the beach.
Honduras mañana.

Posted by ceastburn 15:58 Archived in El Salvador Comments (1)

This time, the police rode in OUR vehicle

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So we took the short drive from Santa Ana to San Salvador today.
When we arrive in San Salvador, our Garmin had a major fail. Although we had reservations at a place that takes dogs, we could not find it.
While we were sitting at a street corner (in the Jeep), trying to make sense of a vague map since Michelle the Garmin lady was AWOL, two policemen approached and we asked for their help. They got the phone number of the hotel, called, and determined we would need their direction to get there.
So . . . two San Salvador (El Salvador) policemen piled in our Jeep. One in front, and I crawled in the back seat (leg room occupied by bags) with the pups, sitting on their water bowl during the process. The other policemen happily crawled in beside me. Their two large machine guns went with the officer in the front seat. I cannot make this up.
They took us on a short tour of the barrio (Universidad de San Salvador), telling us how they worked the protests/riots at the school hace cuatro años. Quickly, they found our hotel. We all piled out of the vehicle, me with a wet fanny, thanks given and shook hands . . . todo bien.
No, we are not employed by a reality television show.
Tonight, we went La Ventana, a hipster bar whose patron saint seems to be Picasso. It is a cool place with nice art, great music, good wine and food.
I believe this might be all there is to report for today.

Posted by ceastburn 21:32 Archived in El Salvador Comments (1)

Hiking a volcano in El Salvador

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First, we woke up after a good night's sleep with the Schipperkes in the tent! They seem to be learning to discern what merits barking, and what can slide. I know, I know . . . the folks at Green Man Brewery will have a hard time believing that.
We prepared our first meal on our fancy little MSR Whisperlight stove: huevos revueltos y queso. And press coffee from our JetBoil.
After packing, we made our way to the park office, from where volcano hikes begin.
Found a fully shaded parking spot, and got the pups settled in with their cool mat and fan. Plus, we were comforted that there were several armed guards in the parking lot.
We set off on the hike with a large-ish group of people (30-40?), which began with a l-o-n-g descent. 533 steps, to be exact. This concerned me. As a cyclist, I know darn well, what goes down, must come up.
And then came the up. First through a forest, which became more and more sparse. Eventually, we were hiking on loose rock/lava, in full sun. At 2300 meters. With armed guards scattered all along the way. It was beautiful, and well worth the effort. Besides, it was a killer workout.
At the summit we saw the volcano's (Volcán Santa Ana) crater and turquoise sulfuric pool. It erupted most recently in 2005, triggering landslides that killed two coffee pickers and forced the evacuation of thousands. The pool is still percolating, sending bubbles to the surface. And rocks break off the side of the crater every now and then (twice while we were there), creating quite a sound before falling to the pool.
It was certainly a first for me, and strengthened my respect for the power of Nature.
The descent was tough on the knees and stability in general was a challenge. Once down, we had those 533 steps (UP this time). Kind of a stinger for the day.

Posted by ceastburn 21:07 Archived in El Salvador Comments (0)

Camping in the shadows of three volcanoes

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We spent the first part of today in Santa Ana, and found out that the black stuff we saw falling from the sky yesterday is indeed from volcanoes. And we thought someone was just burning trash.
We utilized a couple great coffee shops with free WiFi, tried to make arrangements for the next few nights, did a little catching up, and bought a SIM card for El Salvador. We have not seen any other gringos since the Guatemalan border. It seems that El Salvadorans don't see many gringos, period. We attract a lot of attention, 99% positive. And many El Salvadorans, especially the younger generation, speak English. They are eager to practice, and eager to help us.
We found our way to Parque Nacional de los Volcáns, and found our first Jeep road. We certainly used 4WD, but were a little crestfallen (and impressed) when we saw the "ordinary" vehicles that made it up here, including school buses. Bet their undersides are plenty scratched.
We are currently sitting at our campsite, drinking beer and wine, doing puzzles by lantern light, and composing this installment to be posted the next time we have WiFi access. There are many El Salvadorans around us. Families, a group of silly guys, and church groups. I can hear conversations, laughter, bugs, and music--live singing and recorded. Even in español, I can identify cheesy christian rock.
The views in all directions are breathtaking. And there is a nearly-full moon rising over the trees.
Life is very good.
Tomorrow we will hike one of the volcanoes.

Posted by ceastburn 17:46 Archived in El Salvador Comments (0)

Getting to El Salvador

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Every border crossing is different.
First, our journey on Wednesday started with a 20-minute ferry ride down a river, which saved us about 2 hours of driving. Please check out the photos of this magical experience on Facebook.
The border crossing was not so magical. First, getting out of Guatemala, we were swarmed by guys who wanted to "help" us. They were such assholes! Kind of like river flys (Mormon flies) back in Burlington, IA. But, no problem. When polite, "no gracias" had no effect, we told them to fuck off and went about our business. One of the officials filled out a form for us using carbon paper to make 3 copies.
Just as we have read, there is a long form to fill out for the vehicle (in español). And then, the El Salvador side . . . the line through migration (passport check) was endless. A big bus load of folks were waiting, plus a lot of holiday traffic. We waited 1-2 hours. Pups in the Jeep on their cool mat, battery-powered fan on. Vendors were selling food and drink--smart. Next, we drove through what appeared to be the vehicle part of the whole thing, and the official whisked us through. Cool, we thought. Not so fast. The next guys indicated we needed to return to the oficina for something else. Mother of Buddha, we were not prepared to wait another 2 hours . . . However, this was a different office. We handed the man our paperwork for the Jeep. We knew we were in for another wait when he motioned for us to sit down. After at least 30-45 minutes, we finally heard the sound of his printer. Douglas signed some documents, the official handed us a paper, and we were free to go.
The good news is, El Salvador is a tiny country geographically. We made it to Santa Ana in no time.

Posted by ceastburn 09:04 Archived in El Salvador Comments (0)

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