El Salvador

27th Nov

Ginette playing dropsies. El Salvador.

We had breakfast in one of the towns small roadside cafes, (scrambled eggs, mashed black beans a little goats cheese and some French bread) the lady was really smiley and attentive and made us feel very welcome and all for £3 each.

Ginette – the lady had a lovely smile and reminded me of my Aunty Jenny, as kids we spent a lot of time with this amazing woman and her family.

The ride to the border was mainly down hill but we still had a few climbs to do, the road conditions varied greatly and we had to be careful on the downhills due to pot holes. This area is lush green and we had had some great views today.

Stopping for a picture Net lost control of her stationery bike and did a slow motion crash, no harm done other than breaking her headphones cable and a few bruises.

At one of our drink breaks a young man came over to us as we were about to go and gifted to us a cold sports drink, these guys don’t have much themselves so it’s lovely when something like this happens to us.

For dinner we aborted our attempts to order food in one cafe, the lady was a real “computer says no” type of person so we walked out. In contrast we ate a Chinese meal from another street cafe and witness the lady cross the road to a shop to buy the drinks we ordered.

Ginette had some Guatemalan spare cash so treated us both to new tops, however these only cost £1 each so didn’t use much of her money.

Ginette’s bike must be tired because whilst we were shopping it did another kamikaze dive, a local lad came over to point out Nets bike playing dead across the road. 

The border crossing was so easy we were worried we had missed a station, we were stamped out of Guatemala but there was no office on the El Salvador side, we had to check with a policeman that we didn’t need a stamp entering his country.

We had 8 miles to cycle to a known love motel and this was all up hill, climbing approx 1200ft.

The Love motel was actually quite nice, the shower room was fully tiled, spacious and clean. The best we have had for a while and at £11 not a bad price.

Ginette – first impressions of El Salvador, we have heard/read so many negative stories about this country that I jumped out of my skin when a car back fired, I seriously thought we’d been shot at.  The people are less smiley than Guatemala, I suppose they have a lot to be wary about, as the country has a very high homicide rate (mainly drug related).

28th Nov 

Day one El Salvador and a very hilly start

We had a meal of Pupusas last night. Pupusa is a traditional dish in El Salvador of corn bread flatbread stuffed with your choice of ingredients, it’s served very hot and you eat it with your hands, hence you need to wait for it to cool down. The corn bread has the same off putting smell as the Mexican and Guatemalan corn bread but the addition of the ingredients inside seem to help as we actually enjoyed them and they only cost us 40p each.

Ginette – the pupusas were OK but as I looked at the chef, her daughter and granddaughter I couldn’t help thinking, about the calories contained in these little snacks. After dinner we wanted something sweet but the only shop available was behind bars, I find it really restrictive asking/pointing for what I want without being able to browse the shops. We take it for granted in the UK walking around shops/pharmacies, but in South/Central America especially after dark it is rare to walk into a shop.  Even if you have this luxury, it is highly likely there will be an armed guard by the till and the door.

In the morning we made our own coffee on the stove as usual, cooking in the room but had breakfast in the nearby town of Ahuachapan as we needed to find WiFi to decide on our route options. First stop in town was to purchase a SIM card as my phone had no signal using the Guatemalan sim. The small shop I used set this up for me but between us we couldn’t communicate so stopped at another Claro store where they set me up with credit and WiFi as well.

Ahuachapan is a fairly large town and had a good feel to it, lots of stores and busy streets so a good place for sorting the phone and breakfast. We decided to cycle the Route De Flores, it is supposed to be very scenic and have a few pretty towns to pass through, we are then headed down to the Pacific coast to have a break from the mountains.

Today we have been climbing again up hill’s ranging from 5% to 8% with very little in the way of flats and downs for breaks, cycling up these hills in 32 degrees is hard work especially as it took us nearly 3 hours to reach the first town where we finally bought some cold drinks as we were parched.

Conception de Taco, the first town, was kind of touristy. It had the usual souvenir shops and even a tractor drawn carriage ferrying tourists around. There were some westerners here but most of the tourists were South American. I am now the proud owner of a new shirt to wear for New Year’s Eve and other occasions, all my other clothes are far to shabby (like me at the moment).

Ginette – the town had lots of colourful murals on the walls and cobbled streets.

We cycled up again to the next town of Apaheca, this was not so far but by the time we reached there I was feeling pretty much done in, Net suggested we stop here so we stopped in small hostel. One double bed and two single beds in our room, it’s a bit squashed but at least we had it to ourselves. It had a kitchen we could use but it was open plan next to the living room in which granny was sitting watching telly. This place was more an air B and B but without the hosts leaving.

A small parade passed through the town of men women and children all on horseback with music fireworks and gunshots. The town had an eating area a bit like a Butlins / superstore cafe area, we again ate the local Pupusa dish, this and two beers for $4.

A dog had taken a liking to me, resting his head on the chair next to me and eventually resting his head on my lap.

Ginette – we stayed in the Butlin like resort longer than planned as it was raining, Gary had a double banana split desert which was easily big enough for two but he managed to wolf it down.  

 

29th Nov

We can see the sea.

We were woken up at 5am by the same group of horseman and drummers, parading at 5pm singing and blasting guns and fireworks 

I used the kitchen to make coffee and cereal and the old lady of the house appeared and kept an eye on me. She was muttering to herself and when she went into the loo was having an animated conversation with herself. I suspect she is not particularly well.

We had an easy ride today, the first 18 miles was all down hills of 4 to 8% we hardly needed to use the pedals. We had some good views across the valleys and of the volcanoes. This road is called the Ruta des Flores, the route of flowers. Lots of roadside blossoms all down the hill.

We stopped at Sonzacate, a large town bustling and noisy. We find the Central American shops are competing for business by seeing who can play the largest speakers from the doorway. 

El Salvador has a bad reputation for the amount of crime and murders committed but we feel safe enough around these people some are outwardly friendly but I have noticed it is harder to achieve any smiles.

The ride after this town was on the main roads as we had left the ruta des Flores, the large main road had heavy vehicles but a hard shoulder for us to ride on. We turned off as we headed for the coast and are cycled on a B road that was pretty flat and we were close to sea level (this morning we were higher than Ben Nevis at over 4400ft).

An impoverished woman with hairy patches on her arms and her 6 year old filthy dirty son with soil encrusted hands (this is not a judgment, just trying to show the condition of this little family) came and tried to talk to us, she mentioned comer(food) well as we were sitting eating our packed lunch we could hardly let them go without so shared food and sweets with them, along with a few dollars.

I will point out that there were others around who didn’t look so poor so there was also a healthy community here.

We camped on the beach at a poor campsite, the owners live on a beach in a straw shack and cooked us dinner of prawns rice and salad (we enquired about buying some fish for us to cook but ended up with them cooking for us) there were a few other local shacks around, a bunkhouse and a posh resort hotel 50 metres down the beach hence we are the poor neighbours.

The sand was black and the sea was warm with big waves to play in. We arrived early afternoon so had had a good refreshing play in the sea.

The beach area was nice, The campsite was cheap and functional but there were few grocery stores or bars so we decided to take a risk and move on to the next cluster of beach surfing towns, hopefully this will not be the wrong decision 

Ginette – this was a lovely quiet area but the facilities were very basic, the toilet had a door but it didn’t lock, there was no shower facilities and at times no running water to wash our dishes or hands after using the toilet.  It was interesting watching the local families living what appeared to be a very simple life of fishing, eating and chilling, but their houses were very shack like and vulnerable being so close to the sea.

30th Nov

Should have listened to our nagging doubts.

A very hot sweaty night, our tent is not good in hot climates, the Hilliburg is a good quality tent but we had not researched how it would cope in hot weather.  Sleeping outside in the fresh air is a nice idea but the only way to enjoy our tent is to keep all the doors open and unfortunately although this makes it bearable, the insects think we have invited them to dinner.

We were in two minds weather to stay another night as the area was quiet, the beach was nice and we could put up with the ropy campsite. However there was a surfing resort 28 miles along the coast with loads of backpacking places so we opted to cycle on so we could settle for a couple of nights in one place.

The ride was hilly with several climbs and descents to contend with, we climbed over 1800 feet but never higher than 100 feet in altitude. We did have some good views of the Pacific Ocean and past a few other beach areas, most were lower down the cliff faces of this rocky coastline.

Arriving at our destination of El Tunco we found a week long surfing contest taking place, loads speakers broadcasting on the beach and a busy resort. The place was at odds to everything we had seen elsewhere, it had loads of cafes and hotels all squeezed in a small area protected by security gates at each entrance. We quickly realised that all the prices were hiked up in this area and knocked on a lot of hostels and hotels to try to get a good price. We did find rooms at 25 dollars, and a really rough camping pitch for 5 dollars but the cafes and shops were also overpriced. We soon regretted leaving the last site.

We moved on another 5 miles to a larger town called El Majahaul, but we had the same problem trying to find a discount hotel as the town was close to the main city and it was Friday so it was due to be busy for the weekend.

We cycled on again to Playa SAN Diego, it was now getting late and we ended up still paying 25 dollars for a room, but we were at the beach and we had a pool even if the hotel was a little tired itself. 

The sea was well fierce and we had a little play in the waves but we didn’t venture too deep as it looked and felt risky.

There was not a lot else in this area to keep us there another day so we made the decision to move on again, this meant an inland trip of another 110 miles till we can reach another beach resort.

Ginette – a very frustrating day, we have a tight budget and know that outside the resorts we can find accommodation for under $15 so resent paying more but towards the end of the day we decided to give in and pay the extra money. On the upside we had a balcony overlooking the pool and sea on the downside we shared the room with spiders, a colony of ants and god only knows what other wildlife. The air-conditioning didn’t work, the springs in the bed were poking through the mattress which was exceptionally saggy and we had limited water for the sink and toilet. Not great but we’ve stayed in worse. 

30th Nov

A day of head down cycling.

We covered approx 65 miles on main roads of varying quaility, we had 110 miles to go to the point of interest so that meant the days riding was about covering ground.

We did stop at the 30 mile point at a large town called Zacatecoluca (not an easy one to pronounce), it was the usaul busy noisy town that we are used to. We completed some food shopping and had lunch and took some photos by a large christmas tree and snow men.  I am not even sure if they ever get real snow here.

I was getting weary with 18 miles to go so had to stop more often for drinks but a shot of coffee sorted me out, Ginette was doing fine but flagged with 3 miles to go and stuffed her face with dry biscuits and warm water.

We spent the night in an Auto motel, or as we prefer to call them a love motel, charges are by the hour as well as all night fees. They are usualy clean tidy and roomy and this one was one of the better ones so we were happy with it especialy as it was only $10 a night

If you are aware of how jumpy Ginette can be then you will find this next bit funny. We were just starting to settle into the room when Ginette thought she heard a knocking, when she heard it again she searched for the source, lifting the lid of a box by the side of the bed she jumped out of skin when a hand poked through with a TV remote control, towels and some soap.  There are now finger nail marks in the ceiling that will tae some explaining.

Ginette – This was hilarious the man kept on talking to me but I was reduced to a fit of the giggles. Can you imagine opening a box next to your bed and a hand poking through?? These Love Hotels are really quirky, they include mirrors and tissue boxes above the bed but they are so clean and roomy. I love them.

More pictures from El Salvador

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