A Travellerspoint blog

El Salvador

Changes & El Salvadorian hospitality at its' finest

semi-overcast 40 °C

Hello Everyone,

Ross mentioned in his last blog that we would be heading to Nicaragua....well, that didn't happen in the end. More often now on this trip our plans keep changing. Money is getting tighter, travel is expensive in Central America; and we still have so many experiences we want to enjoy, so we are getting pickier about the Countries to visit. Surf school was a priority for us, so we crossed the Guatemalan border by bus to El Salvador, aiming for the surf coast.

The journey from Guatemala to El Salvador was comfortable and the scenery at the border dramatically changed to ranch-like countryside, all horses and cowboys! The increase in wealth was prevalent, compared with it's neighbouring countries and the local currency is the US Dollar. Most El Salvadorians work overseas in the U.S and Australia, bringing the money home to enjoy a better standard of living. Tree lined boulevards, American style houses and a flat but well-maintained infrastructure is the norm in many areas.

The El Salvadorian border welcome is notoriously unfriendly....the young woman with eyes like ice and a face like thunder asked us a series of irrelevant questions on the bus, before storing my passport in her shirt pocket and departing the bus! She later returned and handed it back with no explanation. Apparently if you're French, there's a good chance you be told to go back to where you came from. Luckily immigration is not representative of the national psyche.

We stayed a night in San Salvador, but yearning for the coast, we arrived at San Diego, near La Libertad via three chicken buses (our fault - we missed our stop), interspersed with a Spanglish conversation with a chilled out Salvadorian bar owner, before arriving at a lovely guesthouse called El Roble, owned by well-travelled Brit Darren and his El Salvadorian Wife, Seca. The place was wonderful, so chilled, with delicious home cooked food every night around a family table. We honed our skills at ping-pong, tennis, football, French Boules on the lawn(!) and darts!! The place had two swimming pools and everything was lovely including Darren's music collection which we just had to take with us; but most importantly we met some great people who we shared many an after-dinner chat with. Medhi from Iran, Emma from Derby, some ladies from Canada and Andrea from Germany who is working there - we became good friends! This place was like adult 'youth club'! The weather was unbearably hot at times, oppressively humid, so we just enjoyed youth club along with a tiny exercise regime (we mustered a skip most evenings) and a visit to the main town of La Libertad for Ross to watch Liverpool lose to Chelsea.

Darren and Seca took us all to a local annual festival (Festival of the Cross) on Sunday where we watched ordinary men dressed as cowboys as well as genuine ranchers, ride out horse sprints in a galloping display of charged testosterone / 'pin the tail on the donkey' type contest. Odd, but good fun! We enjoyed puposas (small round naan breads filled with refried beans & cheese - a staple in this part of the World) and watched a colourful parade of flower displays through the small village.

Surf didn't happen either! Unfortuantely the waves, rocks and surf were not kind enough to complete novices like Ross and I...so somewhere else on the travels surf will be. So, while our entire reasoning for visiting the Country did not materialise, we had a thoroughly good time and met people we wouldn't have met otherwise, which makes more than half the pleasure of this trip.

After a thoroughly lazy time we took a flight to Panama City last night; Ross will update you shortly on Panama. Tomorrow we head for the Rio Chiriqui (about 7 hours West of the City) for white water rafting. (Incidentally, we're only in Panama to travel to Colombia, but our boat has been delayed until the end of the month, so here we are...again!)

Hope you're all good!

Lots of love

Ross & Charlie

Posted by charlieandross 15:31 Archived in El Salvador Comments (2)

Two thirds of the death triangle!

sunny 32 °C

I know that the heading seems a little dramatic, and in all honesty, it is. However we have heard so many stories about Guatemala City, San Salvador and Tegucigalpa (locally known as the death triangle) that we decided to take extreme caution when travelling through the first two cities. Guatemala City is, according to some 'experts', the most dangerous city in the world. Now I appreciate that most cities have their good, bad and indifferent areas but Guatemala City really was something different. For me it felt very isolated and the constant lack of street lighting, non existent pedestrians, and run down buildings very much gave it the feel of a ghost town.

Arriving in the city early evening, after a very long series of bus journeys, we avidly watched the zone signs fly past us as our Toyota minivan whizzed through the city. As a rule of thumb the lower zone numbers tend to be more dangerous (no go for tourists) and the higher zone numbers the safer, more suburban areas of the city. We were thoroughly relived when we found out that our hostel was in zone 12 and in a gated community. The more suburban areas do tend to be gated and also have armed security patroling the derelict streets. It was quite surreal to see men parading around the pavements holding automatic pump action shot guns just in case a 'situation' occurred. God only knows what actually happens if security have to actually use their weapons?

San Salvador proved to be exactly the same, more razor wire lined buildings and gardens coupled with friendly gun wielding security guards patroling the streets. Whilst the city was not typically latin American, the roads were a lot wider and cleaner, the undercurrent of gang violence and the threat of robbery still lingered large.

I guess the picture that I am trying to paint is not only a negative, but a realistic one. The reality of how some of these less developed cities actually function in this part of the world is different to other cities I have visited. Touch wood, we have not experienced any problems in this neck of the world yet, and long may that continue. However the social and political climate, as ever, dictates the way these cities work and for Charlie and I to see a glimpse of this first hand has ultimately been very educating.

I do not think we will make it to Tegucigalpa, and to be quite honest I am not bothered about seeing the city. I know Charlie has an old score to settle with the top dog of the 'zone 7 boys' but I had to remind her that her knife fighting skills are not quite what they use to be...

...so we have decided to head South and take on a Nicaraguan drug cartel instead. I think this is the sensible thing to do in the circumstances.

Love from
Ross and Charlie

Posted by charlieandross 10:22 Archived in El Salvador Comments (1)

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