Monday, January 5, 2009

Adv #7 Continued: El Salvador

Okay. El Salvador. (We entered El Salvador on New Year’s Day, but I’m posting this January 5th here in Granada, Nicaragua.)

We got to the Guatemala-El Salvador border town of Pedro de Alvarado at about 1:00 on January 1st. The folks there were friendly, and didn’t try to drag out the process too much, but we weren’t finished until 4:00, and that’s getting much too close to sundown.

At the border was my first tense “conflict” with anyone during this trip. Standing there sorting through paperwork for the officials, some drunk guy walked up and started jabbering at me in Spanish. I kept saying “I don’t understand,” and “I don’t speak Spanish” over and over to him, and he just seemed to get more and more agitated over the fact that I was really just ignoring him. Eventually, he nudged my arm from behind, and I gave him a quick, stern warning to back off. Eye to eye for a tense moment, he quietly slid away and walked over to the building about 5 meters away, but then he took out his machete. (Many people along these roads carry a machete, so no big deal.) Muttering some drunken crap in Spanish, he swung the machete at the cement pillar nearby for a minute, but the armed border officers noticed too and they started surrounding the area. Realizing his machete was no match for the guns surrounding him, he slowly left the area and we finished out paperwork. (I know, I were hoping for the story where I threw him through the window in the customs building! Sorry to disappoint. I will escalate the matter next time.)
Above is a picture of the two brothers that helped us get to the right offices in the right order. These border crossings down here always have “expeditors” trying to help you get through more easily. In this case, it was two brothers just trying to make a few extra bucks helping where they could. I couldn’t be happier than to hand a few dollars the way of some poor kids that are friendly and honestly trying to help.

Our late departure from the border had us searching for a hotel or camping much too late and we had to ride around for a while in the dark to find a place. Hey though…we were in El Salvador! A small country that I hardly knew anything about was ahead of us for the next couple of days, and that’s pretty neat to me.

We settled for a beach front hotel in the beach town of Acajutla, but the hotel we were stuck with was easily the nastiest place I’ve stayed at in my life. Bugs all over the walls, smelling awful, tiny, cramped, dirty. It was awful, but the only decent one we could find at that late hour. I worked up the courage to hop in the shower (with no shower head as you can see) and as soon as I got my face all soaped up, the water cut off! I guess we needed the 7 dollar room instead of the 6 dollar one. Thanks, Peter for taking the picture and talking with the manager to get the water running again. Since then, I’ve been rinsing my eyes pretty quickly…
Impressions of El Salvador were not the greatest, so we just made our way to the east coast the next day, looking to get out of places that really don't appeal to us. The ride is nice along the coast. Some good views and beaches with modest mountains in the background to the north. But if I could make one recommendation to the people of El Salvador: Stop throwing garbage all over your country! There is garbage EVERYWHERE, and it just ruins the scenery in so many places. People are nice, and there are plenty of volcanoes, lakes, rivers, and scenery. But it’s all so tainted with the garbage spread all over the roads, we just felt like moving on.
Our 2nd and last night there, we stayed in the fishing port town of La Union, and had fun meeting some fellow travelers and folks from the area. Off to Honduras the next morning, I guess we just didn’t find much in El Salvador that warranted much extra time there. Yes, there are ruins and more scenery, and those are easy to get to when you travel by motorcycle. But in poor countries like this, we will not leave our bikes unattended in a parking lot, especially with all of our belongings strapped to them. Even if we did leave our gear alone in parking areas, that means we'd have to go hiking around in the heat in all of our protective gear. (Very uncomfortable, especially in such heat.) To visit things like museums and ruins really means taking an entire day off and keeping our stuff locked up safely in a hotel.

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