For my first night in El Salvador I want to get into Parque National El Imposible, described as one of the great remaining wilderness areas in Central America. The two guide books once again differ in their advice although both are equally cryptic with their directions to the entrance. Both suggest the best entry is via the small town of Tacuba, and then go on to describe something completely unrelated. I try my best to get in, at one point going up a gravel road so steep the Jeep will not physically climb it in regular first gear, I have to use low-range. That’s a first.
I meet a truck with some locals who tell me there is no way to get in from where I am and I’ve gone completely the wrong way. Hmm. I backtrack a long way and spend the night in a nondescript hotel near the town of Ahuachapán. My level of tiredness, hunger, my inability to communicate in Spanish and a long day leaves me feeling really lonely and a bit lost. Probably the loneliest I have felt for the whole trip.
I start to wonder what I’m doing with my life.
I feel much better after a good nights sleep and move along the Ruta del las Flores, a very famous mountain road in El Salvador that is fairly nice. El Salvador uses the US dollar as it’s national currency and things are absurdly cheap, probably owing to the $1.10 minimum wage.
The minute I pull into the Surfers Inn in Playa El Sunzal I know I’ve found a great place. Camping is $2.50 for a night, a big meal of pupusas which are kind of sealed over taco is $1.35 and cold beers are $1. There are a few surfers hanging around, some who have been living here for months and months they love it so much. A hundred meters away is the beautiful beach which has a great point break that rolls into the sandy beach.
The main beach at Playa El Sunzal
I stay for just over a week, attempting to surf, swimming, hanging out with all the guys and eating really well and exercising every day on the beach at sunrise. I also pay $125 for 20 hours of one-on-one Spanish lessons which help immensely. The guy really knows his stuff and we cover an insane amount of material. That’s not to say it all stuck in my head, but with practice over the coming months I really hope to get around a lot better.
Camping at the Surfers Inn
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Kate and I leave Antigua after an amazing time and move into Guatemala City for Kate to catch her plane home. We stay in a great hostel, Hostal Los Volcanes, right near the airport and I realize the friendliness of the neighborhood when I see most buildings have electrified razor wire on the top of the fences. I feel like the electricity added a nice little something. Kate flies out early in the morning and it’s a strange feeling to be on my own again, exciting & a little lonely.
I move south east to a small border crossing near the small town of Valle Nuevo. I park a couple of hundred meters before the main building on the Guatemalan side and about ten men literally run at me and surround the Jeep. I’m not entirely sure what is going on and when they ask for my passport and vehicle paperwork I am more than a little cautious. They are not wearing any kind of uniform and look like a pretty rag-tag bunch, so after carefully exchanging my money with them I do my best to ignore them, although they won’t leave me alone.
I drive down and park right in front of the building where I can clearly see the Jeep and ask the first uniformed guard I see for some guidance. One of my followers keeps pestering us and won’t leave me alone until I finally tell him to shut up and kindly ask the armed guard to continue. The guard tells me exactly where I need to go and I get the paperwork for the Jeep cancelled and move on.
I remember hearing stories about the kind of people that were pestering me – they try to get a person’s paperwork and ‘assist’ them to cross the border. All of this for an outrageous fee. My thoughts about this are confirmed when they realize I am not going to take the bait – they immediately move over to the next car and bus pulling in to see if they can hook a prize. I’m happy I handled it the way I did, and will have to remember it for the future as I’m sure it’s going to happen over and over again.
I cross a bridge over a deep valley and officially enter El Salvador. Filling in my own paperwork for the Jeep in Spanish is a little strange, apparently because the official there couldn’t be bothered doing it. I have to walk a hundred meters down to customs, where the guard tells me to walk around to immigration. Immigration, on the other side of the building, tells me they don’t need to see me and I should go somewhere else. Where that might be I have no idea. I walk around the building again and the same guard as earlier lets me in, where all my paperwork is typed onto the computer and I’m given the official paperwork for three months of entry for the Jeep. My CA-4 stamp in my passport means I personally enter free, and the Jeep costs nothing here as well.
Fifty meters down the road I am stopped one last time for a final paperwork inspection and then I am given the all clear to move off into El Salvador.
What’s next? I have no idea.
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