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Monday, May 13, 2013

LUCKY TO BE IN EL SALVADOR


We head down through the smoke shrouded hills of Honduras. It is the end of the dry season & the time for burnoff, as a result we see everything through a haze of smoke. Finally down to the Pacific coast flatlands, stopping for the night at another recommendation – Hacienda Gualiqueme. It’s a lovely hotel on the outskirts of the city of Choluteca, with lovely grassy grounds (under trees), sorely needed swimming pool & Wifi. All for $10. We had planned to go to the ATM, supermarket & petrol station, but what the heck, tomorrow will do. Pina Coladas by the pool are much better.

Tomorrow arrives. It is May Day holiday & our road is closed with a parade. We head out to watch & give up on going back into town. So instead we head off to the border. Yes I know we haven’t finished Honduras….but El Salvadore is stuck on the side. We are rating it is a 20% to 30% chance of getting in. Our friends last year were refused entry with their right hand drive vehicles. After only crossing a border yesterday, it is very tempting to just give it a miss. At the Honduras side we are assured they if we have to return we can pick up our old paperwork without going through the hassle of reapplying & paying the $35 for the vehicle. So in we head. Immigration is a breeze. Then 5 kms down the road to the very efficient vehicle inspection.Yay we are legally in!! The customs officials stated that in their entry manual only very good looking tourists were allowed.

The first part of El Salvadore is scruffy & poor, so we head on to the volcanic area. There seem to be more volcanoes here than Nicaragua.  For our first night we head up to the little hill town of Alegra, famous for its many viveros/plant nurseries. It is Sunday & the town is packed with local tourists making the cobbled streets congested. Then we head up to the volcanic crater – La Laguna de Alegra for the night. We meet lots of cars coming down & the crater empties out by dark of picnickers. We have our very own crater lake & BBQ spot. Magic!

We head on down the mountains to the follow the Pacific coast. There are many lovely curves of black sand surf beaches on the Costa de Balsama. Most of it is private land. Albeit fancy hotels or shanty villages. It is hot so we turn & head back to the mountains towards the Ruta de Flores. We are hoping to camp in Bosque El Imposible (a Nat Park), but it proves impossible to find as mist descends. Instead we spy a hotel & ask there. We can park for free in their carpark. Perfect. It starts to rain heavily.

The next morning is bright & clear as we drive the Ruta de Flores passing many more coffee plantations, many more volcanoes, & lots of villages. We happen upon another parade in Juayua. The local beauties sit on their Dad’s decorated vehicle (cars, utes, horse & buggy) throwing lollies to the crowd. Finally we descend to the flatlands & detour out to a Mayan site- a pyramid at Tazumal. There are heaps of kids on school trip. Hopefully they are more impressed than we are. Then we head on to Santa Ana, planning to see the cathedral. No parking as the streets are overflowing with stalls – so it is a drive by before heading on to Lago Coatepeque. We fancy a camp spot beside the lake & maybe a swim to cool down. It is not to be – there is very little public access left, & that is steep, as this is another crater lake. So we drive around the rim & continue on to Cerro Verde National Park where we are allowed to camp overnight. I am sure they overcharge us for entry at $14, but as we stay 2 nights it is no big deal. We have at least 7 guards at night, all with big guns. We have found everywhere in El Salvador guards with lots of big guns. Security is big business here!

The next morning we decide to “do” the viewpoint meander, but find both the entry & exit locked. We need a guide! Next we decide to “do” the guided & guarded walk/hill climb to the top of the active cinder cone of Izalco. BIG mistake. I should have watched John from the lookout. It was a long 1500 steps down through forest to the lava flow, then a massive scramble up the rough track to the crater. The poor tail end charley guide was stuck with waiting for me. Then of course we had to get down (there were a few who slipped over- guess all those heavily armed military guys could carry any of us out) & then back up 1500 steps! I was so pooped we stayed another night.

At least that means that we are heading into the city of San Salvador on Sunday. Much easier traffic wise, although street stalls still overflowed onto the road. Parking was easy in the centre, so we simply drove to each historic building we wished to see – jumped out for a quick look & continued on. Not the sort of place to leave GR2 sitting unattended for too long. As a bonus services were on at the cathedrals, making them more personal. But first we had another stop to yet another volcano overlooking San Salvadore. Fortunately this one has a road nearly to the top & great lookouts into the volcano with a second crater inside. Even the museum was great.

Only a few more stops in El Salvadore –first the the lakeside colonial town of Suchitoto & then the craft village of Las Palmas. We overnighted at Las Palmas hotel carpark. I wanted to see the local artist’s museum, but it was well & truly locked so we headed to the border.

Hola again Honduras!! Well eventually. There is a huge queue of trucks that we drive past, but John has to wait with the truck drivers to return his Temp Vehicle license, so by the time we get paperwork done for the Honduras side the bank has closed for an hour - & we have to pay our fees there. Oh well, at least we can have lunch. Finally hola Honduras.

 

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