‘Don’t drive through El Salvador, it’s too dangerous’
Thanks to all the media brainwashed Americans with no clue what’s actually below Mexico (ok, not all of you guys are like this) El Salvador is like a little piece of American free travelling in Central America. Nobody is shouting ‘Do you take American dollars?’ at the top of their voice or complaining about the lack of customer service, which gets worse the further south you travel.
Getting across the Guatemalan border was meant to be easy…meant to be. Having rocked up and gotten our exit permit stamped/cancelled (or so we thought), we were promptly turned around by the Customs Officer after passing through the El Salvadorian preliminary check (more here on how to avoid this). So we had to drive all the way back ot Guatemala (ok it was only a few kms but that’s not the point). Walking around and asking for help from people that have obviously never left the border no-mans-land due to illegal statuses in both countries, we became rightly pissed off in the oppressive heat before finally finding the correct place to get the permit cancelled.
Three visits to the correct office due to worker incompetency, we get the correct paperwork sorted eventually and make our way back to El Salvadorian Customs, only to have these guys dispute the title of the car as being a photo copy and not an original (each province in Canada has a different paper, as does most of the rest of the world, something which gets lost in translation down here). A three hour bureaucratic mission later we were released from the madness, winding our way along the mountainous coast past signs asking you to
‘Reduzca velocidad, surfistas en la via’…..’Reduce speed, surfers in the way’
Making it to the surf town of El Tunco for the night and not wanting to pay for camping due to our late arrival, we parked up on the street and ate some delicious wraps at nearby Jaguar Bar (great WiFi to boot). Matt retired to the van after dinner while Sarah stayed to get some blog updates posted. Making her way back to the van she found that Matt was sound asleep and the town had turned from Dr Jekyll into Mr Hyde. Turns out every weekend this place gets inundated with San Salvadorians who come to let off steam and get smashed and dance all night along with the throngs of surfing tourists.
One of the top night spots happened to be, you guessed it, right next to where we’d parked up for the night! Earplugs were a lifesaver, however even they couldn’t stop the sounds of the drunk English couple who came to sit in the gutter right by Sarah’s head to discuss whether they were going to have sex or not. The music finally ceased around 3am and we drifted off to a peaceful sleep.
Far from refreshed in the morning due to last night’s non stop party and drunken sex talk, we realised it best to find a more suitable campsite, though not before Matt grabs his booger (bodyboard) and hits the onshore slop, finding that the local crew at 6am in the morning are a friendly bunch, giving him his fair share of waves.
Not really wanting the bright light of El Tunco we headed to Sunzal known for its peace and quiet. Forcing poor Porkchop down the dirt road to the Sunzal hostel and surf retreat we found the place completely deserted, with all gates and rooms unlocked and open. Whilst set in a shaded grove it’s still a big walk down to the beach, and the lack of security made us head back to El Tunco, landing at Sol Y Mar hostel.
With a dirt yard set up for campers, WiFi, and great big trees which allow a peacefully shaded area, the place is only a short walk across to the beaches. There are also several private rooms quietly located at the back, though on the weekend be prepared, as this place doubles as a car park for the above mentioned San Salvadorians looking to (loudly) let their hair down. Although safe and friendly enough, they love their music loud and their car revving, a lot. The owners son also has a cute little black labrador puppy named fittingly enough ‘Negro’ who will entertain you for hours as he chases the chickens around the yard.
Meeting up another Aussie, Ben, we were soon down at the local bar, Mopelia, which serves Cadejo Craft beer (the only craft brewery in El Salvador). Whilst in the company of the friendly barman Jose, we find ourselves three pints deep on quaffable Roja red ale, albeit at a pricey USD$4 for a half pint. Next morning arrives again to Matt skipping on chores for a few more waves, arriving back disappointed that breakfast isn’t prepared and on the table (or in our case camping chair). Needing food we grabbed Aussie Ben and took Porkchop on a ride into La Libertad town. Not much to report here except that the cheese is cheap and it’s a mission to find a vessel containing water bigger that a thimble.
Supply demands met and back in Tunco, we headed up to Casa Miramar hostel for sunset. Perched above the main beach, with a vantage point which affords views of the sunset that would make the likes of Ansel Adams depressed that he could only photograph in black and white, the three of us settled in to watch new German mate Max destroy the onshore slop (waves).
Being on the tourist trail now is a little refreshing. Instead of swapping old ‘’Nam’ stories with each other that we’ve both heard a trillion times, we now have the chance to bore unsuspecting victims with them. Luck for them the stories (or the two of us) are usually randomly crazy. Hanging out with new found friends (Aussie’s Marcus and his girlfriend Hannah, German Max and Aussie Ben) we watched the sun set, feeling good vibes when we learnt we had Mercury, Venus and Mars all visible in the night sky at the same time, just off the horizon.
With attentions soon turning to which place to attack next, poor old Piratas Bar didn’t know what hit ’em. Spending 20 minutes on a wild goose chase as we’d heard karaoke night was on, we finally found the joint, were told karaoke wasn’t on for another couple of hours, so we hassled them into producing the missing microphone and letting us start now. With the staff shooting some ‘What the?’ looks at each other they soon sent a bloke off on his motorbike to fetch it, and we take the stairs up to rock star heaven. The six of us, a poor DJ and one microphone that’s in for a demolishing, with terrible renditions of Bohemian Rhapsody to get the mood set.
To ours, and the bar staffs amazement, the place was promptly heaving with locals and tourists alike, applauding one another to the musical diarrhea spewing out of every drunken mouth. Song of the night definitely has to go to Max and Marcus’s epic rendition of Rod Stewarts ‘If you think I’m sexy’! An outstanding effort considering neither of them had even heard of the song before.
The next day to shake off the hangover, we headed to the main beach and grabbed ourselves a couple of longboards. Now we wouldn’t suggest you try this on a Sunday, especially when you’re a beginner, as the place is heaving with beginners and there are boards flying everywhere. That coupled with the huge number of weekend surfers who actually know what their doing, a strong current that drags you down the beach, and watching a girl dragged out of the water after almost drowning, made this a rather unpleasant way to spend the day. Attempting to find a quieter spot down the beach, we made a stupid decision to head out across some rocks, where we spent the next half an hour stumbling and falling in the waves, not catching a single one, much to the amusement of everybody sitting at Casa Miramar to watch the sunset. Glad we could entertain you all!
Unfortunately there’s no pictures of our failed surfing attempt but there are more El Salvador pics on Flickr.