Dragging ourselves lazily away from El Zonte we made a short stop in La Libertad for some cheap fruit, veg and cheese (about $1 per pound, bargain!) we soon crossed over a long winding mountain ridge before dropping over 250m in only 5km to the coastal town of El Cuco. The town itself is a little reminiscent of a seedy drug cartel run border town that has a distinct air of grime to it. We finally found a large rundown hotel with plenty of fenced off shady parking which looked like an ideal candidate to let us park up for a night or two. So we were a little confused when the younger gentleman said we could stay but his fat old mother refused to let us pay to park overnight. Her excuse? It was the weekend and other people would be coming to pay to park there for the day. Ummm ok, so they can pay to park here but we can’t?
Many travellers opt for Tortugas Hostel a short drive out of town, though word had crossed us that Punto Mango had a suitable campground. Jolting 11 kms down a dirt road we spent the next 45 minutes passing small local farms, tiny shacks, the odd tin shed church and large new estates with housing lots for sale. The camp site we were looking for was not marked nor, as we were soon to find out, even open at this time of year. Determined not to stay in a shitty dirt carpark area in town on a Friday night, in desperation we turned off onto what ended up being an even worse road. Actually this could only be described as one steep arse rocky dirt track, so precipitous and narrow our only choice was to grip the wheel, say our prayers and point her downhill…to another closed hotel.
Seeing a young couple milling around in the veggie garden we ask in our perfectly crap Spanish
‘Do you have camping?’
‘Well not usually’
comes reply from the bloke, in the Australian equivalent of a Southern US drawl . Gotta be a Queenslander. In the end he and his girlfriend, who manages the place, let us through the gates so we can turn around (Porkchop has a turning circle worse than a Boeing 747 jet). In the end Che-Che gives her boss a call to ask if we can stay but can’t get through, so takes an executive decision to allow us to stay. Pertfect, as this place is in it’s own secluded slice of heaven.
Complete with swimming pool and the best hammock, ever, we’d lucked out at this place. Whilst we won’t name the hotel as we don’t want campervans turning up every day asking to stay, we can say that it was right on the beach, totally secluded and the food was great. There was no surf at this time of year but the beach was stunning and peaceful, sunsets were epic, and if you took your yoga mat down for some downward dog on the beach, the crabs would all creep out while you held a pose, then dive back into their holes as soon as you moved. Jasper and Che-Che, his El Salvadorian wife, are lucky enough to be living here rent free with food benefits (lucky for Jasper, Che-Che is fantastic cook), and Che-Che even pulls a wage! Jammy bastards!
Punto Mango is a world class wave in season, and due to it’s seclusion (note our description of access road above!) it’s mostly accessed by boat. This leaves most afternoon and end of the season waves empty and Jasper, bastard, often had it to himself.
Jasper and Che-Che were amazing hosts, and we found it easy to chill out and chat with them, whilst learning a little about the area. For example, in the right season there are so many mangoes growing here it’s not possible to eat them all and they just fall on the ground to rot (WHAT?? With the price of a mango in London hovering around £1.50 minimum we were shocked). Also, the El Salvadorians love a bit of green mango. One guy brought in what looked to us like something you’d put in a vase, but was actually a stalk of small green mangoes which Che-Che proceeded to slice up, cover in salt and lime juice and offer around. Needless to say we’ll stick to ripe orange mangoes thanks!
Chilling out catching up on some blog, our tranquillity was slightly broken when a local guy came strolling up from the beach with an inflatable ring covered in netting. On closer inspection the net was full of fresh oysters which this guy had just swum out to collect. An opportunity too good to pass up, we bought a dozen and while Che-Che provided a plate from the kitchen we watched this guy expertly shuck these bad boys. A little fresh lime, a sprinkle of salt, and those bad boys were gone.
But the highlight of our stay here by far had to be the hammock. Never before have either of us sat in a hammock that immediately envelopes you with so much comfort that before you know it, and sometimes totally against your will, you’re fast asleep and drooling. This hammock seems to have been made by the great man above himself, as we’ve searched high and low for one of these things and to this date they’ve pretty much alluded us.
After a few zen days with only a handful of locals here and there daring to disturb our tranquility, we were hesitant to leave for the mechanic in town to attend to a noise we had.
As it was Saturday none of the mechanics could be arsed, and at the last place four fellas from out of town happened to be parked up out front, popping a few cold beers and spending their Saturday in El Cuco. Sure enough a couple of cervezas were promptly shoved into our fists. After some friendly conversation and our third beer, we realised the local police station right across the road had a few officers sat right out the front, how did we not notice that earlier?! Enjoying a laugh with the guys, one whose nickname happened to be ‘Pollo’ (chicken) as he worked at Pollo Campero, we left them and their boot full of booze to it and rattled on down back to camp. But not before their reassurances that the police would be more likely to pull them over than us tourists. Good luck boys!
If these sunset photos haven’t made you jealous enough you can check out more on Flickr!