Travel Journal: En El Salvador

My wife  Carrie was in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua from 2005-2007 and when she finished her service, we backpacked up Central America by bus. Along the way, I sent out e-mails to family and friends with updates of what we had seen and done. This page features my e-mail from El Salvador, as written on March 24, 2007 and completely unedited.

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Carrie and I are currently sitting in glorious air conditioning in Honduras after a jam-packed week in El Salvador. We are heading to the Bay Islands in a few minutes to relax and possibly get scuba certified. As for photos, I attached a few related to this email as well as a few from the Corn Islands in Nicaragua, but I couldn’t upload to Snapfish due to computer issues…hopefully next time. In the mean time, some more stories…

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A  Random Day in El Salvador

After a nine hour bus ride to San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, and wandering around the city for a while, Carrie and I found that the restaurant we were going to eat at was closed.

However, next door was a hostel and we figured they could give us information on where to eat as well as how to use the local buses to go up north to another town the next day.

withthecrewelsalvadorAfter about two minutes of talking, Dionorra (the woman who came to the door) offered to give us a lift. She then invited us into the hostel for dinner and conversation.

It turned out that she and her husband, Jose, had just sold the hostel and were moving to Barcelona (where Jose is from) later in the week. Well, needless to say we accepted the ride and met up with them the next morning.

Upon arriving at the hostel, we saw a pickup truck with the back completely filled with household items including plants, a dresser, a table, a washing machine and bags of clothes.

As there were four people in the family travelling (Dionorra, her mom, Jose, and their little niece), it was Carrie and I that had the honour of sitting on the back of the truck. Carrie’s seat was on top of a bag of clothes while mine was on top of the table, above the top of the truck. Check out the attached pics…

Needless to say, I was a bit nervous but what else could we do. It didn’t help that Jose was speeding along at speeds up to 75mph and much of our trip involved windy roads with Carrie and I holding on to whatever we could. The dresser kept getting blown forward onto us so we spent half the ride pushing it back with our backs.

backofpickupI would have to imagine if we were not there it would have blown away into someone else’s windshield. The best part had to be some of the looks we got from people driving by us.

While driving through one random little town, an entire school full of children leaving for the day all waved to us and said hi. I’m sure that every one of them went home and told their parents about the crazy white people they saw riding on the back of a truck.

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Two hours later we arrived, none-the-worse for wear, and found ourselves at Dionorra’s mom’s house in a little village not too different from much of Nicaragua.

It was there that they were leaving all the things from the truck as well as the car. Shortly after, a little bus with Dionorra’s entire family arrived for what turned out to be their going away party.

While the women were cooking food, Jose, Carrie and I went for a tour of the area including stops at two beautiful lakes and a small old town.

We hung out in the shade, drank a few beers, talked a little politics and religion (well, they talked…I listened) and got a great tour of an area that few tourists get to see.

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dianoras-mom-el-salvador-adventuresofagoodmanUpon returning to the house, most of the family had to leave to catch a boat and we stayed behind with the folks we came with and had a delicious meal. Many tears were shed as Dinonorra’s mom was not going to Barcelona with them and they had to say goodbye.

Finally, we headed down the hill by foot and hitched a ride in the back of a melon truck to the dock where we caught a boat across the lake to the beautiful colonial town of Suchitoto.

However, we could not stop and admire it (Carrie and I would return a few days later and spend the day) as we had to power-walk up a steep hill and through the town to catch the last bus of the day back to San Salvador.

All in all a crazy day…the wildest part of it was the fact that we were there for so much personal family stuff on their part and they didn’t think twice about inviting us after knowing us for a whole two minutes. Once again, the cultural differences towards strangers are amazingly different.

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Observations From a Week in El Salvador

  • San Salvador has one of the biggest malls I’ve ever seen.
  • The national currency is the US dollar…very weird.
  • You think we have it rough paying for gas…a LITER is $2.75 here.
  • Buses are much cheaper…they average 40-80 cents per ride.
  • While going to a place called Lago Coatepeque we had to walk on the side of a highway, go up an onramp and walk over a car-overpass to transfer to the next bus we needed.
  • The countryside and houses outside the capitol look a lot like Nicaragua.
  • Jewish stars and menorah images are everywhere…the funniest is when they are next to Jesus pictures and Christ-related slogans.
  • Lastly, while El Salvador is a beautiful county, one week was more than enough time there…it doesn’t help that everything is pretty much closed except on the weekends.