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New Cruiser: Expeditions

The travels of an all aluminum Land Cruiser and its owners…

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El Salvador

Written by Raenelle on Friday, January 2, 2004
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We made great distance on New Year’s day – since it is such a big holiday here in Central America, all the stores and restaurants were closed, and nobody was out driving on the streets and highways. We had the whole highway to ourselves most of the way, and we were able to go a little faster than the usual 50-60 kmph we average when we’re stuck behind big trucks! By the end of the day, we had crossed Nicaragua, crossed southern Honduras and had made it into eastern El Salvador. Not only had we made good progress on our northern journey, but we also managed to cross 4 supposedly ‘difficult’ border posts with very little delay!

Southern HondurasWe had not originally planned to travel through El Salvador because we were hesitant to deal with another border crossing (and all the money that it might entail) if we didn’t absolutely need to in order to get back to Mexico. However, after talking to a number of people who have driven through Central America, they all swore that driving through El Salvador was definitely the fastest way to go! So here we are in El Salvador! We entered the country just before dark, and stopped at a little town about 16km from the El Salvador/Honduras border, Santa Rosa de Lima. Luck was on our side, and we had a wonderful time in the small town – found a very cheap ‘guest house’ to stay at, with secure parking and rooms which consisted of a hammock and a single bed. Robin proceeded to hang our hammock (it’s made of special material from the Yucatan, and it’s extremely comfortable), and we headed out for dinner. We met an interesting family that was on holiday (originally from El Salvador, but currently living in France). Since it was the night of Jan 1st, very few restaurants were open, so we landed up going to a fast food chicken joint with them and exchanged stories about our respective lives and travels.

The following morning we walked to the local market where you could buy just about anything! We had seen a great hammock at our guest house, and so we were on the prowl for a hammock. The people in the market were very friendly, and as soon as we mentioned to someone that we were looking for hammocks, he walked with us through the narrow streets and delivered us to a hammock stall. The vendors were eager to satisfy our requests for a hammock – “That one is too big, we’re looking for one big enough for only one person, not the whole family!” “No” they said, “Familia hammack is bueno!” The woman headed off across the road to get the right sized hammock from another vendor – she returned a few minutes later and quoted us a grossly inflated price now (because she had to buy the hammock from the other vendor and sell it to us for a profit!). But the colour didn’t appeal to us (and neither did the price), so we thanked her profusely for her assistance and headed off to the many other hammock vendors we saw in the area.

We eventually got the hammock we wanted after lots of bargaining, and we left Santa Rosa de Lima and continued on our north-west bearing. We got stuck in the middle of a downtown market area in a nearby large city (oops – I guess the navigator must have told the driver to take a wrong turn … maybe it’s time to FIRE her!). The streets were narrow in the marketplace, and there were lots of people and cars. Truck in El SalvadorThe traffic was moving very slowly, and people were honking their horns at every opportunity. We soon discovered why the traffic was moving so slowly! We were travelling behind a pick-up truck when all of a sudden, he decided to stop. About 30-40 seconds later, the passenger door of the vehicle opened and a woman leisurely got out and walked around a nearby fruit and vegetable stand. The vehicle waited for her while she shopped around for vegetables, and so did we and everyone else behind the vehicle! The woman decided to walk down the street to do some more shopping, and the man in the vehicle took the opportunity to have a conversation with a guy on the side of the road. He then decided to buy a sack of onions or something, which he leisurely purchased through the window of the vehicle, and then we all sat waiting while the vendor went to get change for the man in the vehicle. All the way down the street, the vehicles were honking, while Robin and I sat patiently behind the pick-up truck watching the scene unfold before our eyes with amusement and disbelief! Nobody was able to pass the vehicle because of the narrow street, but had he pulled forward about 10m, he would have been able to pull off the road and let us all drive by him. But apparantly that was not an option for him, so we all waited and were eventually on our way again! Ah, the joys …..

We managed to make it across most of El Salvador in one day taking it easy. We followed Highway 2 near the coast of El Salvador, which allowed us to avoid some large cities, including the capital, San Salvador. We stopped for the night in a small coastal town, La Libertad. We stayed overnight at a motel-type place, where a bunch of European girls kept us awake till midnight, and then woke us up at 4.30am when they were leaving! We got an early start and left El Salvador by mid morning. We enjoyed our visit to this country, although it was really brief!

From our short time in the country, we have concluded the following: (1) El Salvadorans are the most friendly people in all of Central America. People were always quick with a smile, went out of their way to greet us, and were extremely happy to help us in any way (for the pure act of helping, and not for a tip). (2) El Salvador is one of the dirtiest and most polluted countries in Central America. Beaches, streets, yards, marketplaces – basically everywhere – were strewn with garbage of all shapes, sizes, colour, and state of decomposition! Dirty water ran in the streets, and the vehicles and buses pumped out diesel fumes like there was no tomorrow! (3) El Salvador has the most dangerous and careless drivers in all of Central America. Fast driving; passing on dangerous corners and blind rises; passing into oncoming traffic (which caused the oncoming traffic to slow down or move off to the side of the street) was all very common. You have to be very alert when driving here, because it’s very likely that someone can cause a dangerous accident without being involved in the accident themselves. It would be disastrous for us if someone forced us off the road and then kept driving, leaving us in a ditch with our wrecked vehicle!

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