Sunday, March 22, 2009

El Salvador - San Salvador - La Libertad - El Tunco

Caught a shuttle out of San Pedro that went through Antigua and dropped me off in Guatemala City were I caught a bus to San Salvador, cost of the whole trip was $300 Q. You can do it by Chicken bus a lot cheaper but I was being lazy. The bus terminal in Guatemala City was in a pretty sketchy neighborhood (the ticket counter was encased in bars) but they were some of the nicest people I've met on the trip. A guy that worked there stored our backpacks in his room for us and the folks at the cafeteria were great too. A friend from San Pedro was coming the same way so we traveled together for this part of the trip. The trip took about 7 hours including the 2 hour layover in Guatemala City. Crossing the boarder into El Salvador was very easy. You go into Guatemala customs to check out of the country and the El Salvador customs is a guy who looks at your passport and waves you through. No stamp which kind of sucked I would have liked to have had one as a souvenir.

We got into San Salvador at about 7pm, it was not at all what I was expecting. Very Americanized, Burger Kings, Pizza Huts, gas stations with real 7-11 like stores. We arrived the day after the elections, the rebels who fought against the government in the civil war won (FMNL). Lots of people/journalists in town to cover the election, kinda of cool to be there when history was being made.

We got bunks in a dorm at Ximena's Guest House which is located in a very nice area of the city, one of the safest places apparently. The cost for a bunk was $7.00 (the official currency of El Salvador is US dollars). It is also only a couple of blocks from the largest mall in Central America, visiting malls was not really in my travel plans but I needed to replace my running shoes which got stolen in Antigua (not by a local, pretty sure it was a tourist). The place is huge, I only saw about 1/2 of it I found the shoe warehouse at that point so got my new sneaks and got out.

We spent 2 nights in San Salvador. The first day we went for a walk, I forgot my camera, I left it sitting on my bed so I will get some picks off my travel buddy and post them in the next day or 2. I am pretty sure we logged about 20km. Started with the Zona Rosa District that has a bunch of Museums, we went to the Museo de Arte MARTE cost to get in is $1.50 (50 cents if you are a student). Great art all of it from El Salvador artists, some pretty angry stuff from the 1980's. We checked out the exterior of the theater which is beside it and then walked down to the Museum of Anthropology but that one was $3.00 to get in so decided to pass on it.

We then headed to the historic district, found a great little local cantina and had a beer then headed down to the cathedral and the National Palace where we found the local market. It is the biggest street market I have ever seen, it takes up about 8 blocks and it is jammed full of vendors and buyers. You can get pretty much anything you would ever need here. Movies are 3 for a $1.00, CD's, cloths, shoes, produce, fruit and all very cheap, a pair of jeans will run you about $6.00. During out 6 hour walking marathon I didn't see any other tourist which was kind of nice for a change. The locals in San Salvador are very nice everyone was smiling and saying hello, we didn't run into any issues in any part of town that we went to.

Day 2 we caught the chicken bus out of downtown El Salvador (60 cents) and headed to La Libertad (1 hour ride) for a chicken bus change then on to El Tunco (25 cents about a 20 minute ride), free if you can get a pick-up truck to stop and take you. We ended up checking into Papaya's which is a hotel/hostel. They didn't have any dorms available ($7.00 a night) but they did have a room with 2 beds and it's own bathroom for $16.00 a night which works out to $8.00 each. The place has free WIFI and a full kitchen including a fridge. El Tunco is a very small surf town, when we got in there were a lot of surfers, a swell had come in and they had all come up from Nicaragua, by day 2 the swell was gone and the hard core surfers were off to Nicaragua for a swell that was coming in there. The majority of tourists here are El Salvadorians, it is so close to the capital that it is very popular with them. There is also a holiday on right now, part of the whole 6 weeks of Easter thing so lots of them have this week off work.
The nightlife here is not an all out party, there are 4 or 5 restaurants/bars, a bonfire on the beach is about as crazy as it gets which after San Pedro is a nice change. Food in restaurants runs about $2 - $3 for breakfast, dinners can cost anywhere from $3.00 for a burger to $9.00 for seafood. I heard a rumor that there is a pupusa stand somewhere in town that you can get a couple of pupusa's and rice for $1.50, I haven't found it yet. The general directions given to me by a surfer are it's a shack over the bridge... Haven't found a bridge yet either but everyone at the hotel is looking for the place so one of us should find it soon.

I took a surf lesson yesterday, I have surfed twice before but I kind of suck at it so thought a lesson wouldn't hurt, and yet it did. It was $15.00 for an hour. My instructor didn't speak English so he had to put up with my Tarzan Spanish which resulted in much communication via hand gestures. I kind of thought he would take me to the nice little wave beach, I was wrong... I got to go out to the big kid waves which involved a great deal of paddling, something my scrawny little arms had issues with. The waves break on the reef, not something I knew so I didn't realize putting your feet down was bad.. Got some cuts on my feet out of the deal and lost some skin on a knee but pretty minor flesh wounds. Got a bit of a fat lip from the board in the face on one run, forgot to put hands in front of face when coming off. All in all it was awesome, got up on all but 1 wave (submarined it) it wasn't pretty and I didn't stay up for the full run on a few but did better than I have in the past. I will be getting in some more surfing while I am here the cost to rent a board for the day is $10.00.

Some of the folks from the hotel in San Pedro showed up here the yesterday. Hung out with them last night along with some Aussie surfers. We got interviewed for a documentary on tourism in El Salvador if I don't end up on the cutting room floor it could be my 15 minutes of fame LOL... And you all thought I'd get it by being on cops, bad girls bad girls whatcha gonna do....

Heading into La Libertad in the next day or so, there are no banks or bank machines in El Tonca or any real grocery stores, just little ones that sell very basic stuff.

If you are looking for people you met traveling visit Lost Trekkers a free international people search

I live up the river on the right

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