(March 6 – written by Dave)
We’ll start with the end today, rather than the beginning, mainly because our hotel is one of those hotels where Nancy says “I’ve stayed in worse” before accepting this as our home for the night. For the record, Nancy is not a complainer, but when she says “I’ve stayed in worse”, well, you know it’s not good. Any day that ends with “I’ve stayed in worse” is a day where you may not want to look too closely at the photos.
We had basically three choices for lodging tonight – an auto hotel out on the highway (too far from food), a really basic dirty auto hotel in town (cheap but really out of the question) and our current hotel. It too is an auto hotel – we knew this immediately when talking to hotel staff and their faces contorted when we asked for the nightly rate. They don’t normally rent for more than an hour.
Our room is very small, up on the second floor. They gave us one of their nicer rooms. The all-in-one bathroom is one of those “knees on wall” when you use the toilet. And there is no shower curtain, so the floor gets soaked when you shower. Never mind not having hot water, we needed a cooling off anyway. But really, no shower head, that tips the scale down a bit. We got in a little early and have been enjoying our 13 inch TV, and the A/C. Both work, but are relics from another time. The door is metal, very secure, something you’d want if you were meeting someone here for an hour and that someone wasn’t your spouse. I’ve been firmly instructed that I will wear my thongs at all times and that I am not allow to touch anything that doesn’t absolutely need touching. It’s only one night, we will survive – maybe we should have headed to the bomberos!
Graphic warning: Hotel photos follow:
Back to the day – last night’s room worked out great. The hostel next door settled early and all we heard overnight was the waves crashing on the nearby beach. We were up early and out on the road by just after 6AM. The mornings here are really great for riding as it is much cooler. Lots of folks were up and about – it’s clear the locals also rise early to beat the heat. Traffic on the highway was light. We had about 20k more of coastline to ride but it was more developed and not as spectacular as yesterday. I think staying in El Zonte was really a good idea – I for one, could have spent another day there – perhaps even tried out the surfing (Senior editor’s note – Dave always says those things when we have already left, instead of the night before when we could actually make arrangements to stay another day…).
Once we left the coast, we started seeing more sugarcane again and today we saw some banana plantations. We’ve seen lots of bananas growing but mostly small allotments where a farmer is squeezing in a few plants here of there. Today we saw a proper plantation with rows and rows of trees.
We had a bit of a navigational issue as well today, turning left at Comalapa and accidentally starting off towards El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador. We rode the wrong way for about 2k and it was all up a steep hill. We’d both reviewed the profiles this for today and there were no hills like this so it just didn’t feel right. Eventually we stopped and discovered our mistake and turned around. It was my fault partially caused by my reading of Google maps – I am having trouble getting my head around the coast here running nearly east/west. I’m so used to coast running north/south and Central America runs generally north/south.
Anyway we discovered the error and returned to Comalapa. In Comalapa we had a discussion about which road to take. Nancy wanted to go back further and return to CA-2, the main highway. I could see that it was 5k shorter to continue on the road we were on but it wasn’t CA-2. After some back and forth (aided by the now rising outside temperature) we settled on the back road. It turns out that the back road was also CA-2, it’s just that CA-2 and CA-2E are labelled different. Our back road worked out fine – not too hilly and a nice wide shoulder.
We rolled into town before noon and after skipping the highway auto hotel, Nancy got to go into city auto hotel number one. The speed at which she returned to the bikes after inspecting the room was all I needed to know. She even told the clerk that “we would not be coming back”, instead of the usual, “we might look around and possibly come back” or the “let me talk to my spouse” lines. She said “no” and let them get back to their day.
Our hotel, the Hotel Primavera, sort fits Zacatecoluca. This feels like a hard scrabble town. We’ve both walked the four blocks up the street to get food and I wouldn’t say we were uncomfortable but a lot of folks stared at us. People are still friendly but unlike the beach last night, I don’t think a lot of non-natives come here. I have a really weird tan from my cycling shoes and socks – which looks even weirder when I walk around in thongs. I’d probably stare at my ghostly white ankles and feet too!
Tomorrow is a bit longer day to the town of San Miguel. Most of the route is on CA-2 – a sort of major north/south route. But the shoulder and pavement quality in El Salvador has been just fine. Riding feels pretty safe. All we need to do tonight is keep telling ourselves that “we’ve stay in worse” – I’m sure it will all work out so long as I don’t touch anything.