(March 8 – written by Dave)
Today was our last full day in El Salvador – tomorrow we have 20k or so left to ride before we reach the Honduras border. We spent a total of 5 nights here so whatever our impressions, they are based on a fairly limited data set. Anyway, so here goes…
There doesn’t seem to be nearly as strong of connection to the Mayans, or traditional cultures here. We didn’t see anyone wearing traditional clothing as we did so often in Guatemala. Lacking evidence of a local culture sort of turns everything into “American Pop” – everyone wants their Air-Jordans and Pizza Hut. We have spotted one local item – everyone seems to be selling bags of jocote – a local plum that is clearly in season here now. Stop at a servo and someone will approach you with bags of them. We haven’t tried them yet.
The scenery was nice along the coast and the volcanos were fun to see. But there is a lot of garbage everywhere. They are lacking the facilities for proper waste disposal so there is a lot of dumping. And a lot of dumping even when there are no dumping signs. In many towns they still burn their trash in the morning, including the plastics. I’m not sure which is better, dumping things over the side of the road or burning. This is a constant challenge for poor countries.
We never felt unsafe but we were getting a lot more stares that earlier in Latin America. As I said the other day, our weird tans and walking around towns in flip-flops certainly adds to this. The people are friendly but not as friendly as Guatemala. Not as many people openly engage us in conversation as earlier.
Many stores have security guards with guns. Today we saw guards with guns at the gas station, grocery store, Pizza Hut, pharmacy and a cafe. These are not “shock troops” like in Mexico. In fact, some of the guys don’t really seem steady enough to be licensed to carry a gun. I’m not sure how much safer they make things but I guess it gives the old guys a job. I’m sure they don’t get paid a lot.
Pets – so far we’ve seen pet raccoons twice. I’m not sure if this is a normal pet but we saw two of them, and I looked up the raccoon’s natural range and they are found here. We have not seen any iguanas in the wild (though we have heard lots skittering around on the side of the road as we ride by) but we’ve seen them being kept as pets as well and being sold for meat. Dogs and cats seem to hang around people but are much more fringe animals than pets. There are a lot of female dogs that are caring for pups. Most cats and dogs are very skinny.
Back to the day, we had a short day, only 41k. Town spacing just worked out that way. We slept in but sort of felt late getting going just the same. Not to worry, tomorrow we are back up early with the sparrows. We were riding on a less major road today and the road surface reflected this. It was a lot bumpier than what we’ve seen so far in El Salvador. There was almost always a shoulder but it was sometimes full of dirt and debris. Traffic was heavier than we thought it would be but generally polite when we had to pull off the shoulder. That’s another thing about El Salvador – drivers are more used to passing slow “things” and don’t get too agro with us. Wouldn’t it be nice if they behaved this way in Australia?
We made a couple stops for tea today, and to kill time. We still arrived before noon and were at the hotel shortly thereafter. We are staying at the Hotel Mediterraneo Inn. It is not overly Mediterranean and I’m not sure why they call it a hotel and an inn. They do have a pool however and for the second day in a row, I took a plunge. I think Nancy is enjoying taking photos of my stunningly white body – she giggles and makes funny dolphin sounds as I enter the pool – not sure what that’s about.
There is good grocery store just across the road from the hotel but it was just too hot to cook on the rooftop patio. So instead we went to Pizza Hut for dinner. We haven’t eaten at a Pizza Hut in a long time – it probably won’t kill us but it might be a while before we eat there again.
So tomorrow and the following day (one night), we’ll be in Honduras. The border going is supposed to be easy. Forecast is for only 89F so it should be a nice day to try out a new country.