San Miguel, El Salvador
I was working on a long post about the last 3 weeks of the trip, but that is unlikely to get finished anytime soon, so I’ll try a real quick update for now, as I wanted to have at least one update from El Salvador.
During Holy Week I got in touch with Paul (http://www.panamericantour.net/), another Alaska to Argentina cyclist who I knew about for a while, but only in Antigua did our paths cross, and we decided to cycle together. Two days of cycling got us to the border, where we camped behind the police station. At the border I pondered just selling my leftover quetzales for dollars at a fair price to the tourists coming into Guatemala, but decided it was not worth the $5 I lost in comission (extortion?) to the money changers. The $5 would probably be the price one pays not to get their throat slit by “El Lobo”, who apparently runs things at the border. Yes, I know who “El Lobo” is, he was sitting right there and the money changers asked if I wanted to buy him a drink after I changed my quetzales. What did El Lobo do for me that he deserves a drink? I pretty much rolled my eyes at them and said no thanks. If the Lobo needs a cut it should come out of the changers’ fees which I already paid. I kinda regretted the eye rolling when a few minutes later, as El Lobo just happened to be opening the door for us on our way in to the immigration offices to get our exit stamps for Guatemala (creepy). But I guess he didn’t want to follow us to El Salvador to get that drink.
After the border, a short but tough first day in El Salvador of climbing up into the mountains to stay in Ataco, which was pleasantly cool. Then back out of the mountains to Santa Ana, and after that straight east to Suchitoto on some newly paved roads that were really quiet. Here we took a two days off. We got up at 5:30 yesterday to beat the heat, but it was a slow day of dirt roads and hills, so we ended up biking during the heat all day anyway. But the day ended perfectly, we biked 2 miles off the Panamerican Hwy to a little lake, Apastepeque, where we made friends with the owners of “Comedor Evelyn”, who let us camp right on the lake, and tried to insist we didn’t have to pay for our dinner we had there. For other cyclists out there, I strongly recommend it instead of San Vicente (which involves a few miles down into the valley which you have to bike up the next morning). Several miles heading east on the Panamericana after passing the turnoff for San Vicente, you’ll see a sign to your left “Turicentro Apastepeque”. Follow the signs to the Turicentro, then make a U-turn onto the road by the lake and stop at Comedor Evelyn.
This morning we woke up early again and were on the road by 7. But by 9 or 10 it is almost impossible to ride. I’ve never sweat so much before! We would take breaks every few miles, drinking as much as we could. Little by little we made it 45 miles to the junction near San Miguel. We saw a few hotels, and finally pulled into one to inquire. With the words “air conditioning, swimming pool”, we were sold, and it was not too unreasonable of a price. But of course, you spend a little then you need to spend a little more. We took a bus to the mall and gorged on Burger King. We figured we’d been off the Gringo Trail (yes, it is kind of what the tourist circuit is referred to down here) for over a week now and had somehow earned the Whoppers. I’ve been loving the pupusas and desayuno tipico (beans, eggs, fried plantain, tortillas), but couldn’t resist a trip to the Burger King. The spending spree was complete after going grocery shopping and then taking a taxi back to the hotel.
We have considered getting up at 4:30 to be on the road by 5:30 tomorrow! This sounds a little ridiculous, but we’re so tired that we should be able to fall asleep soon enough so that getting up at that time won’t be too horrible. We hope to be somewhere in Honduras tomorrow!