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January 15, 2006 12:14 PM

Out of the Frying Pan...

The Beach of La Libertad... and into the lap of luxury. Well not luxury as in five star accommodation. We still don't have toilet seats, hot showers, air conditioning or rooms without other living things sneaking around under the beds. Nevertheless there are days I feel like a king. Thus far in El Salvador, except for one hot and hungry night on a beach, we've stayed in walled compounds. In Playa El Zonte we had the place entirely to ourselves for two nights. Picture it: an open concept terrace facing a lush, green garden spotted with palm trees and a small but refreshing pool as a centre piece. The only others able to penetrate this paradise were the family that lived there and ran the place. They were, at times, almost too eager to attend to our needs. Whether it was cutting down coconuts for us to drink out of, or cooking up giant spaghetti meals... two days of feasting and drinking and lounging cost each of us nearly $20 USD. Wow.

My memory for hardship is very short. While climbing a hill with my laden bicycle I curse myself for choosing El Salvador as a place to start this trip, but as soon as I crest the hill, gaze out on the big blue Pacific and start down again, the pain is forgotten and all is right in the world. The coastal road to La Libertad (pictured) is like this. Up, then down, then up, then down again. The potential energy we build climbing up these hills is always immediately spent as the highway dips right back down to the sea. Up and down again, up and down.

The difficult ride to get here was only the tail end of a stressful two days for us. As I sit here in this hammock in our compound in La Libertad, it's difficult to remember how it felt to lay sweating and hungry in our tents on some unnamed beach, hidden in plain sight under the faux cover of a full moon, trying to fall asleep on an empty stomach, all the while trying to work out how we (all three of us) ended up without any money. This is what I figured out: the Pacific coast of Guatemala is devoid of ATMs. There was no opportunity to 'stock up' on money before crossing the border. We were forced to hang our hats on the hope that the ATM in Cara Sucia ("Dirty Face"), barely 10km into El Salvador, would give us money. It didn't. We were screwed.

The next closest town with any hope of a bank was further than we could go that day. We were suddenly faced with the challenge of finding free accomodation and existing for at least the next 20 hours without spending a penny. There was no guarantee that the next town's ATMs would be any nicer to us. By the time we made it to Acajutla and found our salvation in the form of a yellow and blue ATM machine, we'd just run out of water. I'd been mentally preparing myself for the collect call home to try for the ol' Western Union money transfer.

El Salvador is most definitely 'off the beaten track'. I personally don't know a single person who's travelled here. Surfers do, but I don´t know any. We seem to have the country to ourselves... us and the locals. This makes it a difficult place to travel at times. This is, of course is generally a good thing as far as I'm concerned; it provides endless opportunity for misadventure. For all adventure is actually misadventure with a positive spin.

We're still not firing on all cylinders. Breakdowns continue to plague us and we seem to be taking turns at illness; Willie is better but Brian has fallen. He's complaining of a sore throat and is running a slight fever. Our plan is to rest here in La Libertad for another day before fighting our way up and into the mountains toward San Salvador, the capital.


matt said:


January 15, 2006 01:16 PM
Berns said:

Geez..what would we do without ATMs...how did we do it before...wait in bank line-ups and get enough money for a week or two?? Just imagine a night of wild drinking when we run out of money and the bar CONVIENIENTLY has a bank machine..wow...and some towns don't even have one...yikes!..what if that machine spits out large bank notes...most of these towns can't break bills for small change! Sounds like an adventure so far...like you said Ry.."memory for hardship is very short." Keep trekkin!

January 15, 2006 07:35 PM
Andrew McLean said:

Are you heading North? I thought you were in Costa Rica. Now El Salvador? I'm confused.

January 16, 2006 01:31 PM
Ryan said:

I´m headed South. The only time I´ve spent in Costa Rica is at the airport there. Over the Christmas holidays I flew from Guatemala to Costa Rica to Miami to Toronto... then back again. Each time I had a monster layover in Costa Rica.

As far as this trip goes, Costa Rica is in our future.

January 16, 2006 02:19 PM