January 22, 2006

Suchitoto and beyond

IMG_2513It´s sort of surprising that we´ve put so many miles between us and San Salvador. I haven´t really been feeling too inspired to post. As soon as Brian started getting over his Dengue Fever, I descended into one, but not before we´d made it to the picturesque town of Suchitoto. At least I think it was picturesque. I was sweating in bed for the two days we spent there. Brian, Willie and Caroline were nice enough to create a photo essay of the town for me. This slideshow is pretty much all I got to see.

We´re in Eastern El Salvador now, racing for the border. As long as our bikes and bodies hold up, we´ll be in Honduras within two days.

January 18, 2006

Dengue Fever

In the end we threw our bikes on the roof of a chicken bus for the ride to San Salvador. Brian had just been diagnosed with Dengue Fever and was in no condition to attempt the ride. San Salvador, with nearly a million people, offered us amenities better suited to a speedy recovery than the backwater town of La Libertad. As for his Dengue, we were told not to worry; "it´s not the bad kind." As long as there´s no sign of hemorrhaging, in the form of nose bleeds or spontaneous bruising, he can look forward to being fully recovered within two weeks of the onset of the fever, which according to our calculations was nearly a week ago. If anybody can shrug off the symptoms sooner, it´s him. He´s already showing signs of improving, though it may partially be attributed to the mysterious pain-killers the doctors have him on.

For all the talk of guns and gangs and war, San Salvador is surprisingly comfortable and familiar... at least in this suburb - Boulevard De Los Heroes. It´s easy to forget that we´re in a third world country. Last night we indulged in the guilty pleasure of a ´meal deal´at Wendy´s; from some vantage points the only obvious difference from, say Guelph, Ontario, are the palm trees out front and the shotgun laden guards at the entrance. Our binge on American culture wasn´t finished there... To help digest the burgers we hit up the local cinema and to our delight Narnia was playing in English with Spanish subtitles. Perfect.

Brian slept. We´ll b here until he feels well enough to continue on... at the moment, he´s insisting that will be the crack of dawn tomorrow.

January 16, 2006

Trapped in La Libertad

La Libertad in the AfternoonTrapped in La Libertad. There is irony somewhere in that statement.

Brian has developed a heat rash from his fever and opted for the doctors office instead of the 2000m climb to San Salvador. She specifically advised against attempting the bike ride, though I suspect she´d advise against it under any circumstances. He´s fine really (he´ll tell you that himself)... we hope to be on the road tomorrow at the crack of dawn.

For now though, it looks like it´ll be another day lounging in my hammock and rolling around in the near-perfect surf. Woe is me.

January 15, 2006

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.