Birds know no borders
Date: 27th March – 2nd April 2012
Where: Asuncion Mita (Guatemala) – Santa Ana (El Salvador) – Juayua – El Tunco – Zacatecoluca – Alegria – Santa Rosa de Lima
Distance: 1446 to 1703 miles
Another dose of border crossing bureaucracy over without fuss, and soon we were peddling through El Salvador up to the city of Santa Ana. On both sides we passed mighty trees, remnants of green amidst an increasingly barren landscape. Perhaps, this is explained by the fact we are at the end of the dry season, and this too explained the enormous heat we were beginning to feel. The wet body syndrome began in El Salvador, where each of us resemble a waxwork surrounded by flames, leaving us little more than a mass of individual droplets of sweaty goodness. Our less than healthy Mexican diet may finally be bidding Adios to our bodies! The locals seem to deal with it by all having paddling pools on their front drives! On reaching Santa Ana we quickly discovered a more dangerous form of heat, with guns all over the place. We heeded the security guards advice and were back in our room just after 7pm, and soon asleep. The room itself deserves mention for the fact it had carpet in it. This was the first time either of us had touched carpet for over 2 months; we hadn’t missed it, and we don’t want to see it again, as it had a circus of fleas in it.
We left our biggest city to date early the next day, and made slow progress up the flank of Volcan Santa Ana to Juayua through flowering coffee plantations. Sarah’s progress became slower and slower until she realized she had her first puncture of the trip, not bad after 3,000 miles. A faff-free tyre-change of which we were both proud led to the top, and a pork-rib bonanza reward. We also met an English couple travelling with a similar itinerary as us in a hire car: Jon and Kirsten. We stayed in the same hotel that night.
A rest day at last in the mountain village of Juayua followed, with the only exertion being a (volcanic) dusty walk to some nearby waterfalls, called Las Chorros, where we experienced a waterfall massage for the first time. Very refreshing! We needed that day’s rest, as we then set off for the Pacific, a lovely downhill past 180 degree panoramas of volcanoes, led to the beautiful rugged coast, via a gorgeous road, although a little too up and down to be completely enjoyed on a bike. The tunnels on this section proved an‘exciting’ experience on a bicycle. We finally rolled into El Tunco as the sun set, and were glad to find a quiet spot to camp for the night.
We had planned to stay at the beach for at least one more night and surf a little, but the waves were huge, the currents strong, and it was the start of ‘Semana Santa’ (Easter week) so everyone from San Salvador had crashed the beach party. According to locals, everyone gets trolleyed, falls asleep on the beach and is washed away and drowned. Didn’t sound like our cup of tea so we made 40 miles along the highway to Zacatecoluca instead. The next day we made two mistakes: firstly setting off up a dirt mountain again without proper food in our stomachs (plus it was a volcano and rather dusty to the tune of 10cm in some places), and secondly we assumed the quiet flower town of Alegria would be immune to the hordes of San Salvador. An expensive (but fun) pick-up ride and unsuccessful hotel search later and we were stumped, so ate more food, which helped. We also met Jon and Kirsten again, who suggested gong up to the nearby emerald coloured crater lake with them. We knew we could camp there, so it made sense. After much bike-pushing we found the crater, and yet more people. El Salvador is known as the smallest, but most populated Central American country, and you could tell! An eventful day ended with mounds of spaghetti, drunks shouting at us from across the lake, inadvertent setting off of rape alarms, sonar bat beeping and lightning storms steadily approaching. Quite a day!
It didn’t rain in the night, and after appreciating our camp-spot in the morning light, we were off down the hill to head for the border. On the way down Geoff saw the ‘brightest blue bird you ever did see’, and it is now etched in his memory, so we hope to identify it some day. We reached our destination of Santa Rosa de Lima in good time and quickly settled in for the night heedful of needing to get off the streets early in the big towns.
As for the national emblem of El Salvador, the bird known as the turquoise-browed motmot. Well it evidently knows no borders as we’ve seen it in Guatemala and Honduras (but never in El Salvador, probably too many people!). A bit like us really, as we roll into our fifth country.