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.

Another day, another border crossing

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.

Wall mural in Juayau of national symbols of El Salvador, the Motmot and Pilsener

Volcanic panorama from the Ruta de Las Flores including Volcanos Santa Ana and Izalco

Another form of wheeled transport – the two logs and four wheels strapped together cart! Doubt it would make it all the way to Patagonia…

Entering one of the five tunnels along the Pacific coast

Marvelling at the power of the rolling breaks of the Pacific

About as close to surfing as we got!

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!

The bright colours of Central America

Fish drying on La Libertad pier

Having fun in a pick-up, beats cow-skins any day!

Campsite in a volcano! (Sulphur bubbling eggy lake not in photo)

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.

7 responses to “Birds know no borders”

  1. Michelle Bowskill says :

    we love catching up on your adventures. The pictures are wonderful and it looks as if you are both having a brilliant time.

    Love Michelle

  2. Kirsten says :

    Hi guys. I’ve just been having a look at your fantastic photos which, as i sit back here at work, remind me of good times in El Salvador. It was great to play a small part in your epic journey – hope the roads have eased up for you and you enjoy the rest of your trip. Happy travels ! Kirsten and Jon.

    • Sarah says :

      Hi both, was lovely meeting you in El Salvador particularly after that hard day up to the volcano lake. Hope you enjoyed your second week in your honeymoon suite by the sea (I don’t think we asked you where you plan on spending your actual honeymoon?). We’re now in Costa Rica and feel like we’re having a holiday so yes things have got vastly simpler. I did have some issues with my thumbs though which you may have read about and believe it was the bubbling Alegria volcano lake that infected me. I don’t think you too put your hands in the water though so phew! Enjoy the British summer and good luck with your wedding plans, Sarah & Geoff

  3. laura says :

    Hi there!

    Seems like we are doing the same route but we started at the beach and ended in Santa Anna so far 🙂 We just had the last day of Semana santa at the beach and it was exactly as the locals said. loud music, loads of drunk people, garbage everywhere and in the morning you could walk over al the people laying wasted in the sand. You did not miss much there 🙂 Hope you guys have a great trip!

    Laura and Jan

  4. Carly Brown says :

    Loving your blog guys! Please keep updating us 🙂

    • Sarah says :

      Hi Carly, glad you like it, thanks for the encouragement! Would be great to know what you’re both up to too. Are you guys still thinking of returning to South America soonish? x

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