27 August, 2012

Day 53, 350km: Across El Salvador

Woke up in the mountains of Moyuta for an early breakfast and left shortly after. I arrived at the border around 6.30am. There were a few "helpers" there. These guys will pretend to assist you with the paperwork, copies and general navigation at the border. In reality they'll take your document hostages and invent fees here and there.

So instead of falling for these crooks I did some research the day before and I can't recommend enough the following links to fellow travelers:
- Central American Borders (Deya and Brian's blog)
- El Salvador to Costa Rica (fredsuleman at HUBB)

Border fun starts here
 Arriving at the border, I had to make it clear with the helpers that they were wasting their time talking to me. I knew exactly what was the process and where it would take place. So when they waved at me and asked me to pull-over in random places, I simply went straight past them, slowly enough so that it wouldn't be dangerous and fast enough so they would stay away.
 Of course once I parked they came over and tried their luck, adding all sorts of bullshit like "they don't take USD at this border" (they do). I ignored them, had a couple "stare fight" with the two that wouldn't go away. The general idea was to show them in a polite manner how much I despise them and that they'd better leave me alone.
 After a few minutes of that they walked away and I was free to do the paperwork.

 If anyone who's reading this is planning to go across the border at La Hachadura, be sure to read the links above. Or better, have a copy of it on your phone so you can refer to it anytime. Believe me that's very useful when you're jumping from one booth to another, to keep track of the documents you should have in hand at that point.

Muy caliente
 Looking at the photo above I finally understand why the day before my hosts at Don Pancho, Moyuta were inquiring about my diet. I look scary. Plus it was very hot and humid so it seems I have a fever or something.
 After 2 hours of paperwork, getting something stamped at some booth, copied, then stamped again, then re-copied I was on my way.

El Salvador countryside near the border
 It was a good surprise to see that the road was in excellent condition. I went from La Hachadura to La Libertad along the CA-2 with follows the shore.

Great views of the Pacific
 There were a lot (like, a lot!) of tourists here. Lots of hotels, bars, beaches and surfers. And also a few bikers, those I talked to where from El Salvador but I saw a guy on a GS coming in the opposite direction. It's actually the first "motorcycle traveler" I've seen since I crossed into Guatemala 4 days ago.
Which actually surprises me a bit, I thought that since we all go through the same borders (basically) there would be a lot of motorcycle travelers. There weren't.

Surfer gas pump in La Libertad
 That gas pump was really fun, playing some kind of Salvadorian reggae (not sure, it was in Spanish at least) loudly. That with the nearby sea and the dreadlocks of the guy at the pump, the 35 degrees C weather really was fun.
 I tested the signal on my phone (no roaming with DTAC in Guatemala) and was surprised to see I could roam here. I got the operator roaming SMS telling me "Welcome to Jamaica". I guess they weren't that far off, considering the gas station I was in.

CA-2 was a lot of fun :)
 There was a 50km section of perfect condition, amazing views, twisty and hilly road on that highway. I was so glad to be on brand new tires here and had a lot of fun.

San Salvador suburb
 Perhaps two hours after entering the country I was in San Salvador. This wasn't my destination for the day however. The city (at least the parts I've seen crossing it) actually looked nice and modern. Good roads, all the stores and shops you'll find in any big town and a pretty good impression of safety. Now I'm sure the poorer districts are an entirely different story, the world's second highest murder rate (for countries not at war and that well, have the data) comes from somewhere.

CA-1 Pan American highway
 After San Salvador I was on my way to San /Miguel, a mid-size town 60km away from the border with Honduras. So basically I crossed El Savador. I felt a bit bad about it, it looks like there are some really cool places in there. But travelling alone I don't want to take any risks.

Nearing my destination
I was in San Miguel around 2pm I think, so I checked-in very early at the hotel. Took the opportunity to run the errands and walk around the neighborhood to see what a Salvadorian city looks like. Well again, I was in a good district and what I saw was basically your typical this-could-be-any-country-in-the-world mall, with its KFC, pizza hut, electronics, sports, fashion and whatnot.
Had a burger, came back to the hotel to rest and get as much information as I could on going across Honduras and into Nicaragua, my destination for the next day.

Information which turned out to be pretty scary, so I went to bed with a worried mind.

Buenas noches!
Guillaume

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