El Salvador part 2

Trip Start Sep 08, 2008
Trip End Feb 28, 2009

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

After San Salvador the next place I ended up at was the beautiful town of Suchitoto. Like so many other towns in El Salvador there were beautiful Spanish colonial style buildings and a mini carnival in the square. Whenever I arrived at a place during the weekend there always seemed to be some kind of party. The hotel I stayed in was situated on the side of a hill overlooking a lake filled with lily pads. So many of them that, at times, as I found out the hard way, the ferry going back and forth to the surrounding towns simply never arrive or never leave.
I immediately wanted to view the popular waterfalls of Los Tercios before sundown and was told to ask the local police for an escort. At first I felt like I was an imposition but they were more than happy to have the tourist police guide me to the falls. I felt like a movie star with my two bodyguards and rather silly but in the end it turned out to be the best way to go. The policewoman used to be a tour guide and she took me through shortcuts and paths that I would have never found and when we arrived at the falls, it was nothing short of spectacular. The water spilled over the most unique rock formations that, at a distance, resembled wooden logs. I have never seen anything like it. In fact, I repeatedly had Suchitoto residents proudly mention how the falls were a one of a kind in the world.
I had booked a horseback riding tour on the highest road near town for the next day. As instructed, I waited and waited for my bus number 163 until finally giving up after a two hour wait. For those who know me well, yes, I have learnt patience. Sadly, I decided to call it quits and salvage my day by travelling north a few hours away to hike up to the highest point in the country, El Pital at 2,790m. I reached San Ignacio, only a few kilometres from the Honduras border before sundown. This was fine since there was absolutely nothing to see nor do in the tiny town so went to bed as early as I did when camping in the jungle. The next morning, my bus mishaps continued for the bus that day decided to leave three hours later than usual so I had no other choice than to hitch a ride to where I needed to go. After receiving a hospitable ride in the back of a pickup truck, the owner of the car strongly refused to take the money I offered as thanks. He told me he would come back down to San Ignacio around 2 pm and would be happy to give me a ride back if I needed to, which I did indeed. He pointed me in the right direction and off I went to reach the top of El Pital, up, up and up again for about an hour and a half. I kept wondering why the Lonely Planet did not mention how difficult the hike was for it was very steep but beautiful nonetheless. I finally reached the top where a monument indicated where to stand to be in either El Salvador or Honduras. After enjoying the spectacular vistas from the peak and briefly setting foot in both countries I made my decent back to the main road with my hitched ride back.
Still wanting to go the on horseback riding excursion, I returned to Suchitoto and this time I actually made it, however, not without problems. As it turned out the tourist office was not notified of a very recent change in bus routes and I actually had to take bus 107 as the 163 was no longer existing. Finally on my way, I met with our tour guide who was an older dignified rancher by the name of Don Jose. As we began our ride, we were stopped by undercover detectives who insisted we turn back for the road was not safe due to suspected drug traffickers in the area. After many attempts to find a way to complete the tour to no avail we were forced to turn back. I guess Suchitoto was just not meant to be...and besides, I hated my slow disobedient horse.
After some stops and hikes in a couple of different cities my last stop in El Salvador was in the town of Perquin, headquarters of the Frente Marti de Liberacion Nacional (FMLN). It was here and in nearby villages where significant battles and the infamous massacre of El Mozote took place. In 1981, the US trained elite exterminated 757 people: of the 143 victims uncovered, 131 were children. As many as 300,000 citizens fled the country. Perquin itself is tiny and non-descript, however, the local war museum is hugely important to the country as a whole. Being so involved during El Salvador's civil war of the 1980's it provided a wealth of information about the history of the war and actual displays of the weapons used on both sides (the U.S backed government army and the revolutionist). Behind the museum was a huge crater from a bomb and an army helicopter that had been shot down killing the high ranking officer responsible for many atrocities. There was also the studios of the FLMN's clandestine station 'Radio Venceremos'.r The museum tour guide was a former FMLN soldier and was very dedicated to honouring those who died as heroes and martyrs during the war.
Last but not least, what made my stay in El Salvador that pleasant were the people. They are extremely friendly and are often looking out for tourists' best interest with no strings attached. You can feel they genuinely want to help you, always smiling, happy to do something for you. I have a couple of examples which are going to explain to you exactly what I mean. Once, I needed to make a phone call to make a booking for a tour. I walked into the first store I saw and asked if they had a phone. Unfortunately, they did not but the owner offered me his cell phone for me to make my call. I had to call a couple of different numbers to finally make my booking and handed the phone back to the guy with some money. He strongly refused to take the money and was simply happy to have helped me. On the side, the person for the tour called the cell phone back with a question and the store owner came to look for me in the streets to hand me the phone. I also mentioned the free rides I got from people with pickup trucks. I had a few and they were all absolutely free and with a smile. I received help in the street numerous times when needing to find hotels, restaurants or points of interest. When they help, they go all the way for you. It was not rare that I asked directions of hotels to somebody and they stopped whatever they were doing and actually accompanied me to the hotel. On buses, I have always been helped with my bag, with getting off at the correct stop or with finding a seat. It made the whole chicken bus experience a completely different one.  Interacting with absolutely everybody in El Salvador has always been a pleasure and made a big difference.
I also wanted to add a little paragraph about the food and coffee. For all those that have asked, the answer is no, I do not drink any good coffee. Most of the places I went to, I received instant coffee. Nearly all the coffee that is made here in Central America is for exportation. As for the food, it is not the best either, refried beans, fried plantains, fried eggs, tortillas and cheese but only one type of very white, feta looking, tasteless cheese. Needless to say that after three months of this three times a day, I had enough of it. Occasionally, I can order pupusas, depending on the country, but pupusas are nothing more than thicker tortillas filled with beans, cheese, plantains to suit your taste! Nevertheless, every weekend was a food festival, no matter which city I was in there were stalls in the street and women cooking...tortillas but also barbecuing meat or French fries. Nothing very exciting compared to Asian food - or French food - but that was my only chance for a change.
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bath mate on

As always an excellent posting.The
way you write is awesome.Thanks. Adding more information will be more useful.


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