I Need A Break!!
Trip Start Sep 05, 2005
284Trip End Ongoing
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We were going to El Salvador today and not knowing how long it would take we decided to leave as early as possible. Luckily the guesthouse was close to the bus station so when we left at 6am we had no problem finding a bus. It did proceed to circle the town a couple of times before we finally left for Guate. Guatemala city is only 45km's from Antigua so we were in the capital before 7:30.
Guatemala city is huge! It's split into a whole bunch of zones with individual bus companies operating in each one. As you can guess we arrived at one end of town and had to make our way to the complete opposite side. Straight away we were pounced on by 2 taxi drivers trying to get our service. The first spoke impeccable English which was actually quite unnerving so we went with the other driver, much to his annoyance.
On arrival at the bus stop across town the taxi driver tried to rip us off and charge 65 Quetzales (about $10) for the 5 minute journey! I went off on one in incredibly broken Spanish about how I wasn't going to get ripped off and the fact it was 70Q for the 4 hour journey to San Salvador! We gave him 40Q and walked off behind the safety of the armed guard at the bus stop. A small victory.
The bus was one of the worst I have ever been on! Sure it was slightly more luxurious than the chicken buses but the levels of pollution were nauseating. I had to sit next to the window with the exhaust fumes pouring straight into my face for close to 4 hours in total! I had the headache from hell but there was nowhere else I could move to.
It states in the LP that crossing into El Salvador can be a bit trickier and the searches more thorough but it was one of the easiest border crossings I have experienced. We stopped passed the border, showed our passports to the armed police and went in search of somewhere to get it stamped. Soon discovered that you didn't need to be stamped into the country so jumped back on the bus and continued towards our destination.
Once we were moving again we assumed that it would be smooth sailing until we reached our destination but it proved otherwise. Our bus was pulled over 5 times by the police (twice for passing a cycle race too fast) and traffic jams from hell requiring us to drive miles in the wrong direction. We were very relieved when we finally got to San Salvador at a reasonable time.
San Salvador isn't exactly renowned for being a safe city so we quickly went in search of a safe place to spend the night. There are 2 main cheap areas but they are still expensive by C. American standards as they use the US dollar here. We ended up at a nice guesthouse miles away from the centre but reasonable considering it had good beds, air con, en-suite and cable TV.
It was incredibly hot so I had a shower before setting off to see what was of interest in the town. Nothing really grabbed my attention so we jumped in a taxi and went to the town centre which seemed to be Plaza Barrios. There was a big commotion in the centre of the square with loads of loud music so we went to see what it was all about. A bunch of hippy foreigners doing some miming theatre to a group of perplexed locals. No wonder they don't like us much.
I can't say I really liked the centre of San Salvador. No welcoming parklands like in the other towns we've visited recently and everyone was staring at us so we moved on. I learned a lesson about eating non local food today after visiting Burger King. There was something seriously dodgy about that burger and I was almost sick eating it. Made me sick for days. Eat the local food people!
After the awful BK we wandered round the streets and thought about what we would do for the next couple of days. We certainly didn't want to stay around here as we really didn't like it so decided to get the bus to Leon, Nicaragua tomorrow. This would mean a really early start as we would have to travel the rest of El Salvador, across Honduras and then into Nicaragua. Should be good fun.
There was a bus company running a direct service, leaving at 4am, so we decided to walk the rest of the way to their office and try to book tickets. There were market stalls along every street but they decreased in numbers as we got further out. It became obvious that we were miles away from the relative safety of the Plaza and heading towards some potentially dangerous areas so we increased the pace. On arriving at the bus station we found it had closed for the day so we would have to use public transport tomorrow.
We decided to carry on walking to try and soak up a bit more of the area as we only had one day in the city. We ended up in a huge American style shopping mall. We did have a couple of incidents along the way including a guy begging by juggling in front of all the cars when they stopped at the traffic lights and the police tried talking to us at one stage but we had no idea what they were saying. I think they were trying to get us in the car as it was a dodgy neighbourhood.
The mall was an amazing contrast to the poor streets we had been in only 5 minutes prior. Top name brands and global chains everywhere. There was a huge kids show underway in the centre of the mall and they played that Gasolina song over-and-over again for 2 hours! I was going insane. We dived into an Internet cafe for 20 minutes to recover and it was still playing when we got back outside.
As San Salvador isn't the safest place to be at night (or day for that matter) we quickly walked back to the guesthouse before it got dark. The LP even shows roads on the map that should be avoided at night which I have never seen anywhere else. I doubt we'll be returning here unless it is necessary. Some people love the place, I really didn't.
So as we weren't venturing outside to see the nightlife in town we decided to make full use of the cable TV and see what was on. Turned out to be 2 highly amusing hours watching Miss Universe and it was an absolute disgrace! Miss Japan was overwhelmingly the most popular which the crowd (and us) but the judges gave it to Miss Puerto Rico! The contest was in LA so they obviously couldn't award it to USA so they gave it to one of their islands instead. Fix I tell you!