Isla de Amor @ Lago Suchitoto
After a short flight we arrived in San Salvador. With another breezy border control and customs check in, we were free to leave the airport. A friendly guard helped us confirm where we had to get the bus from and we walked the 25m through the car park to the main road. As we stood there waiting for the bus, another friendly guard invited us to stand inside his patch of shade with him, maybe he felt sorry for the lilly white girls melting in the El Salvadorian sun. Within 10 minutes though we were on a little shuttle bus and on our way into the Capital. The bus cost a whole 35 cents each and took about an hour. Better than a $40 taxi! We arrived and were all but carried onto our next bus by awesome locals and the bus conductors, everyone so far was extremely helpful and friendly. Another very cheap bus, another helpful bunch of people and we were on our 90cents/2hour bus to Suchitoto. We had tried to pre organise some accomodation but hadn’t had a lot of luck yet. We arrived in Suchitoto as a big storm rolled in. With the directions and help of locals we spent the next hour looking for a hostel that no longer existed. We headed for one of the hotels that we had been chatting to on Facebook, La Moneda, but we hadn’t managed to confirm anything as yet.
Luckily he had reserved us a room anyway, although there was ablsoutley no one else in sight. We ended up in a double room for only $19 a night, which was $10 less than 2 dorm beds at a hostel down the road. This was all very lucky because as we reached the door of La Moneda, the skies opened up and it absolutely poured with rain. We settled in, hung out for a bit then braved the weather to grab some dinner. We headed to the main square in pursuit of a recommended restaurant, and again found a bunch of locals only to happy to help direct us. This really wasn’t what we were expecting of El Salvador, to be honest we didn’t really know what to expect, but a lot of people had put a good amount of fear into us about how dangerous the country was. This just was not the case, dangerous; maybe, but as far as the people, they were some of the friendliest we had met.
Fishing @ Lago Suchitoto
Dinner was at Donde Charlie’s, where the workers banged out some terrible karaoke tunes, a small group of their friends sat drinking beer and we were served pizza and a local “calzone” type thing, all of the above was delicious and super entertaining. We had yet to see another tourist.
We woke up rather lazily the next day, consumed some decent breakfast sandwiches and aimlessly wandered around the beautiful town of Suchitoto. At 3pm we went to the tourist police station where you are meant to all meet (all=tourists interested in going to the waterfalls) collect a police escort and then head to the waterfalls. Police escorts are common and often free due to lots of robberies. As we walked in, the weather took a turn for the worst as a storm rolled in again. Rainy season is officially here! As if it were a sign, there were not enough police working that day anyway, and we were told to come back tomorrow. The officer was so enthusiastic and so friendly.
That night we went to a locally run Mexican restaurant cleverly named “Suchimex” where I had probably one of the best burritos I had had in a long time. Again, it poured with rain, limiting the evening activities to monopoly deal, blog writing and photo editing. We were longing for the sun and Utila. There was some consolation in all of this, the worlds neediest cat. You could throw her off you and ten seconds later she was straight back on our laps rubbing against the iPad, the chair, whatever you had in your hand…
Jess And The Needy Cat @ Hotel La Moneda, Suchitoto
The following day we jumped on a bus and headed for the lake. We had heard the lake was dirty and that you couldn’t swim in it, but nothing had prepared us for the layer of algae and rubbish that lined the lake. We did a boat trip out to see the migratory birds, a bit expensive for what it was (it would have been cheaper if there was anyone else there), but also it was nice to get out on the lake and enjoy the break in the rain for a while. Neither of us have ever seen so many damn egrets and cormorants in our lifetime. Not the most amazing birdlife but the surrounding countryside around the lake was beautiful.
Always Bird Watching @ Lago Suchitoto
The rest of the day we hung out in a public pool overlooking the lake and mountains. We were the only people in the pool that could swim, and weren’t fully clothed. Which also meant we spent the hour being stared at by a huge group. It wasn’t in a rude way necessarily, but more in a way of wonder and a kind of “what you are doing here?” sort of thing .
The rain came yet again that afternoon so we organised our travel and accomodation for the next day (in between a card game that I don’t think we’ve mentioned before, monopoly deal?). We would play other actual card games but we left our only deck of cards in our Guatemalan family’s dining room. Fond memories of playing cards with Ana-Luisa, Manuel and Gretchen. Fond of course until the night that Alice broke her finger playing a quick slam card game with Manuel. Her finger is still fat and very wonky.
The Cormorant And The Hawk @ Lago Suchitoto
We found a little place close to the city centre that was the cheapest and rates 9.7 on booking.com, decision made! We contacted the owner directly (so much easier to do here to get direct and cheaper prices) and ended up with the most helpful directions from the owner Louis. He literally planned each one of our steps from Suchitoto, the bus changes, to the walking directions for the last block.
That night we decided to brave the challenge of pupusas again for dinner. They turned out to be far nicer than the ones we had had before the Tajamulco climb and only briefly brought back some bad memories. And our dinner with drinks cost only $2.60!!
Your Tern @ Lago Suchitoto
We jumped on a bus early the next day to San Salvador, where, during the hour and a half we (and everyone on the bus) were sold; Marijuana, brain and stomach worm steriliser tablets, pink “fix all skin conditions” cream, chocolates, headphones; menthol and marijuana cream for pain relief, more headphones and practically a kitchen sink. Getting on a bus here is like going to a pharmacy. The one big exception is of course that it’s all bullshit and no one has any medical knowledge or clue as to what is in what they are selling or buying (it’s Alice writing now). The vendors are always successful though and get at least two sales from each bus rant. They get on
the bus with their wares, present for a couple of minutes then walk the length of the bus selling everything for you guessed it, just $1! I mean who wouldn’t want life saving drugs for just $1?! I saw this a lot in Africa and it really upsets me. Why on earth would you buy medicine from a guy on a bus who is just scamming you?! We saw a young woman buy a pack of two large “fix any-worms-you-might-have-in your-stomach-and-brain” pills, took one herself and gave the other to her toddler. It just shits me, hopefully it’s all herbalist baby aspirin. I know it’s all education but seriously someone needs to do something.
Lago Suchitoto @ Lago Suchitoto
In San Salvador, the bus driver decided not to stop at the main terminal and we ended up a fair way away from where we needed to change buses. The driver who was angry at the entire world was no help, but as soon as we jumped off his bus, another bus driver was super helpful. He told us he would take us to the terminal we needed and we just hopped on for free. By this time we had picked up a Japanese lady who spoke no English and no Spanish but needed to get to the same terminal as us. It turned out. We think, that the bus driver changed his route to drop us off at the terminal, for free. This is where we changed buses, popped the Japanese woman on the correct bus and managed to find our bus easily (with Louis’s directions that were dead accurate) and that was that. We were off to Santa Ana.
The buses here are wildly over capacity, licensed to seat 71 passengers, and then have at least another 30/40 standing in the aisles or squished onto the benches. You are sold absolutely everything on these buses from medication to clothing. But, they are super cheap, really regular, the drivers are only a bit mental unlike everywhere else in Central America and they are practically always on time. We have been very impressed with their efficiency.
So far El Salvador, you’ve been friendly and super easy to get around. But please, for god’s sake do something about the rubbish. It’s by far the worst place we’ve been to. The amount of rubbish we’ve seen thrown from bus windows from children, adults and elderly is atrocious.