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Archive for the ‘El Salvador’ Category

Day 37 – Rape at the Border (Sumoto, Nicaragua)

09 Nov

We woke up at sunrise and left to El Amatillo, a border town between El Salvador and Honduras.  The directions given by Roberto last night were easy to follow.  We got separated in traffic, however, after exiting San Salvador and only met each other three hours later at the border, where some people approached us offering to expedite the paperwork for a reasonable fee of about 10 USD each.

We gave them our documents and quickly moved through the El Salvadorian customs and migration offices.  The Honduran side of the border looked more chaotic.  We parked our bikes in a shadow and sat down to rest, while waiting for the helpers to finish the paperwork.  Vadim went to get some food and came back with a few pieces of chicken and two bottles of Coke.  One guy sold us some reflective tape for the motorbikes that is supposedly required in Honduras and Nicaragua.

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Vadim at the El Salvador – Honduras Border (Still Smiling)

The helpers were running around, disappearing and then re-appearing several times to report the progress.  They returned a couple of hours later with all the documents ready and delivered a surprising news that all-in entry and exit fees for the motorcycles are 150 USD each.  We, of course, balked at the price and went to a nearby customs agency to get some answers, but heard the same story from the lady who worked there.  A couple of Americans were waiting inside and confirmed that they were being “raped” for the same amount as well.  We asked the helpers to itemize all costs, but the conversation turned into an incomprehensible haggle that lasted for another hour.  We left the border, eventually, after paying them 120 USD each.

Just few hundred meters past the border, we were waived down by the Honduran police, who asked us for the documents, then for some money “to buy Coca Cola”, then for some presents (they especially liked our motorcycle gloves and even tried them on).  We used our “No Hablo Espanol” tactics and, after offering 1 USD to one of the officers, were allowed to go.  The same story repeated itself just a few miles later, but the police let us go after a short monologue, since we pretended not to understand a single word of Spanish and offered them no cash.  We stopped at a gas station to get some small change for any future payments to the police.

Every time we saw the police on the road, we were expecting the worst, but nobody stopped us until we reached the Honduras – Nicaragua border at El Espino two hours later.  We met there Jordan and his family, Americans from Wyoming, who traveled by bus to their home in Nicaragua.  It was getting dark and we did not want to ride at night, so we hired (again!) another helper to get us through the border, which looked much more orderly this time.  About hour and a half later and our pockets 60 USD lighter, we entered Nicaragua and headed to the nearest town of Sumoto.

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Vadim at the Honduras – Nicaragua Border (after being Annihilated by Honduran Border Officers)

It was pitch dark and we were warned to beware of the cattle on the road, but it only took us half an hour to reach the town and find a budget hotel (12 USD per room).  After taking a quick cold shower, we went out to a small family run “comedor” few blocks from the hotel for some tasty chicken and Coke in the old-fashioned glass bottles.  On the way back, we briefly stopped to watch schoolchildren play volleyball on a field opposite the main church and passed many street vendors, who were wrapping things up for the day.  It was a long an exhausting day for us and we agreed to take a good rest and reach Granada without hurry the day after.

Routes taken: CA2, CA1 (Interamericana), CA7

Miles ridden: 261 miles (420 km)

 

Day 36 – One Day in El Salvador (Playa El Zunzal, El Salvador)

08 Nov

How many places in a country could one visit in just one day?  Quite a few, if you are lucky enough to find a local person to drive you around and if a country is as compact as El Salvador.

Roberto, part-time architect and part-time guide, picked us from the hotel late morning and then took us in a minivan to the capital city, San Salvador, which was less than an hour drive.  We went straight to the San Salvador Volcano, looked at the crater and enjoyed beautiful vistas of the city.

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View of the City from San Salvador Volcano

We met Edwin for lunch in a shopping mall, which was built by one of the powerful families that control most of the economy in the country, and then continued the city tour.  Roberto showed us the new and old parts of San Salvador: Santa Elena district with its modern buildings, expensive houses and the fortress-like US Embassy; and the downtown with its plazas, street markets and churches, one of which (El Rosario) was designed by a team of architects, including Roberto’s father.  We also visited the tomb of Archbishop Romero, still the most revered person in the country, whose murder sparked the civil war in the 80s.

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El Rosario Church in San Salvador

Late afternoon we drove to Suchitoto, the former capital of El Salvador, a small, but beautiful colonial town with an interesting church in the main plaza, cobblestone streets, and many art galleries.  We sat down to taste some “pupusas” with pork, zuchinni and loroco that are a staple food here; drank hot chocolate and enjoyed some sorbet with chili, tamarind and fruits.

On the way back, we stopped for a glimpse at Lago Suchitlan, a huge artificial lake, the water of which is used to spin turbines at the nearby hydroelectric plant.  It was pitch dark by the time we got back to our hotel (it gets dark very early here, around 5:30 pm) and, after a quick dinner, we retired to our large, but not very comfortable room.

Routes taken: None

Miles ridden: None

 
 

Day 35 – Welcome to El Salvador (Playa El Zunzal, El Salvador)

07 Nov

We left Antigua before noon and headed south-east to the border crossing with El Salvador at La Hachadura.  The road was good, with exception of a small wash-out past Cuidad Vieja.  We got briefly lost while trying to get around the town of Escuintla, but after asking some locals for directions, were back on track without much delay.  At one point, we had to make a 4 km detour on unpaved roads, because a small bridge over a river was damaged during the recent floods.

We reached the border crossing at 1:00 pm and were immediately approached by two guys on a small motorbike, who offered their help with the paperwork.  They guided us through a long line of trucks to the customs / migration offices, got all necessary signatures on multiple forms, made copies of the documents and overall were very helpful in getting us through the border in less than two hours.  We paid 100 quetzales (13 USD) for their services.

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Vadim at Guatemala – El Salvador Border

Edwin, a member of the local BWM riders club in San Salvador, was waiting for us at the border on his grey 2008 BMW R1200GS Adventure and escorted us along the Pacific coast.  The road was very scenic and relaxing.  We reached a small hotel near El Zunzal Beach, a top surfing spot in the country, by sunset and decided to spend the night there.  Javier, manager of the hotel and avid off-road motorcyclist and surfer, greeted us at the entrance.  We retired early, after a quick dip into the warm ocean, followed by jacuzzi, few beers and a wonderful seafood soup at the hotel.

Routes taken: CA2

Miles ridden: 174 miles (280 km)