Sulphur so good. 

I’m writing this on the wee landing outside our room as Catriona has banished me for smelling like the sulphur lake I swam in this morning.  So eggs then.  Or farts.  To be fair, I was pretty hesitant about taking the plunge as the water was welly boot green and surrounded by mud last seen in The Never Ending Story, but when you’ve  walked up a hill in the sun to take a swim, you better take a swim.  

So I stink.  But not all is bad!  Today not only did my Australian visa make a belated appearance in my inbox (cheers Tony you rippa!), we went full sail and booked our flights as well.  Our flights are proof of our current situation – not a lot of money but a rather lot of time – we are flying from Nicaragua on the 22nd April to Florida, onwards to LA, then to Fiji before touching down in Melbourne…on the 26th April. The layovers are so long we may have time to see the Everglades, the Hollywood sign and a game of sevens on a south pacific beach in between – we’ll see.  Cheap tickets though!  That’s the main thing.  Definitely…..

          Back to present day and El Salvador continues to charm. They had a calamitous civil war in the 80s, which gave America another chance to interfere disastrously, but like the Vietnamese before them, the guerrillas have moved on and they’re harnessing their country’s strengths to embrace peace and the fruits of tourism that usually bloom with it.  A local who had lived through the worst of the troubles took us into the hills to show us where some of the fighting had taken place.  My only real memory of the hike was that it was hot.  Ridiculously hot.  I think I ate some mangos from a tree and then tried not to faint.  

 

     Another local in a different village took us to a coffee plantation which was far more relaxing and less grisly.  The factory used machines from the 1930s, many of which were Scottish – possibly modified from whisky distilleries we guessed.  There were conveyor belts where local woman had to sort through individual beans and look for any discrepancies.  European coffee companies will send whole batches back if there are as many as 4 ‘bad’ beans in a 300 gram sample, so the poor ladies were under a fair bit of pressure.  The coffee our guide served us at the end put a sparkler up my backside.  I felt like I’d mainlined a whole jar of Nescafé into my heart.   Here’s me drying some beans for nothing.  Saint. 

 

       And so now we eye the Honduras border from our mountain vantage of Alegria.  Getting here took 5 buses – this was only because on bus number 4 we were advised very casually  by a passenger that we’d just driven through our intended destination and we better get off at the next town and try again.  This added a good hour to our travel time.  So God knows how many buses it will take to get out of El Salvador, but one thing’s for sure, we are glad we came.  Superbly friendly, terrifically cheap and more red meat than you can shake a rib bone at.  Oh, and volcanoes!  Lots of volcanoes!    And good bananas!  What’s not to love!

          

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Shut the Salvador! 

I realise the end of the last post indicated that with the loss of Gina and G I was all alone.  Not accurate at all.  First up, I also bid farewell to Ellen who, with a further 9 months of Latin American leg-work ahead of her, opted to stay in Xela and learn some much needed Spanish for a while.  Secondly, I am still traveling with her sister Catriona, with whom things have gotten rather serious.  We are now a couple, tackling the open road together, and things couldn’t be going more swimmingly.  I started this trip with my buddy G, with the sole aim of Argentina in our sights.  I’m now with my girlfriend Catriona and in a few weeks (give or take, it’s all pretty vague) we’ll be flying to the other big ‘A’ – Australia, to work, make money and take things from there.  It’s been a bit of whirlwind to say the least but a very happy storm system to be swept up in I must say.  Before Australia though, we have a few hurdles, hills and hiccups to negotiate first.

Getting the visa for Australia of course being quite the priority.  Catriona got hers worryingly quickly, one e-mail (and a possible bribe) and instantly there was a signed photo of Tony Abbot in her inbox entitled, “You’re bloody in mate!”  I naively wrote down that I’d lived in China once upon a time, making me a huge tuberculosis risk apparently.  This required a chest X-Ray from an Australian affiliated doctor in San Salvador, unsurprisingly the capital of El Salvador.  Costing a cool $100 and a charming detour to the craziest city in Central America, said scan has been sent and I await Tony’s permission with baited breath.

San Salvador was mental though.  The city centre was about 20 blocks of never-ending markets, selling bras, pirate DVD’s, food blenders and toothpaste – in that order of abundance.  Amongst this was a church built to resemble a giant rainbow.  From the outside it resembled an air craft hangar on a diet.  Inside it was actually pretty spectacular.  I took the time to find a replacement beard trimmer for the one I’d “left behind” somewhere in Guatemala. Costing $21 after some haggling I returned to our guesthouse to immediately locate the ‘missing’ trimmer in the strangest of places – my wash bag.  So if anyone wants a genuine El Salvadorian shaver, give me a buzz (boom boom), a bargain at $22.

Before the capital, Catriona and I found ourselves on the black sands of El Tunco, which is famous for it’s big surf breaks.  After several attempts the only thing broken was my resolve, which admittedly was a lot cheaper to break than my rental board.  The waves were just ridiculous.  Local nine-year olds skimmed past my limp body like sailfish as I gurgled for help in the wash.  I promptly swapped my surf board for a body board and played in the shallows with the fat kids.

And now, we are in Juayua (pronounced yooahooa, like Dale Winton saying hello) which is a great base for us to explore a bunch of villages on the Ruta De Las Flores.  Brightly coloured buses costing 25 cents pick you up at great speed (catching a bus here is a bit like getting on your first poma ski lift) and you then time your dismount to land somewhere close to a market square or restaurant.  It’s great fun and so far, despite the inevitable safety warnings, locals have been unbelievably friendly and generous – two such groups giving us lifts to and from a wee lake in a volcanic crater.  Seems to be a lot of volcanoes in these parts.  You can call me Mr Lava Lava.  


 

Sorry.