Saturday, 7 April 2012

The Tunnels of El Salvador

We set out to leave Guatemala City.  Only one problem: we couldn't find our way out!  After making a few meaningless circles we stopped at a gas station to get some directions.  While Dan was trying to communicate with the gas station attendants, I was approached by a gentlemen named Frank that spoke perfect English and offered assistance.  

Frank told us that he could lead us out of the city, but if we were interested, we was also able to get us some great GPS maps for all of Central America.  Considering that the Garmin maps hadn't be much help in Mexico and almost useless in Guatemala so far, we decided to take him up on the offer.

We followed Frank to the BMW dealership where he had some friends.  We had some great conversation with Frank and a few of his friends there and before leaving we had both GPS maps and some good new hard copy maps.

Frank lead us out of the city a what I think is a typical Guatemalan pace and waved as we were cut-loose in the right direction.

Thank-you SO much Frank!  We hope to see you again soon and I loved the story of your Tenere.

Dotted with volcanos, the scenery in Guatemala is spectacular.

Finally we left Guatemala.  It was such a short visit, but I know I'll be back soon.

Coming into El Salvador we were basically swarmed by fixers.  A "fixer" is a person that may lend you aid in crossing a border.  All I can say is, that it was a pain in the ass at that border.  Dan and I together make a huge gringo target for the con-artists that like to hang out at the border.   We finally made it through and it was getting dark.  We were going to break our primary rule again.

Driving through north western El Salvador was quite a unique experience.  There were many long tunnels through mountains filled with bats.  Being exhausted from the heat and in a completely new country, it was quite an experience.  Dan later shared how surreal the ride had felt and I had to agree.  He'd seemed 
'real" at all.

We made it to La Libertad and found a hotel.  It was a mostly a dump and they clerk said they wanted $30 for the room.  I negotiated the price down to $25 and we settled in for the night.

Just one of the long bat infested tunnel in northern El Salvador.

After washing up we checked out the beach.  Nice water,  a cool waves lapping the  black volcanic sand.  It was quite nice actually.  Unfortunately we  had two very mediocre meals at the hotel there which were hugely overpriced.  Dan didn't seem to mind, but I hate getting ripped off no matter where I go, and it didn't exactly lure me to stay.  When were went to check out in the morning, a different clerk approached us speaking Spanish fast and loud.  Dan asked me,  "what'd he say?" .  "I think he said check-out was at 8:30 and now were owe them for another day."  The clerk rambled something again, pretty much confirming what I already understood.  I just told him I didn't understand in Spanish and walked away.  They tried to keep my deposit that morning, and I argued with both  male and female hotel staff at the same time, but in the end I got my money back.   Immediately after,  Dan gave them a tip, and we laughed.  I understand these people are poor and desperate, but it was a little frustrating there and if they just treated us with honestly and respect they would win our cash without lies.   The next day we left El Salvador.
That day we had to cross a small portion of Honduras before coming into Nicaragua.  We saw so little of Honduras there's not much point in mentioning it. On my return I plan to spend some quality time in Honduras.   I can tell you it's another interesting time at the border crossing between El Salvador and Honduras.  

Dan got pretty far behind me that day and I hit the border pretty far in advance.  I had researched this crossing before hand and made a list of steps to exit Honduras and enter Nicaragua and it made the process much smoother.  I also learned that if I told the fixers I speak Spanish and I don't need help in my best Spanish accent, they seemed to leave me alone pretty fast.  Seems like I'm learning.

I got to the small coastal town of Chinandega and stopped for a cool drink.  The locals were pretty interested in the bike and myself and started some conversation, with the usual questions "where was I from?" "Did you ride the whole way?", "You're going to Argentina???".  I asked them what placed they liked most in Nicaragua and all comments pointed to San Juan Del Sur.  With a full tank of fuel, I headed out with lots of day light to spare.

These locals make a pilgrimage with these waggon at the beginning of Semana Santa.

I just snapped this picture of Jesus and he was paraded down the street as part of the festivities.

Colour is the colour worn to celebrate Semana Santa 

I finally arrived at San Juan Del Sur.  It didn't take me long to secure some basic accommodation with some safe parking for the bike.

I made a little run out to Coco Playa the next day to take a long around.
This "dude"from Ontario, Canada had set out on a trip like mine years ago and only made it as far as Playa Coco.  He stayed to build a business and life for himself.  It's a great spot.
Dan showed up in the afternoon and we hung-out in a better hotel and had some food and talked.  I ended up going out the night and socialising and in the morning Dan wanted to head out.  I just wasn't ready to leave Nicaragua after only two days, so parted ways again.
I hadn't explored too much in San Juan Del Sur, but enjoyed the beach, going out for some live music and just getting a feel for the place.  I decided a sunset cruise might be good idea.
The owner of the tour operation looks like a a Nicaraguan George Clooney.

There was a huge group of American travellers that were on vacation together 

I guess there was a misunderstanding and this young guy thought it was ok to do a handstand and exit the boat while it was still moving.  Too funny!

It was a great time on the cruise with those folks from the good ole US of A.  One of the fellows mentioned a name..."Ometepe".

With semana santa approaching I knew I couldn't stay in my hotel much longer as it was booked up.  Looks like I will have to move again.

I did some research that night and discovered the Island of Ometepe was in Lake Nicaragua and had two Volcanos on it.  How interesting is that??? Not only that, but there was tons of accommodation and regular ferry service for cheap.  I slept well that night in my expensive hotel and the next day I headed out stopping for fuel and coffee.

I found the ferry terminal in San Jorge quite easily.  After paying a small tax I boarded the ferry and without fuss we cast off.

I chatted with Dani & Shane from Melborne, Australia on the ferry.

I guess it was good party last night because the ferry ride is pretty short.

The volcan Conception looming in the distance.
The ferry came along side, tied up, I moved to disembark.  Somehow a rope got snagged on my bike and luckily a bunch of people yelled "stop" or I could of had problems.   I'm gonna watch for that next time.
I passed by this air strip that basically ends in the lake.

It was still early enough to check out this museum.
I'll save the museum for next post.  Hope you all are doing well,  and are enjoying the blog.  Feel free to leave your comments or say hello any time!   Take care care amigos and amigas.

-Clay D


  1. Awesome update Clax . I am glad to hear you are doing fine . Jimbo

  2. Hey Clay,

    I am still really enjoying following your adventures on the blog. It seems like you are doing really well and everything has been going quite smoothly for you so far, which makes me so happy to hear ;-) It also sounds like your spanish is improving... It's amazing you are able to have such effective communication with the locals. This is probably helping immensely! Are you planning on staying on the Pacific coast on the way down and coming back up the Atlantic coast? Also, if you are heading down into Coasta Rica next, make sure you check out Montezuma! You can probably drive from Nicaragua there fairly easily, or catch a ferry from Puntarenas or Jaco. It was probably my favourite spot in Costa Rica :-) Manuel Antonio has a beautiful beach, but was pretty expensive. Also, if you guys get the opportunity I definitely recommend checking out Monteverde. It is up in the mountains (most likely a really fun ride and beautiful on the bikes-not so fun on the bus!) in the rain forest. When I was there we did horseback riding, and zip lining and king swing (you gotta do the king swing!) and also some nature walks to see the monkeys and sloths etc... so amazing! Anywho, it's great to hear where you're at and like I said, LOVING the blog!

  3. Ride on Bro. Like the chat we had briefly last week, how amazing this looks and what an adventure. Hope ta join ya one day. Keep playin safe and so happy for ya that your getting this opportunity. What a life my friend.