El Salvador & Guatemala
02 March 2011 | Bahia del Sol, El Salvador
Two sisters watching the Saturday morning soccer game on the island across from the marina.
March 1 thru April 23, 2011
El Salvador & Guatemala
Wow! How our lives have been a blur! So much to tell, where do I start? Well, we made it into the marina in Bahia del Sol, El Salvador, easily. What fun and excitement though, surfing the waves in our boat, then having Peter and Cheryl of Stolen Kiss, and Henry from Cloudy Bay greet us on the other side in their dinghy and lead us in. We felt so welcomed and ended up staying for eight weeks! Oh yeah, and remember the engine problem we had when it died off the Guatemalan coast? Well, when Larry pulled off the inspection plate to take a look in the fuel tank guess what he found? Yep, my best bottle of Chardonnay that I had been saving! Nooooo! "Is the bottle okay?", I shrieked! It was sort of an orangy color, and what was left of the label was all gooey, and the foil cap on the cork was off, and all of this had sort of sucked up into the fuel intake valve. NOW we know why our engine died...problem solved! This really was worth a good laugh though and a lot of razzing from our fellow boaters. Did I drink the wine you ask? You betcha baby...couldn't let that go to waste!
So, the marina is attached to a hotel/bar/restaurant, and pool overlooking the estuary. If you walk down the long driveway to the hotel, cross the main road of Costa del Sol, then down another long driveway you can reach another section of the hotel, with pool and restaurant overlooking miles of beach filled with sand dollars that we love to pick up, look at, and sometimes keep. Larry and I immersed ourselves in Spanish lessons three days a week, two days a week we volunteered at the elementary school on the island across the estuary helping teach English, which Ben just loved being around the kids. There were many organized events such as wine tastings, a bonfire on the beach, Wednesday night fundraising dinners at Jan's (who has built a home on Isla Cordoncillo and dedicates her life to teaching the English language to the children as well as raise funds for improvements at the school etc...), Sunday pizza nights, yoga lessons by Ellie from Zeppelin, soccer on the island with the kids on Saturdays and Sundays, hours of walking on the beach, and a lot of socializing in the pool during the afternoons to cool off. We fell in love with Jan and spent a lot of time at her home, cooling off with a refreshment on her porch and loving her dogs, which included puppies that Ben got to see born! We also developed deep feelings for some of the El Salvadorian people, especially Leo, our favorite waiter, who took care of us morning to night, and Claudia, our Spanish teacher and receptionist of the hotel. The biggest downside to cruising, is always having to say goodbye and feeling melancholy for the people we have left.
The only problem being here on the coast of El Salvador was that provisioning was very inconvenient. The shortest amount of time it took to go to the grocery store or ATM was five hours and about $90.00 round trip. Now you certainly could do it all on the local buses for a few dollars and a few more hours, but the thought of trying to get ten big bags of groceries and cases of water and drinks on the packed buses back was unbearable for me. We did however take the bus one time, a two hour ride on two different buses, which really was a hoot. The buses here are old yellow school buses that have been nicely painted in bright colors, with designs almost graffiti style, usually with a woman's name on the side. There is a driver (duh!) and another guy that sort of hustles people to ride the bus, the intent being to fill it way beyond its capacity! The bus announces itself in a big way, honking its horn loudly anytime it is nearing civilization. Some of the patrons are along for the ride to just sell things like herbs, medications, foods etc...Yes, we stick out like a sore thumb and children will just stare, especially at Ben. It makes us giggle. There are truly, free range cows everywhere in this country, which makes for very exciting driving at times as they don't always look before crossing the road!
Ben really felt like this was his home. With the rally going on and many boats in one spot he had instant aunts and uncles, and grandma's and grandpa's and boy did he eat up all of the attention, seeing as we were initially the only kid boat. He became especially close with Carl and Christina on Bombalero, a twenty something year old couple that were so good to Ben and would play with him for hours. Carl, you were truly the "big brother" Ben has never had. He worked on a few peoples' boats cleaning and polishing stainless. He became the estuary taxi in the dinghy, running people back and forth from the anchorage to the marina, and he became every new boaters personal escort service in his dinghy, after they had crossed the sandbar at the entrance he would lead them into the marina. He took this very serious and loved every minute of doing this!
I have noticed as I have grown and changed on this journey, that the more you are exposed to things the less squeamish you become and it becomes your "new norm". A sort of slow process of de-sensitization. Like walking down the road with cows , seeing unusual large bugs, playing soccer barefoot in mud and God knows what kind of guck, eating strange foods in strange places etc..., it becomes your "new norm". I never in a million years could have imagined myself living in the places we have lived and going to the places we have gone in the last six months. It truly is life changing, this sailing around the world thing, and I am really excited that it has only just begun.
We were blessed with a visit from our daughter, Jessica, while we were in El Salvador, and this gave us the perfect opportunity to rent a car and explore Guatemala. We spent four lovely nights in the colonial town of Antigua. Being right before Easter, we were able to see the Semana Santa (Holy Week) parade, and the amazing colorful carpets that were handmade daily out of sawdust for the procession to walk over. Antigua is famous for its Catholic celebration of Holy Week, which commemorates the Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was amazing. Something you would see on the Travel Channel, never thinking you would actually be there for this special event. The town had such a mysterious feel. Narrow one way cobblestone streets, the street curbs are around 24", buildings that are attached together, block after block, some have fancy doors, some not, but when you look inside, past the 24" thick walls it's like entering a whole other world...courtyards...beautiful...open....gardens etc...and all of this surrounded by stunning volcanoes. One of which we took a tour and hiked in the evening, had a wonderful dinner at the top including roasting marshmallows in a vent of hot air from the center of the volcano, and then walking down in the pitch black (super fun, but you gotta do this stuff while you are young...don't wait!). The town was a little eerie...many of the men were walking around town in long purple robes, participating in the Easter procession that went on from early morning to late at night (felt like I was in a scene from the movie New Moon and a vampire was going to come out and eat me!). We stayed at a fantastic, luxurious resort, the Porta Hotel Antigua. We actually had to walk through an underground tunnel, lit by candles to get across the road to where our room was.
Now, renting a car in El Salvador and driving it across the sketchy border into Guatemala isn't for the faint of heart. I think our daughter was surprised at how adventurous we are and how we travel. It really did seem at times like it was going to turn out like a bad scene from a movie. Jessica had become really sick within 36 hours of being with us, but was such a trooper in the 100 degree heat and no access to a bathroom for the five hour drive. On our return, our rental car actually broke down near the border. Larry jiggled everything he could under the hood (it was mostly taped together with black electrical tape!), and the thing ran like a charm after. Phew! It is so hard sometimes. No 911 to call, no AAA tow service, heck...come to think of it, we don't even have a cell phone. But what we do have are hearts that believe in the goodness of people and no one has yet to let us down.
So, thank you, and good bye to El Salvador. We will never forget learning about your struggles as a country, and seeing the strength, beauty, and the love of the people.
See more pictures regarding El Salvador in the photo gallery