Kooking on in El Salvador and Around
02 June 2011 | El Salvador, Guatemala and international waters
5/8/11 - 5/14/11: Shuttling Around Central America. I jumped in a shuttle from El Tunco to Antigua hoping to get away from partying tourists. The shuttle ride was extremely slow. Tiny engine of this little van was being fed all can eat gasoline for 6 hours climbing hills up to 2000+ meters at walking speed to Antigua at times. We arrived around 830 to a hostel that destroyed my no more party plans immediately. There was full and loud bar downstairs with clientele that definitely had been suffering from dehydration for a long time. The bartender were extremely busy as well as the check in to rooms. I ended up hanging with couple of guys from the shuttle around this historical and colonial city that reminded me from Trinidad in Cuba. The night ended at a weirdest after party in a place that looked like it had a wedding going on earlier and all the guests past out on the floor. The final touch was given by some real looking plastic people standing here and there around the room. On the way back couple of UK people stepped out of the cab in the middle of nowhere and the dude is pointing me from distance yelling 'I know you'. It turned out that they had gotten lost and recognized me from the hostel. The next day I spent walking around, shopping, went for a run and dinner with the funny UK people.
On Monday I had booked a shuttle to Semuc Shampey in a central G-mala. Take off was chaotic, without alarm I woke up 5 minutes after the shuttle was to be leaving, ran downstairs, the shuttle was just about to leave when I ran with half of my buttons untied and hair sticking up to see if he could wait, realized I need ATM. The driver promised to be back in 5. That gave me exactly enough time to get a breakfast to go and pack my stuff and run to ATM.
The ride took 8 hours that was painful for 6'3'' tall guy in a stuffed van with worn out seats and metal bars sticking right on my back. On the upside the views were amazing; little villages, lots of forest, little mountains, curvy roads etc.
We arrived to Zephyr Lodge just in time for happy hour. The place had amazing setup; on top of the mountain, overlooking to the river, surrounded by green hills. A magical smoke from farmers fires was lingering around the valley to perfect the sunsets. Bartenders must have had Ph.D. in 'how to get people wasted' - every single night there was about 40 to 60 happy travelers who didn't like sleep till very late.
Daytime tours consisted of a) caving and b) tubing of which first one had some candle light swimming in caves with waterfalls and crazy jumps + hiking and swimming in dozens of little pools that leaked out of underground river. The second was more like preparing for happy hour on a floating device.
After couple of days and on third missing a shuttle out while sleeping in I finally got out of the party scenery and started to head back to San Salvador and to the boat that I wanted to see floating again
I stopped on the way at Guatemala City where I shared a room with the same UK people from Antigua coincidentally third time. The city had a slight violent sniff on it. It mostly showed up in over secured gates and fences, shotgun guards and a twist of cautiousness in local people's behavior.
Next day arriving to San Salvador was like coming to home. It had its friendly vibe going and even the shotgun guards felt rather my buddies than something to give an image of some potent violence. I spent a night in Zona Rosa and explored a little bit of local nightly scene.
5/16/11 - 5/21/11: Surf trip to Golfo Fonseca. The plan had been to sail the boat over to the biggest gulf on west coast Central America where El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua meet and search for unsurfed breaks that were hiding in an area only accessible by boat. There was a massive swell coming in on Wednesday which made us to take off before that as the channel out of Bahia gets inaccessible with the bigger waves. Only Matt was coming onboard which was a relief for me not to have million people and their needs around. We had a quick 35 minute preparation including checking out with port and buying food and lifting dinghy and anchor as the timeline (high tide once a day) for takeoff was so close when Matt arrived.
We sailed over to Barrillas river mouth entrance and anchored, continued over to Flores area that was famous from its surf. The surf hasn't picked up yet so we ended up surfing the beach break at Ventana ( big hole in the rock) which was real fun actually.
We continued around the most south most point in Salvador where a town called Tamarindo is located, anchored. Matt surfed again, I decided to save my out of shape muscular structure for bigger session next day.
Big Wednesdays are legendary. It's always Wednesday when a big swell hits - so weird. I woke up in the middle of the night when pounding waves sounded like they were breaking right next to the anchorage. After realizing that this in fact was the case, I considered about six times of reanchoring the boat. Finally I concluded that in the worst case we would only get a hit by a wave and not be dragged to rocks or beach so I went back to sleep. This scenario was only 10 ft. away in the morning, but as there was no imminent danger other than what extra dose of adrenaline could cause, we were fine.
We lifted the anchor and headed to the way that google earth had pointed out as being a potentially a spot that a surfer from a plane had been shooting with his camera and that seemed one of those unsurfed spots on earth. It was working. As we had to anchor twice to get to it, first the boat and then the dinghy, we named it 'Anchors'. It was a very nice wave, had two section where the outmost had an easy take off, from times a little fast and steep. A long wave that broke all the way in to a little bay was amazing.
We circled the islands that were beautiful but didn't have any surf on the downside. Then stopped at La Union where our paperwork was supposed to be stamped although seemed a bit far fetched to get it done as they just told us to go back to Bahia, just what I expected, more explaning going back. Then at Isla Mengraguai we anchored and got supplies when bunch of people met us at the docks to socialize with foreign 'veleros'.
We surfed on the way back at Anchors, Luckymans and Flores where we surfed also to the beach and drank some beers to get an image of the local village. At the sunset we were out checking Punta Mango and Bongo but were too tired to go out and headed toward Bahia. We got a good 3 hours of sleep before waking up at 530am to get ready for co-pilot on a jetski at 6am to lead us through a seedy sand bar with 10 ft. crashing everywhere. Rohelio, the driver waited for a good lull and we only experienced about 6 ft. swell which was still 'mucho' fun.
5/22/11-5/29/11: Just fixing the boat. It was time to do get some projects finished on the boat. The weather, about 96 F ( 37-38 C ) in the day time did not favor any work though. Santos, a local boat business owner and a handyman, was keen on helping out. We talked a lot about different projects and El Salvador and everything else. We did a trip to San Salvador to get some parts and screws and other boat stuff. This was the place to get the boat fixed more than Mexico. Labor cost was low, parts reasonable, skill level high.
Santos was a hard working man. He had learned a serious adult job in a metal shop when he was seven, lived through the civil war crazyness and after all learned English. He had started a boat maintenance business in his early 20s and grown it to a significant size in 3rd world scale. After hard week of boat work it was time to pack the surfboard and board shorts and take off to surf the big swell approaching the coast on Monday night.