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EL SALVADOR INFO & DIARY  1

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 GENERAL INFO (Jump to Diary)
El Salvador, officially the Republic of El Salvador / República de El Salvador  is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. It is bordered on the northeast by Honduras, on the northwest by Guatemala, and on the south by the Pacific Ocean. It covers a total area of 21,041 km2.
El Salvador was for centuries inhabited by several Mesoamerican nations, especially the Cuzcatlecs, as well as the Lenca and Maya. In the early 16th century, the Spanish Empire conquered the territory, incorporating it into the Viceroyalty of New Spain ruled from Mexico City. However the Viceroyalty of Mexico had little or no influence in the daily affairs of the Central American isthmus, which would be colonized in 1524. In 1609 the area became the Captaincy General of Guatemala, from which El Salvador was part of until its independence from Spain, which took place in 1821, as part of the First Mexican Empire, then further seceded, as part of the Federal Republic of Central America, in 1823. When the Republic dissolved in 1841, El Salvador became a sovereign nation, then formed a short-lived union with Honduras and Nicaragua called the Greater Republic of Central America, which lasted from 1895 to 1898. The name originates from Conquistador Pedro de Alvarado, who named the new province for Jesus Christ – El Salvador.
El Salvador's population is composed of 86% Mestizos, 13% whites, and 0,23% indigenous peoples of which 47% are Roman Catholics and 33% Protestants while 17% have no religion.

El Salvador has a tropical climate with pronounced wet and dry seasons. Temperatures vary primarily with elevation and show little seasonal change. The Pacific lowlands are uniformly hot; the central plateau and mountain areas are more moderate. The rainy season extends from May to October; this time of year is referred to as invierno or winter. I avoid that!
Here are around 200 species of mammal, 400 species of butterflies and 500 birds.

Apparently, they only use US dollars.

DIARY
27/12. The tour from Nicaragua via Honduras turned out to be way more time-consuming, than I had expected. My GPS thought I could drive the 450 kilometres in five and a half hour, but I'm on a bus. I wait one hour at the office, before a tri-cycle-taxi bring me and another fellow to the highway, where the bus soon after arrivals. It look like a new bus, compared with all the old used US school busses. The air-con is not too cold, nor is the music loud.

But we drive so slowly. I actually think we are parked more than we move, and I can't tell why? The first 180 kilometres last nine hours, followed by three hours, crossing the border to Honduras. It is a fantastic red sunset - which I can't photo, as I'm in a bus with tinted windows. We are stopped by the police three times in Honduras, and they take their time.

28/12. We finally make it to the El Salvador border, and that add three and a half hour. Where the Honduras side have endless, slow-moving lines, the El Salvador officer just pick-up the passports in the bus, and return them quite fast. But ten kilometres further on, we pull in to a large hall, and every person and bag are lined up. Bags in one line, female in another and men in a third. A thrilled dog sniffs it way through, and a single woman is examined further, but we get her back.

And then the speed slow considerably down! We finally stop at midnight, and at half pass three, they give up fixing the bus, and we are towed to a parking lot without facilities. We are told a mechanic will fix the bus at eight in the morning. I see a couple of my fellow inmates entering a bus, and I'm told, it will reach San Salvador. It is an old school bus with all windows open, and bloody cold in the night. Everyone is packed in jackets, towels and alike.

We are ten kilometres on the other side of San Salvador, when I check the GPS. Apparently, we only nicked the edge of town. I get to drive additional 20 kilometres, before I jump straight over in another bus. In San Salvador, I change to a minibus and walk the last two kilometres. I buy breakfast on the way, and find my hotel right away.

It is new and really eager owner of the hotel, and I get a good room and a great cup of coffee. I work for a few hours, while I charge my GPS, before I walk into the centre of town. Here is a huge trade area and it's actually pretty much all one big market. Some places on several floors, and with a fun mix of everything from live chickens over watchmakers to washing machines. I find some pupusas in a pupuseria: the tasty stuffed pancakes, which I have enjoyed quite some of. I get them with bean mash and spices this time. The breakfast was with cheese.
Here are up to 5% El Salvadorians, who are not excessively obese, but that may be because I'm in the big city. It is probably less in the countryside, as in the other countries. The clothing stores may buy one size 36 to the mannequin and then a lot of 56 and up, for the customers.
I had expected a historic centre, but here are just a few impressive buildings, the rest are small shops and huge market areas. Even the pedestrian zone is with small shops on the street. I treat myself to a Chiai-latte that costs the same as breakfast, lunch AND dinner all together. The latter, incidentally, is a smaller mountain of steamed and fresh vegetables with bean mash and boiled eggs - for a US$1,50.

In the central square, several bands have gathered a little crowd, and the icecream vendor, is on the spot with his little wagon. Some noisy fireworks are also sold here, but they do not throw it one after another. As I walk the 1200 meters home, I pass an area that is almost in ruins. Seems strange in such a voluminous city, that is otherwise so vibrant. The hellish tour to here, and San Salvador city.

29/12. I have a few sights around San Salvador, but I can't talk myself into public transport to them. I'll have a car tomorrow. I just have to spend this day, not getting bored. After eating my breakfast, my host shows up with a proper feed. I organize the bus to Guatemala City, and then walk into the centre - and beyond. At the back there is a low-key area, where I first see two giant halls with electronics repairers.

Then there is an area where there are almost only bars. And all the customers are women, who seem to feel hot. Reasonably easy to get in touch with, hard to get away from ... Then there is an area of ​​wholesale to shoemakers and shoe factories. A strip of stalls sell fireworks, and I get a longer conversation with a girl, who speaks perfect American.

I go into the centre, and find new angles and streets. I think the only thing I don't see, is an ATM! I get freshly made juice several times, salad for lunch and dinner is a sandwich alá Subway, but with avocado "butter", bean mash, lettuce, tomato and jalapeño, and for a dollar and a quarter. As it starts to get dark, big and small bands pop up in the big squares. In the outer areas, there are dance halls and they are popular. People understand how to have fun, although most shops were open this Sunday.
I spend a better part of the evening, figuring how to get from Guatemala City to Belize. Most likely with an overnight in Flores, as it is a long drive.
Another day in San Salvador.

30/12. I start walking towards my rental car, hoping to catch a bus for the 12 kilometre stretch, but when a taxi driver offers me the tour for $10 along with a stop at an ATM, I go for it. We drive all the way through the modern San Salvador, and it does have its posh parts. I'm at Alamo too early, but the car is ready, when all the papers are signed. It is a small, slightly underpowered car, but I won't be driving much anyway.

Half passed ten, I have a bed for the night, and find my self at a almost vacant but perfect beach; Playa El Tunco. I walk several kilometres on the perfect sand without finding a single shell. Some areas have high cliffs, some with caves. It seems like the entire beachfront is a mix of huge resorts and minor opportunists, selling surf lessons and boards, food and beds for the night in some form.

I walk inland the way back, and find some pupusas and a huge glass of papaya juice in my own village. It is made up by one street, but it sure have its share of restaurants and bars. Then I head out the other way along the beach, which is pretty much alike. Home to figure, why I planned to spend two nights here - and fail. I grab the car, and head further up the coast, knowing I will drive here tomorrow.

The coastal route is up in the rocky hills, offering a great view to both the sea and the yellow mountains. However, accessing them is another matter. I get to the few public beaches, and they pretty much look alike. To get into the mountains, I try to follow  little creek; Rio Metayo. Pretty soon, the trail turn a bit unfitted for my car - unless it is the other way around? I pass through five tunnels, the longest being 650 metres.

I head home and work a bit, before it is time for dinner. I fail to find anything local vegetarian, besides from pupusas and decide to go for a sub with quite some vegetables. Well, so I thought, but apparently, that restaurant closes a bit before five in the afternoon! Then I get pretty much the same ingredients in a wrap next door.  It is still quite hot and humid - and I'm not complaining. The hotel Wi-Fi is not working, and I find a café that does. Guess I ought to buy at least  brownie... Out to Playa El Tunco.

31/12.  I get to sleep a bit longer, than I have expected, in my lone dorm-room. Then I head "down-town" to find breakfast. I end up with a "Rancheros" right at the mangrove. The corn-chips, eggs, beans and spices are great, the view awesome! I have to drag myself away, and set off for another adventurous day.

I follow the coastal road once again, but today, I have the sun in my back, and it is even greater. After 50 kilometres and some tunnels, it leads into a low plateau with quite some farming. In Sonsonate, I turn into Ruta de las Flores. Or I thought I did. Instead, I get the short and direct route - made for mules in Nahuizalco. Back on track, I can enjoy the green flat mountains, distant volcanoes, crossing rivers and actually; quite some flowers along the road.

I turn into Juayúa at 1031 metres height. This New Years day, it is real hectic market, firework stands and lots of happy people. It is hard to tell how much extra they have done, but I get a feeling of: To night will be a huge party for people from near and fare.

I do several loops, talk to a floweriest, who are into cacti and speak quite some English. A bit out of the centre, there are some real charming old houses, and the Mercado Municipal is packed! I see hundreds of pupusas stands, but I save that for later. Instead, I enters a café, and point on something at their menu. It turns out to be a fusion of waffles and French Toast - real great!

I follow the Ruta de las Flores for 12 kilometres more, down a valley and up to Apaneca in 1454 metres height. At first, it feels really sleepy and "undiscovered", compared with Juayúa. Most houses could do with some maintenance, but they do look so idyllic. Then I find the Mercado de Turístico, and here are all the souvenir shops and a large foot court. I am still the only pale I have see all day, but here must be a lot from the surounding countries.

I find the end of the Flowertrail Ahuachapán, but as I'm in good time, I do a 40 ilometre loop to the Guatemala border in Las Chinamas. It is a bit more dry here in 365 metres height, and I see some real tempting yellow mountains. I try to reach them, but apparently, they are on the other side of the border river.

I do find a 30 kilometre gravel road, leading into some humble huts, crossing under the river and pass small fields. Some have a crop, I'm unfamiliar with. Look like corn, but the "fruit" is more like millet, although 2,5-3 millimetres in diameter and light brown. Later, I learn they call them mayzena.

Late in the afternoon, I reach Chalchuapa in 703 metres height. I can't find my hostel, but I find another perfect one: Real nice courtyard, where my car can be locked in, right in the centre of town, it have hot water and I get a single room for $10. I sigh up for an additionally night: I stay her this year out, and some of the next.

I do a short walk around to find dinner, at first avoiding pupusas, then desperately trying to find some, as all restaurants and stands are closed as the first. I end up with some bakery, filled with Nutella and jam, another horseshoe shaped with pineapple jam. Along with two sweet bananas, it make my New Years dinner. Ruta de las Flores, Juayúa and Apaneca.
It is time to open Diary 2 and the new year.

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