El Salvador just had a civil war, it ended in 1992. This is an interesting thought to me because I would have been a child when it was going on. We visited an awesome Museum today, it was all about the civil war in El Salvador. Within the last thirty years El Salvador has experienced a great amount of pain. Raùl told us this museum isn’t popular among many Salvadorians because it is about the war. History helps create who we are so much. Museo de la Palabra y Imagen, what a cool museum full of artifacts and photos. I am so glad that we took the time we did in San Salvador to get to know this beautiful yet heartbreaking city.
I had read about a botanical garden, I really like botanical Gardens so we went searching for it. The bus took us to within 2 kilometers of the garden. We start walking into what feels like an industrial area. Smoke stacks and semi-trucks. I was sure we were going the wrong way. We had seen a couple signs for the garden. As we maneuvered around the Bimbo bread plant we finally saw an entrance. It was strange that this beautiful garden was tucked away behind this industrial area. As we entered, we bought a bag of food to feed the turtles and fish. It looked and smelled like dog food, I didn’t know turtles/fish were into the same thing as dogs. The entry fee into the park was 1$. El Salvador is cheap, it cost about 25 cents to ride the bus, sometimes 30, and for long distances a dollar. We spent a couple of hours roaming the gardens, feeding the fish and turtles and spotting iguanas. My favorite sections of the garden were the orchids and also the giant bamboo. I have never seen bamboo this large, reaching into the sky and bigger than the diameter of my head.
Once we were back into the central area we walked down to a church we had read about. Iglesia el Rosario. It is located in the heart of San Salvador, this meant that we would be walking through all the markets and close to the soccer stadium. As we approached the church I was baffled by its exterior appearance. It looks almost like a factory of some sort, many churches are very distinguishable from the outside with their tall steeples and baroke decorations. Once we entered the church it was beautiful, high rounded ceiling and multicolored glass. Arriving to the church at 5pm the sun was shining perfectly through the glass making all the colored glass illuminate perfectly.
We walked the market and found a good place to sit down. At first the markets drew me in, and after seeing so many I now try to avoid them unless there is something I need.
We found the TicaBus terminal around 12pm the next day. We left all of our gear at the hotel right next to the station, TicaBus terminals typically have cheap hotels associated with them, this we did not know. We went to find lunch to burn time before our bus departure. We have a small bag we carry with our passports and water so they are always with us and never left anywhere. Our trip to San Salvador from here should only take four hours. We are still traveling gringo style the quickest way to places with optimal comfort. Even if that optimal comfort is not comfortable at all, we still haven’t taken any airplanes yet.it is strange to think our journey has only been by land a bit of sea.
The TicaBus is air conditioned and has a movie playing. No English subtitles, I try and take this time to write blogs, sleep, read and make bracelets. During my time in San Cristobal Laura and Lander taught me the simplest macramé bracelet, and in Antigua I bought some waxed string. My bracelets have been improving dramatically. Immediately after crossing the border we stepped off the TicaBus and and bought ourselves some pupusas, some wonderful ladies were selling them to the bus goers. Mateo introduced me to pupusas in Seattle, where he lived there was a Salvadorian eatery, Tico Rico. One of our goals while in El Salvador was to find ourselves some pupusas, (we ate pupusaa, at least once a day while there).
We arrived in San Salvador, the Capital, and took a taxi down to the central bus station. We will be meeting a couch surfer host named Raùl. He has a policy that if he hosts people that they stay two nights and not just one. Then he will not be just a one night layover for backpackers. When we heard this we both agreed to stay two nights. You never know what you’re getting with couch surfing, this guy was extremely eccentric, lived alone with his dogs and had a very interesting demeanor. He was also helpful and nice, but just a strange dude. I was glad we took the time to tour around San Salvador. Discovering the balance of tour and travel is hard, we want to get to Brazil and we want to explore the places that we are passing through as well.
We departed early the next morning, a great 8 hour drive was ahead of us. After finishing our tasty pancakes and eggs we boarded the truck which would take us to the town of Lanquín, then we would get on to a shuttle that would get us to our connection to head to Guatemala City. I’m going to miss the wonder I have for cocoa trees, what a strange and interesting tree, the only tree that grows seeds from the trunk! Our bus ride was long, our final mini bus into Guatemala city was spacious, with high ceilings. One of the guys had some unstable intestinal issues, we asked the bus driver to stop. Of course this on a winding road and there were not many options for stopping the minibus. The driver said no, only 15 minutes away, we all started insisting that it was an emergency and finding a place to stop would be a good idea. Finally reluctantly he pulled over and the guy went running off the bus to find a cozy bush off the road. The driver stepped out and smoked a cigarette. This is one of my worst nightmares, being really sick while in transit. I have had some bad stomach aches and questionable intestines but never had to pull a bus over for an emergency.
The mini bus dropped us at a random street in Guatemala City, we were both convinced that the driver had forgotten that we needed to dropped off. The majority of bus operators like to be talking on their cell phone while in route. I don’t mind it really but when you’re passing through a city and need to get off it’s a bit concerning. We knew we needed to be in Zona 10 to catch the TicaBus the next day to San Salvador. It’s five kilometers away, we walked about halfway until we found a taxi with reasonable prices. He dropped us on a main road just close to where our loney planet guide said a cheap hotel was. The guide failed us with no hotel in sight. We started walking with our bags in search of a cheap hotel. We use the book again to try to find another recommended hotel, it failed us again. We quit using the book and just start searching for a place to stay for the night. We gradually were getting into the nicer side of Zona 10. And the hotels get nicer as well. Every hotel lobby we stepped into I could feel the staff notice that we had been traveling all day from bus to bus to taxi. My hair a mess, I was sticky and sweaty, and really tired of searching for a place to stay. It was less obvious when were outside searching on the street, and so much more obvious when stepping into those fancy lobbies. We continued ask if any one knew of a cheap hotel. In hindsight we should have headed toward the TicaBus terminal, but that’s hindsight. Finally we found a place for 45$ US dollars a night and rested. 45$ is what we would normally spend in a day or maybe two days. I guess it will have to do!
Mateo and I enjoyed a great breakfast of beans, plantains, and an omelette. Our group was really oversized, I was disappointed by this, so I kept pace on the hike and stayed towards the front of the group with Mateo. Our guide didn’t hold back on his pace, the first segment was hiking up to a veiw point of the limestone pools and then down the other side. I intend on being forced in to excellent hiking shape by the time I get home now that the bike is gone. With Mateo and I being too cheap to take taxis, we are getting closer and closer to being in shape. We then took an hour and a half to tour through the pools, this included jumping, climbing, swimming & sliding.
During this time I would have rather just been let loose to play around in the pools. It was still fun. After going back to the hostel to eat lunch we moved on to the caves. I have never been in a cave, it sounded scary, fun scary. These caves were pitch black so we all got candles and did a lot of swimming. The water was moving at a good pace, I’m glad I was wearing my sandals. I kicked many rocks under the water. The tour through caves is not a normal tour you would see in the states. Many parts of cave travel felt very dangerous, and exhilarating. Climbing up water drenched ladders and over small water falls, some times only being guided by a rope. It felt like if you were to slip in many parts you may obtain a severe back or head injury. Mateo and one of the other boys from Australia actually lead most of the travel through the caves, our guide was busy helping people though small cracks of the cave, literally. I felt like he was a bit handsy but I couldn’t really contest, I wasn’t interested in slipping or falling anywhere in the cave. Due to my astounding hight of 5’1″ I was swimming often. At the end of the cave our guide was pointing up so Mateo started climbing upward, as did I. Guide man was quickly behind me helping me up. He wasn’t too creepy just a bit, he also remembered my name the whole way and called me mi amore (my love). Mateo arrived at the top ledge. Oh my what did I just sign up for following Mateo upward. It was time for Mateo to jump, guide man said to just jump in the middle. So Mateo surely did. I didn’t give myself much hesitation time because that would only lead to fear. Of course it’s safe Mateo just jumped I got to to ledge and aimed for the middle. Thrilling success, and it was fun too! It also helped that I couldn’t see how far it was. Most of us had success, Tua one of the Swedish girls had a bit of a scrape on her knee from the jump, not too bad. We began our return. There were many natural slides in the cave,and just at the very end there was a cave hole that people were going down with the guide’s help. This I was not too excited about, there was no seeing on the other side or through the hole at all and the water was being pushed through quickly. I put my legs through and grabbed on to the knob on the other side of the hole. It shot me out to the group that was waiting on the other side. It was fun being shot through that hole. I did bump my hip good but that only ended in a bruise. Our guide stayed back with a couple of ladies that chose not to go through the hole. So we were on our own getting out, I was excited once we got to the end and I was able to see the light from outside. Many of our candles were gone or getting really short by this time.
We ended our tour with a lazy float down the river outside of the hostel, and jumping off a bridge. Mateo and I had bonded well with the family of Australians in our group and also the Swedish two that were sharing our room with us. We convinced one of the moms to have a commemorative shot of tequila with us. I think most people drink a lot of tequila here, I’m not a big fan of the stuff.
It’s really awesome to meet such random people when traveling, and to discover their reasons for being where they are.