So last time I was camping behind a locked gate in a dirty parking lot without toilets on my first night in El Salvador. The van had broken down for a third weekend in a row and I couldn’t find the spare parts I needed. It was literally just hanging together with some improvised spare parts. Good thing there is supposed to be a Volkswagen mechanic who can order spare parts for me. So once the gate to the parking lot was open, I headed for the VW mechanic. He’s supposed to be located near San Salvador. It turns out to be a bit of a dodgy part of town and after slowly driving through the street twice I still can’t find anything that looks like a mechanic. So I guess the address I had was wrong. Now I’m tired, grumpy and still didn’t have my van fixed. So for a new plan I head to the coast to a campsite with power and WiFi so I can re-plan. Actually change that plan I’m just going to hang around for a day not thinking about broken vans, border crossings or other annoying things. Turns out this spot is pretty good for that. I park at a hostel on the beach. They have a beautiful garden with two swimming pools. two pet macaws, a ginormous pet iguana (he hangs around the pool eating lettuce), hammocks overlooking the beach, power and fast WiFi for only 4.5 euros per night. Plus there are people again to hang out with. I think I can relax now. I spend that day and most of the next day just sitting in the hammock reading books.
The second afternoon I get a message from Mike and Lyndsay (who I camped with in Tulum, Mexico and then ran into again at a bar in Antigua, Guatemala) to ask me where I was. They were near El Tunco, El Salvador. Well, I was even nearer to El Tunco. They were 5 km down the beach (10km down the road) from me. I headed over to their surf lodge the next afternoon for one lunch and ended up camping there for two days outside at the end of a dirt road overlooking the ocean at a small food place. There were three other Americans at the surf lodge. All five of them would go out to surf early morning and at the end of the afternoon. The rest of the day we spend hanging around the lodge or in the pool. While the Americans were surfing I would hang around the beach to take pictures of the surfers or sitting in a big tide pool.
My plan was to loop back inland for some more volcanoes and nice mountain roads. But with the broken throttle cable I didn’t really want to do steep mountains. So Mike and Lyndsay convinced me to travel together with them along the coast. They also planned to be in Nicaragua for Christmas and this way we could cross the borders together and they could help me if (when) my van would crap out again. Plus my parents could bring the spare parts from home. Our next camp is in El Zonte (a full 30km back in the direction where I came from). Another cheap hostel let’s us camp under the mango trees. We walk out to the beach for some sunset beers.
We plan to head out today. But after we walk to El Tunco for cheap breakfast we see that the waves are pretty nice so we go surfing. I can use one of their boards and Mike gives me some quick instructions. It’s a small board and I only surf lying down on it but it is soo much fun. I manage to catch 4 waves (later people tell me that these waves were actually pretty large… I guess that’s the benefit of going the first time. You don’t know what a normal wave looks like). There’s a lot of waiting involved and the swimming back against the waves and currents is tough but then you spot turtles swimming just a few meters away and everything is alright again. At the hostel an Ozzie guy shows us how to make great bread in a pan without an oven. We are inspired and plan some fancy foods for the next days.
Off to the next surf beach. With the very similar name of El Cuco. It’s a three hour drive with our little convoy. I drive up front because my van is the slowest so I get to dodge the potholes and suicide drivers that overtake trucks in blind corners.. The camp spot is another slightly dodgy looking parking lot but the beach is great. Filled with loads of local people eating at little wooden beach restaurants. We walk all the way across the beach over some rocks to some fancy surf hotels. On the way back we have a great sunset. Late in the evening someone rattles at the big gate of the campsite. A delivery guy brings in a live turkey: Christmas dinner for the owners of the campsite. For the next few days the turkey walks around our cars making funny turkey noises.
The next day it’s too windy too surf but it’s a good time to work on/clean our cars. In the afternoon we take another sunset walk on the beach. That night we make our own beef Wellington for dinner with home made cinnamon rolls for desert. Tasty, tasty. Our last day in El Salvador we want to drive to Punto Mango, a surf spot only 10km from here. The road is supposed to be really really bad so we only take Mike and Lyndsay’s truck and leave mine at the campsite. It takes us half an our to drive the 10km loads of potholes and random heavily armed military guys. The beach is great but again not surfable because of the wind. So we just hang out, swim and read. The drive back is one of the most Salvadorian moments ever. Potholed roads with horses, donkeys, huge pigs, beautiful beach views and towns made of wooden shacks with the people living on the street. More fancy dinner: we manage to make a proper pizza in the pan.
So ends a very relaxing week in El Salvador. We didn’t do too much but we had good fun and my van didn’t break down. Next up is a very stressful day where we drive from El Salvador to Honduras into Nicaragua in only one day. It’s only a 100km drive but border crossings always ruin your plans.