We leave the Somoto Canyon early in the morning and drive to the border of Honduras. The formalities are very strange and we take one of the many helpers who offer their services for a few bucks. However it´s wise to get clarification about the price beforehand. Otherwise they may take $20. In light of a monthly per head income of $160 in Nicaragua and $195 in Honduras one should not overstress the tip. A few Dollars are more than enough even when they look very disappointed.
After two hours we are done and go ahead with a mixed feeling. 64,5% of the households are still poor or very poor. The criminality has reached a very high level and more than 40.000 young people have joined local gangs. (maras) Faced with this simple facts we don`t want to stay longer than necessary and cross the country in three hours without long stops.
Border crossing to El Salvador is surprisingly easy. A guide is not needed even when they push you for help already a kilometer before. Simply stay cool and move on. After two hours the paperwork is done and we go on to the pacific coast. Like Honduras El Salvador is also not a paradise of peace. In 2015 the country took over the number one position for the highest murder rate from Honduras. But one way or the other we must pass thru and the situation in the next countries to come is not really better.
Our first destination is the campground Rio del Mar together with the hotel Tortuga Verde on the pacific coast. The beach is endless but more for surfers and the campground has also seen better days. In addition Saturday night is party time which means full music power till early in the morning and not so much exciting for elderly people. Luckily the hotel is 500m away along the beach and we can stay one night on the parking lot till the party is over.
After two days we drive to the Laguna Alegria in the mountains a picturesque crater lake on 1300m. After temperatures above 35 degrees in the last weeks we suddenly must pull out our fleece jackets and long trousers after sunset. The temperature goes down to 15 degrees at night and since a long time we have our breakfast in the car. On our way we make a short stop in Berlin but could not find any German roots as the name may suggest.
North from the capital Salvador are two interesting archeological sites. First we visit Joya Ceren which is also named the Pompeji of America and Unesco world heritage since 1993. After some volcanic eruptions the small Maya village was covered from 5-6m of ash. The place was discovered in 1973 and was rebuilt since then. Our next stop is the Ruins of San Andres where up to 12000 Mayas lived in 600-900 A.C.
We spend the night in the National Park Los Volcanes. The parking place is at the top of the volcano Cerro Verde on 2200m. From there you have a beautiful view to the volcano Santa Ana and to the active volcano Izalco. He erupted a few times in the 20th century, lastly in 2005 where thousands of people were evacuated. Due to robberies in the past hiking is only allowed with a guide and the 4 hours tour to the peak of the volcano is accompanied from 2 armed policemen. The atmosphere in the well-deserved area with picnic places and campgrounds is very peaceful and quiet and it`s hard to believe that violence can happen. However the sunset from the view point is incredible. After this we serve some rum in our car for the Canadian couple Mike & Gen and for the Dutch couple Nora & Rick. They must spend the night in their not so well isolated cars and need much heat from inside. We spent a very nice evening with a lot of rum and exchange our travel experiences.
While driving thru cities we discover that all shops where cash money transfer takes place are protected from an armed security guard. Also all cars that transport goods are protected from a man with a shotgun. In the beginning we were a little bit scared when a small truck overtakes and a shotgun looks out of the window. But our overall impression of the country is very good. The people are very friendly and helpful and the landscape is wonderful. In Juayua we park at a hotel for some nights. The city is known for its “feria gastronomica” where people come from all over and try the best food of the region. However with a closer look it`s not much more than a tourist market with food stalls and useless souvenirs.
That`s it with El Salvador the smallest country in Middle America. We will now explore Guatemala and tell you more about it in our next blog. Hasta Luego.