The kingdom of pupusas

Two times navy, one time street, two time at a writer, around 26 pupusas, Evit 6 points, Jan one

5km long lines of trucks and cars, hours of waiting and we- just passing them all on our bicycles… 10min at the immigration office and we have another country on the list – El Salvador :)

Like always, we are “prepared” and only things we know is that they have some pupusa here and use US dollars. At the border we get the energy from tortillas and coke. It’s far from a good food but it fulfilled the goal – we rised the sugar level and we are not starving anymore.

We don’t see big differences from Guatemala – sometimes a hill, similar nature, same roads and still Spanish. What is a different is the unbelievable heat here, houses like fortress (with tall walls, barbed and electric wires), people wearing normal clothes (no traditional ones) and different currency.

Flat tire again! Those small wires from destroyed cars’ tires always find a way how to penetrate inside our tires. On the other hand it helps us get a ride and the last 30km to Acajutla (the firemen should be there). There is a big harbor full of containers where they should be located but at the gate we realize that this won’t be our sleeping place for today. The gate-keeper explains us that we cannot go inside because of security reasons and that there is just a small group of firemen only for the harbor. But he also understands our needs (safe place and sleep for free :)) and he advices us to try the capitaniat of the harbor which is also opened 24hours a day.

After 15min we find a building with a volleyball court in front of it, big broadcast tower and sign “Fuerza naval” (Navy). With a big smile and our poor Spanish we try to explain a guard wearing white uniform what we want. He is surprised and confused (we are probably first two crazy guys who want something like this :)). But a young captain (in shorts and T-shirt) comes fortunately. He is really cool and in 5min we get a big empty room.

It’s 40 Celsius, we are 20m from the ocean and we can finally cool down! This is a strong expression for this “tee-warm” water which should “refresh” our bodies. We are jumping in the waves till we are not overheated and it’s not fun anymore. Clean (it was like our washing on the boat) we go to the town to look for local specialties. We ask the lady with grill on the street what is in the offer today – pupusas! We stay and test … small, tasty, simple, rich and cheap miracle:

Tortilla – fat pancake mostly from corn flour which is filled with cheese, cheese and beans or cheese, beans and meat – revuelta. With it comes pickled cabbage (according to the guidebook we shouldn’t eat it) and tomato sauce. It’s eaten with hands without cutlery.

Everybody eats 3 with a lot of the cabbage and we are sure that this will be our food during next days in this country. In the evening we talk with another young and perfect captain and he calls to his friend in another navy base so we can stay there also… cool. We say goodbyes in the morning even if he invites us to stay longer and see the fiesta in the town. We don’t trust much the information that from here it is only downhill (hard to believe when the ocean splashes almost the front-yard here) and eat breakfast in the town.

At the beginning the road goes a little uphill and then following 30km are a little downhill which improves our average speed. We feel the warm wind in our hair and the sun is shining strong on our heads. Eventhough it is really beautiful here. We see ocean and funny signs “Carefully, surfers crossing the road”.

We start to go uphill and downhill … serpentines, curves … up and down … 30km of suffering during which we meet guys on motorbikes and we sweat all water from our bodies (we drink a lot but don’t pee at all). The beach if full of hotels and private properties so it’s not possible to get there (like in Mexico). I am also thinking in these moments why we don’t belong to the 99% of people who spend their honeymoon in air conditioned room holding a cocktail next to a swimming pool.

Because of the distances written in the map and our cyclocomputer we know where we are and the last 10km we just make with inertia. La Libertad should be a town for surfers with bars and some shops but what we see around us looks more like a village. We ask a guy at the street how to get to the center and he says that one more hour straight and we are there… he must be kidding, no?! Then we see a sign which supports this information and we make a stop for pineapple pie and coke to digest this information. We are used that flat means uphill, dowhnill means flat with some downhill parts, that the distances don’t correspond the reality and the estimated time is also different. But this is when we ask people at the street… today it hurts more because this betray comes from our side – our map which we are going to use also in Honduras and Nicaragua LIES!

These unexpected 20km includes one long and steep uphill and many small hills. When we get to La Libertad we directly ask where is the Navy base. They know we should come and they are very nice to us. The captain let us sleep in his office which is the only room with air condition so we set up our sleeping mats behind the door with many restrictions who can and cannot enter inside. The rank cyclists counts here :D. In the evening we eat pupusas, walk the empty promenade and we think about today’s cycling (it was full of climbing, but it was really nice around us – sometimes we just need time to get some things) and then we unpack the sleeping bags to not get cold in the night.

In the morning we do small shopping in overpriced supermarket and begin another day in this hot country. I swear it is like cycling against a hair dryer. We hitchhike a car to the volcano Alegria – we need to change the altitude otherwise this hell will never end. We get off at the beginning of the village and then pedal 30meters to the square. We get a big applause from Guatemalan tourists. Because this is a bit awkward we need to tell the truth that a part of the hill we did by car (also 95% counts like a part :)). After half an hour in this nice village we finally find a place for sleeping for free – almost at the street, under a roof behind a museum. We leave there bicycles with the bags and go for a walk to the crater in which should be a lagoon.

It is only 2km but we and one Argentinian are the only ones who walk there. I see a tail in the window of the entrance booth and when I look closer a pizota almost jumps at me. They say she’s friendly but I rather keep distance from her long nails. We descend to the crater where a small shallow lake is in the middle with many rocks around. Clouds are pooring down the slopes but in total it is not so interesting as the guidebook describes.

For dinner we eat pupusas again and a coffee and cheesecake as a dessert at the square (I must rethink about our priorities – we sleep at the street like homeless and then we have cakes for 10 dollars?!). We build a bunker from towels and the bicycles, hope that we won’t need toilet in the night because everything will be closed and wait till the crowds of people stop to cruise the streets and let us sleep.

We get up before 6am (the nature is calling), we have a breakfast with a perfect view to the valley and ants let Jan know that he’s standing on their house. The downhill is long and perfect. We are in middle of forest surrounded by different tones of green, colorful flowers and birds. If we wouldn’t have ears, we would smile around our heads from happiness and satisfaction :)

We get to village Mercedes and we make a pit stop in a small cafeteria for coffee and internet. In local newspaper we read about subway in Prague which advertised wagons for singles – “wagons of love”. The road joins panamericana but the quality of the road doesn’t get better – just the amount of cars and trucks is much higher. The shoulder is terrible with a lot of potholes which is not very pleasant with this amount of traffic. We mostly go up and then slowly down… enough! We hitchhike. A big pick-up stops and we put comfortably the bicycles up and we stand next to them. One would think that the air in this speed will be cool and refreshing – not in El Salvador!

There are no firemen in Santa Rosa de Lima, the police doesn’t have any place for us so we try luck in the church. We wait for 2 hours but the priest doesn’t come. We talk with Alfred and some other people who start coming for the mess. I want to wash hands, I turn the tap and a load bell starts to beat – fire alarm? No! It’s 5:30pm and they announce the mess – but the timing was perfect and I almost pee my pants. 6:00 and the priest didn’t show up… if Mohammad doesn’t come to the mountains, the mountain must come to Mohammad. In our shiny yellow T-shirts we sit in the middle to be seen a little – that we don’t want just free place to sleep but we also truly believe :). This is our first experience like this during our traveling but it’s a positive experience – we don’t understand 80% of what is said there but we have enough time to observe people around us, their behavior and clothes. For example many women are dressed in white, people in general are taller and look more Europe-ish than in Guatemala or Mexico, many women are obese and there are plenty of children around.

Alfredo comes to us couple minutes after the mess ends and invites us to his home. We happily agree :). He is a writer with focus on economics, politics and religion. He is educated and has traveled a lot (he was studying and traveling for 20 years in Europe). His hobby is writing and to be able to do it, he earns money by printing – he’s got at home 5 offset printers. He also demonstrates and starts these beautiful mechanical machines for us and we can see the wheels and cylinders roll and everything is with exact timing in perfect harmony… we are amazed.

The next morning is rainy. We breakfast together and he explains us many things about history, economics and problems of the country. Alf then offers us to stay longer and we are looking forward to stay one more night and use this opportunity to get to know El Salvador a little better with his help. During the day we visit a center for alcoholics which was build by the church at the end of the town. We eat perfect spaghetti with tomato sauce there and talk long about volunteering – the outcome of this talk for us is a nice thought: “Volunteering is not just for satisfying one’s need to help somebody, but can be a big motivation for locals to work and start to change things”.

We do loundry and in the evening we go play basketball with local guys. We have only sandals and I decide to play barefoot. But after 20minutes I have to stop because I can barely walk. It’s possible to run barefoot, but with breaking and changing speed and directions it’s bad. Anyway I get respect because I scored 5 times (that’s the luck of somebody who haven’t touched the ball for 10 years) and I’m taller than anybody else.

For dinner are again pupusas and beer. We know for sure that it was a good decision to stay one more day and it totally changed our view on El Salvador – now it’s not just a country we crossed but a country we know something about and where we have one good friend – Alfred.


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