El Salvador Border, – Feb 3, 2016
So entering was pretty straight forward, just a big line up of trucks and a stamp. I people shaking stacks of american dolars and yelling “change”.
It was already 5pm and I decided not to miss camping in the cattle fields, so I went off to find a great spot.
It got dark as I was making dinner and to my surprise I see 4 flashlights heading toward me. Two of the people have guns. Not good.
After the initial scare, I can see that they are older men and that robbery is unlikely. They tell me that it is not safe to camp here and to follow them. We wait until dinner is finished and head out. One of them carries my pot full of hot soup another my dry bags and me – the bike.
They thought that I was stealing cows, which happens here a lot and took me to one of their houses to stay the night.
Sami, my host set up a hammock for me to sleep but moved it inside his house later because it was safer. A pickup drives up on the dirt road and he grabed his machete and stood up by the porch.
He later plays me an audio message from one of his friends. Haha word must be getting out.
In the morning we say our goodbyes and I follow a herd of cows through a dirt road maze to reach the highway.
The wonderfully shaded and wide shouldered flat road feels amazing. Towns everywhere and between them sugar cane fields. A lot of people actually ride bikes here, in addition to the food stalls beside the road one can ocassionally see a bike repair stand.
The slow moving sugar cane trucks are barely a threat and there is little traffic anyway.
And while money doesn’t grow on trees, it can be al over the highway. Unlike what video games have you thinking the coins don’t make that sound when you collect them. All in all, about $15 in nickels and dimes!
For the first time in a while – the Pacific Ocean!
Also, for the first time in 10 months, I paid for camping.
But it certainly had its perks.
I didn’t refuse the ride from my friend back to town, where I will have some rest. I also met up with a friend from the north! When he doesnt get what he wants, Kimo half growls/howls and sounds like Bane from Batman.
I first rode up to the nearby volcano with a friend of Nicholas Gault (super rad biker who is now in south america, i hope to catch up to him sometime). Me and Juan passed by the league of sitting dogs on the way to the top.
7:50 at te top but they said they don’t open till 8. 8:30 and still nothing, we just went back. Still a good view of lake Illopango and Volcan San Vincente.
On the way back we hit some singletrack, my helmet mount broke off back in Mexico so I just had the headstrap. What a goofball I am, hopefully nobody on the street sees me.
Meanwhile the Surly tire made it to town (thanks Chris Murray) and the kind folks at Klymitt sent me a new sleeping pad (no more sleeping on the ground!)
You also kind of know it’s time to change your brakepads when they just fall off once you remove the wheel.
Later Dixy took me up thevolcano crater and to Quesadillas!
A cousin, Victor had this idea to go biking in the north of El Salvador. Problem was, its been few years since he has been on a bike.
So we decided to take the bus for 100km and continue from there.
Chicken bus, thats a whole different world. Speeding on the highway with the schoolbus lights on and blasting Raggeton. We are in the backseats with the bikes blocked by sacks of potatoes. Salesmen would hop in and sell drinks, sweets, fruit, headphones and apparently magical weightloss pills.
Then, it was straight up. Paved but straight up. Pedaling was not worth it and pushing was hard. Cars barely made it up the hill.
At one point we got jumped by bees. I found myself running up while Victor just sat down and waved his helmet around. They stang me twice.
He later took a ride with a pickup to the junction and I managed to grab onto the back of a truck shortly after – accelerating uphill and inhaling diesel fumes. I found Victor relaxing at the junction with his new friend.
By the time lunch was done it was 5pm and with another 5.5km of pushing I doubted he can make it, we took a bumpy ride up.
The view was pretty good but that’s all there was – just a campsite and some restaurants. I sure enjoyed the cool evening at 2700m and the mystic sunset.
At night a fellow dog came by to steal one of our Quesadillas… little bugger, he also came by the tent at night to bark.
FOOD! in this case, the national dish: Pupusas!
On the way down I wore out over half of my brand new brake pads… and a piece of my caliper melted off (see the plastic!)
My friend from Ontario, Hector made it back and brought some bike parts and TIMBITS!!!
Visited the El Zonte beach again for some surfing (I got my ass kicked!!). I can dig living by the ocean, just a little too warm. maybe one day…
Then we all went to volcan Santa Ana and visited the parking lot viewpoint!
the crater lake,
and of course, a selfie stick selfie!!!
and when everyday is a bad hair day… you just have to deal with it
Me and Hector went for a bikeride, well on the way down he did, I walked a good portion of it.
Another guest appearance of Kimo the husky, this time he faces off a lime!
So my time in Santa Tecla was over. It was great being a part of such a big family and I am often treated that way. Maybe thats why I never missed home or thought about quitting.
At my friends suggestion, I skipped few towns and opted for main roads for the rest of El Salvador and Honduras.
Apparently coca cola drinkers get ripped off here, as the small size is 354ml, compared to 355ml in USA. On the other side, all chicken is free range.
Garbage fed, highway byside free range chicken!
The ride was remarkably unremarkable.
Some chicks checking out my bike.
I made it to El Triunfo, where I met Carlos. He tried his best to find more info about hiking the San Miguel Volcano but it was still uncertain at the end. I would need a police escort and possibly a permit because its kind of active…
But who cares, we got Melon juice!
I stopped at Nueva Guadalupe to stay with the cousin of a friend of a friend of a friend. There was some celebration.
Although its a miracle none of them hit the powerlines.
The rodeo, or whatever its called, started with drunk people dancing…
And the bulls were rather chill. It was so funny, the dude pretty much rode the bull in circles until it got tired and then hopped off.
Then the guys with the red chased it around…
Some of them didnt even want to move, so they had to drag them out. Somewhere after the 2nd bull it all just became sad. Poor animals, most wouldnt even stand up before the start until they poke them and hit them. They are just afraid and want to go home and eat some grass…
Then there was a call for volunteers. $50. Man that would get me through El Salvador and Honduras. I headed down to the anouncer but by the time he anounced it, the last bull was out. He flew by the anouncer cage and few guys wiped bull saliva off their faces. I am so glad I didnt go, would have definitely gotten hurt.
Thank you familia Sosa for the wonderful food and a place to stay!
Not knowing more about the volcano, I decided to skip it. There will be time for it later. But I could not help but admire it as I went around the perfectly shaped cone.
Jose, the person I was staying with tonight was drivng back from town and pulled over to say hi. In 2013 he cycled from Quebec to here.
At his house, I told him how I decided to skip the volcano. He made a call to the police station on his phone.
“You can go tomorrow morning but there arent any buses going there.”
But. He has a motorcycle….
Tomorrow, I will be riding a motorcycle for the first time on these crazy central american roads.To top it off, I will be driving it without papers and license to…. wait for it…
to a police station!
Just kidding, I headed up the mountain with 4 policemen and 3 military.
I heard about this volcano via Nicholas’s blog and the policemen tod me they havent been up here since 2013 when they went with him. A shot with the guys, only 5 went up and 2 stayed down to guard the truck.
Going down to the crater was not safe but Raul promised to bring a rope next time.
The descend was much easier than anticipated. Running down and shoe-surfing.
We made it back and got beers & coca for the crew. They opened one side of the gate and I started the motorcycle.
Well… did I tell you that I have never diven one before today?
I twisted the throttle and it went forward, since only the front brake was working I reahed for it but in the process twisted the throttle more. On gear one the front wheel was lifting up so the brake did not matter. I went through the gate and finally let go of the throttle.
I was on the other side of the road almost at the ditch, behind me I had ran the second gate open.
“Be careful,” yells out Raul. All of the people from the nearby bus stop are looking at me and so are the cops, behind a cloud of dust. I catch a glimpse of the gate swinging back and take 4 tries to kick start the bike and two more to get into 1st gear and start moving.
I keep wondering: what are the policemen thinking???
Finished the day with a ride to the beach, en route there was a flipped over passenger bus but I wasnt allowed to take photos of it.
8 am, its already a furnace and time for some ice cream…
And a swim!
Later I talked football with a kid on a horse.
He said its 2 hours to the top, I made it in 3.
The rangers said it’s not recommended sleeping on top because of coyotes. I wondered if they meant to say puma or mountain lions…
What a wonderful place to get eaten!
Back in town, bags of bags of water and signs prohibiting throwing garbage in garbage bins?!
Forget the Ray Bands, I got me some genuine Ray Boys right here!!!
Thought I learned my lesson before but I showed up again with no money at the border since none of the ATMs in town worked with my cards. So I just skipped the imigration to Honduras.
Todays ride would be 160km, in the heat.
And I dont say this often but traffic was crazy. 6 times I had to ride off the road because opposing trucks were playing chicken with me. Zoom in on this photo… that guy is smiling!!!
And while its one more day to Nicaragua, this post is getting long and I doubt I would be able to update it from another (not-so-good) computer without browser crashing and waiting forever to add images.
Next up Nicaragua, until then.