As I was on a time limit (I only paid for 12 hours…) I got up early and vacated my Salvadorian ‘Sweat Shop’ by 7 am. The guard at the gate called me a taxi and I was on my way back to the bus terminal after a most interesting stop over in Sonsonate. Unfortunately the next bus that went where I wanted to go didn’t leave for another two hours so I had a bit of a wait at the terminal beforehand leaving town.
The route I was taking was the western end of the Carretera del Litoral which winds its way along the southern coastal region of the country. As soon as we reached the coast, I was glad I had persevered to come along this route, despite locals trying to send me in other directions. This western coastal region is another remote part of El Salvador which few travellers venture to. The road weaves in and out of the hills which hug the coast to give the traveller amazing vistas at every turn. The bus I was on only went as far as La Perla. From there I needed to catch another bus further east.
Just before the bus terminated, I noticed a gorgeously positioned little roadside restaurant precariously perched on the side of a sea cliff overlooking the ocean. When we stopped only a few hundred meters away from this little Mecca, I decided to trek back up the hill for pescada (fish) and Pilsener. Supping on a delicious meal of fresh fish, rice and salad, washed down with a couple of chilled cervezas whilst gazing at a sunlit ocean was true bliss.
While I was watching the watery world wander by, I was distracted by what appeared to be a mobile stack of wood putt past. It ended up being a crude go kart which was little more than a low wooden frame on which wood was lashed. Tiny wheels were attached to the apparatus raising it only just above the road surface. An hombre was atop steering the whole contraption down the hill. I’m assuming that would have been the easy (though perilous) part of the journey, as I’m certain any upward direction would require alighting and pulling the loaded cart uphill.
Back down the hill, I didn’t have to wait long for an eastbound bus. More beautiful twists and turns revealing picturesque coastal and mountain views. I was planning on stopping at the coastal village of El Tunco, but must have missed it as next I knew I was in the larger town of La Libertad. The guidebook raved about the newly built Malecon so I alighted there to check it out. Albeit small and rather touristy, it was still worth a visit and warranted a seat at a bar to ponder one’s next move.
A magnificent fish market was situated at one end of the Malecon along a long jetty jutting out into the bay. About half of it was covered and this was where the majority of the fish vendors were situated. This clearly was a grass roots fish market where fish of all manner of size and species were clumped together on ice in vast steel buckets. Dried fish was also abundant, strung up in neat rows with tatty string. Further along the jetty, fishermen displayed their catch in iceboxes inside small wooden fishing boats perched along the edges of the jetty. If none of this took your fancy, one could always wet a line at the far end of the jetty with the other anglers. This fabulous market was truly a scene for sensory overload; the sights, the sounds, the smells.
It was getting late, so I decided I needed to make a move if I wanted to get to San Salvador before nightfall. I found a bus heading there and jumped on board. The road up from the coast to El Salvador’s capital is truly remarkable, twisting and turning around volcanos along fertile valley floors. As we approached the city, newer satellite towns sprung up nestled in some of these valleys. About a quarter of El Salvador’s population live in its capital, so I knew to expect large urbanisation. The main roads in San Salvador itself were quite unremarkable in that they housed the generic Western and Central American chains sprawled out alongside their choked carriageways.
It ended up being dark, though not late, by the time I reached the terminus of my bus. With San Salvador having a less than enviable reputation in regards to personal safety, I was more than happy for the bus staff to enquire into where I wanted to go and how I planned on getting there. There told me to stay on the bus after all the other passengers had disembarked and took me around to a nearby gas station where they found a taxi to take me to a hostel I had picked out of the guidebook. My taxi driver, however, ended up being quite a handful and tried all his latino charm on me. I was quite glad when we finally reached our destination and I was able to bid Ernesto adios!
The hostel had received great reviews for being a place frequented by other travellers and not so good reviews about cleanliness in the guide book. However, I found the opposite to be true. There was no-one else staying there and the place was ridiculously spick and span. Still, I was there and it was a place to crash for a couple of nights while I checked out the capital before beginning my long trek home.