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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Saludos Desde El Salvador...

So after being 'stuck' in/around Antigua for over a week I finally navigated my way out of town for border crossing numero tres into El Salvador.  I left around 10am and the ride started off uneventful.  The roads out led through several small towns and villages.  However, just as I was about to turn onto a major road I was stopped by a police officer.  He said there was a bus crash about 10km up and it was "impossible to pass".  There were around 25 cars parked with people just sitting around mingling, eating, and looking depressed since they knew they'd probably be stuck there for quite awhile.  I talked to a local and he said I may be able to pass on a bike, so without hesitation I set off.  I drove less than 1km and ran into the worst traffic jam I've ever seen.  Trucks, cars, rickshaws, chicken buses, etc all parked with the drivers just out talking and wondering what would happen next.  Apparently they had been there for hours and nobody expected it would clear anytime soon.  I started snaking and weaving through slowly.  I was on road, off road, left, right, up the middle, all over the place.  

I got about 8km into the mess and finally approached the wreck.  It was absolute madness.  They had parked around 30 chicken buses on either side of the crash to block people from passing, and I'm assuming to keep rubberneckers away.  Just as I was thinking I wouldn't be able to make it through and would have to turn back, I noticed an ambulance up ahead that had loaded someone in the back.  He kicked his lights on and had a police escort to continue through the mess the way I was headed.  I stomped the bike into gear and shoved my way through.  Just as I got to the ambulance the crowd was starting to make way and he started through.  The police truck behind the ambulance stopped, the driver looked at me to figure out what the hell I was up to.  After he realized I was hitching a ride through the madness he gave me a thumbs up and our VIP parade of three was off.  We finally made our way through and at the end I passed both the police and ambulance with a very thankful wave. 

After that it was smooth sailing to the border.  I arrived and was immediately swarmed by helpers trying to talk me into their services.  Everyone always says to avoid them, but sometimes they really do make it easy.  After the bus crash delay I decided I would grab one of them to usher me through both sides of the border.  I ended up with a nice guy named Anthony.  We chatted quite a bit during the process and I learned that he had three young kids and lived in New York for a bit of time.  He probably saved me an hour or two and had his brother watch over the bike as we walked all over.  In the end I gave him $5 and he was grateful.  So grateful in fact that I added in a couple of coins.  So my tip for fellow motorcycle travelers, for what it's worth, sometimes it isn't so bad to get a little inexpensive help from the locals.  

The roads in El Salvador are distinctly different from Mexico and Guatemala.  I find them to be a little lower on the quality scale (i.e. potholes, gravel, etc), but with one thing in common, they still feel the need to build topes/tumulos/speed bumps every-freaking-where!  Ruta de Las Flores is short, but filled with epic scenery.  Then as I got closer to the coast the road was perfection.  I winded my way up and down mountainsides directly next to the beautiful coast.  There were even a few super sketch tunnels through some of the hills with zero light inside.  It is a bit of a strange feeling being in a long tunnel and all you see is a chicken bus or semi coming directly at you.  After stopping a few times to soak it in and snap a few pics, I arrived at my destination in El Tunco.  I found a hotel right away, but they wanted $55.  I kept on down the road (there are only two) and found the Layback Hostel.  Everyone inside was super chill and they had a bed for $7.  So here I am writing this from the communal patio here at Layback.  

I woke up today with plans to put together a route to Leon, Nica.  However, two border crossings in one day, along with 287 miles seems a bit much.  So, I'll leave either tomorrow or Saturday and head in that direction with a brief overnight stop somewhere in Honduras.  I hear great things about Leon, so I'm looking forward to being there for a few days.  In addition to the small colonial town, apparently you can climb a volcano and sand board down the other side, which sounds like a bit of fun.  

During my ride yesterday it dawned on me that I've been saying something a lot lately.  I thought about the bus crash delay, along with the border hassles.  It could have easily put me in a bad mood, but I didn't let it.  In fact, as I crested a hill towards the coast and looked out over the ocean for the first time since Mexico I found myself saying it again...  "you can't have the good without the bad".  I've started to realize that the really great things in life require challenge, and a bit of pain blended in with pleasure.  Without it, how would we know when things are special?  El Tunco is a magic place, but I know I'm enjoying it much more due to the challenges of the day, and the trip overall.  

Not a bad view today...  El Tunco, El Salvador
I guess that's enough rambling for now...  I'm off to enjoy the good, because the bad will surely happen soon enough (most certainly at the double border crossing through Honduras).  

Hasta pronto amigos! 

~ D

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