We stealth camped on the side of the road last night, behind a deserted building surrounded by mango trees. They’re everywhere! I picked some up at a roadside stand yesterday for $0.20 a piece. Unfortunately, where we camped, none of them are ripe.
To all our friends and family up north who are freezing and tired of the snow and polar vortex: We found the sun. He’s down here on a tear, scorching the earth, and anyone in his way. We tried to talk him into going north but he has some beef with Jack Frost so he’s blowing off some steam in Central America. Looks like he’ll be here a while.
We made good time in the morning so we stopped for a second breakfast around 10am. The roadside restaurant was run by a curmudgeony grandma-like figure who didn’t so much take our order, but told us what we’d be having. No matter, it was D-licious. Scrambled eggs with tomato and onion, beans, tortillas, a mound of fresh cut papaya, and a pitcher full of fresh squeezed limeade. All for a total of 30 quetzales ($3.75). At this rate, it’s cheaper for us to eat out.
Unfortunately though, it was one of those days where we fly through the first 30 miles and then spend the rest of the day trying to do the remaining 15. We are losing the battle to stay hydrated. By afternoon, we’ve both drank over a gallon of fluid, and haven’t peed. We’re stoping every couple of miles to hide in the shade and drink something cold. At one stop we decide to eat 2 liters of ice cream. We regret this decision almost instantly. Our stomachs can’t handle the volume. And even while sitting in the shade and eating ice cream, we’re still sweating. It’s too hot for 2 liters of dairy. Yes, we’re aware that we make bad decisions when we’re overheated.
The congestion getting across the border required some clever weaving in and out of the semis, but once we got to the front of the line we were waived through, easy-breazy, on to our sixth country! Unfortunately, someone plowed over the Welcome to El Salvador sign in front of the hotel and pharmacy 2-in-1 building.
Note on passport stamps: We did not receive an El Salvador entrance stamp in our passports. We questioned the official about it and we think it has something to do with the CA-4 agreement. We hope this guy’s right, because if not, we’ll have problems when we try to leave El Salvador without an entrance stamp.
The first town we come to in El Salvador is called Cara Sucio (i.e. Dirty Face). The town is as charming as the name implies. We pick up some fresh fruits and veggies, hit up the ATM (El Salvador uses US currency) and push on.
It doesn’t cool off much at night. We’re both dreading laying in the tent for another night, in the heat, dirty, sticky and still sweating. The rivers we’ve passed are less than inviting, choked full of plastic bottles and garbage, frothing with some kind of contaminant, or reeking of sewage. But even with all this, I’ve started to justify how getting into one of the less offending rivers would be ok. We pass a horse that is standing knee deep in a stagnant pool surrounded by garbage. His panting breaths rock his body forward and back. His bottom lip hangs down. I feel like this horse. Right now, he is my spirit animal.
As we are looking for a potential camp spot we pass an auto hotel. It’s the kind of place that gets rented by the hour. Every room has a private garage so no one can see who is parked here. Kinda creapy, but I’m willing to overlook the fact that this is a love motel for a cold shower and a night of air-conditioning. Scott goes to check it out. He’s shown a room that looks clean. The guy working there asks how many hours he needs it. Scott responds: all night. At this point, the guy looks equal parts impressed and surprised to see us. Sometimes I wonder if we’ve gone where no gringo has ever gone before. Judging by this guy’s expression, he doesn’t get a lot of tourist traffic.
We met some backpackers at Lake Atitlan who thought our trip sounded “romantic”. Yes, in that moment, staying at a beautiful lakeside retreat was romantic. But this, right now, as I contemplate the love motel vs swimming with the garbage, is not romantic.