SMr Road Trip From Mississippi to Nicaragua
Days 24 to 27 - October 26th to 28th - Antigua, Guatemala to El Salvador
We had debated the previous night whether we would be heading north into Honduras or stay south and travel through El Salvador. We heard from several people that El Salvador was not a safe country to travel through and that we should go through Honduras instead. However, Honduras has one of the highest crime rates in the world and one if it's major cities, San Pedro Sula, has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Considering the pro and cons, staying alive being the biggest pro, we decided to go through El Salvador. We set our path on highway CA-2 along the Pacific coast, passing by the surf town of La Libertad.
We made great time traveling from Antigua, but as we got close to the El Salvadorian border, traffic was stopped AGAIN! We were expecting another teacher protest, but soon found out that mudslides were creating the delay.
No one could tell us when we would be able to get through. The next couple hours of traveling were intense. We were driving along roads that were filling with water, rock, and mud. We witnessed mudslides running rampant as people desperately scrambled to save their covered mopeds and sinking trucks. We got into several spots ourselves where we felt our tires starting to rotate to the left as the road began to shift with the slide. This was not quite the type of "surfing" we had hoped to do on the coast. Eli mastered the drift and shift of the slide, and Shakira made it through... somehow. It was too dangerous to stop and take pictures in some areas due to the potential of getting stuck, but we were able to snap photos of a few slide zones along the way.
El Salvador was the most peaceful and laid-back border crossing we have experienced on the trip so far. Despite the warning we had received about unsafe travel conditions, we were incredibly impressed with El Salvador from the moment we set foot into the beautiful country. Once we had cleared the "mudslide danger area" and the rain cleared up, we were taken aback by El Salvador's pristine charm. The trees hung loosely above a smooth paved two-lane highway that wound its way elegantly down the coast. It was one of the most beautiful highways I have ever driven on. We occasionally had breath-taking views of the ocean and stopped for lunch at an open air restaurant snuggled between the coast and the highway. We had a delicious meal of locally spiced rice, shrimp, and calamari for less than six bucks.
We arrived in La Libertad just before sundown. La Libertad is the perfect beach town and is a weekend hot-spot for hundreds of people from El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador. Before exploring the beach, we found a hostel called "La Sombra" that was only eight bucks per person. La Sombra was definitely geared for young people traveling to surf and party. When we walked into the hostel there were several young international travelers lounging around cooking ramen noodles in the patio community kitchen next to the pool. That night we got to know them all very well. At some point in the night, Eli even pierced one of their ears. You can say we quickly became way less than strangers!
Eli got up early the next day and took to the waves. He spends his time on rock, not water, and so had never been surfing before. He rented a board, purchased lessons, and joyfully began to scamper surf drills on the sand. It didn't take him long to get up on his board either! It felt so great to paddle out any lingering trip stress I'm sure!
We had a blast in La Libertad and considered staying forever but were compelled to get to Managua ASAP. We left that afternoon and passed through the rest of El Salvador, making it to the Honduran border by 8pm. We were in luck to have arrived at night, when border traffic was less busy, because the Honduran border offices were terrible. They did everything by hand and extremely sloppily. The border office reminded me more of a neighborhood, child-operated, misspelled "lem-un-ade stand" collecting quarters, instead of a government sanctioned border crossing. They treated BIC pens as if they were gold, sternly monitoring our use of them, and as they stamped my passport the handle broke off the stamp. The two cronies behind the glass laughed and pounded on the stamp with the broken handle as if it were a drum. He tried to stamp it again, with the broken handle, when it bounced off and fell on the floor. I was not impressed.
We stayed the night at the only hotel we could find while searching through Choluteca, Honduras. It was a pretty nice place and there were signs posted all over the property that reminded guests to leave their firearms outside. We left early to cross the border into Nicaragua. This border was very laid back and much more professional and well-funded than their Honduran neighbor. We were finally in Nicaragua and only a few hours away from reuniting with our SMr team in Managua!