“No, no stamps needed” they answer. “Only stamps needed for Guatemala”
We find it a little weird, is it going this easy? Kim doesn’t trust it and when we pass the big customs building for all the trucks she goes there to verify we really don’t need El Salvador stamps in our passports. “No indeed, no stamps needed” the officer over there confirms.
Hmmm ok.. strange but whatever, we’re in our next exciting country and start cycling.
After a kilometer another customs booth shows up. A few trucks are lined up here and we pass them again, straight to the officer in front. He waves us through and the El Salvador adventure can start officially from now on.
The road climbs a little more and we are on nearly 900m above sea level when we go over the mountain pass. From here the road winds all the way down for 15km into the town of Metapán, our destination for today.
In town we go in search for an ATM machine for some local currency. The first one we find doesn’t work. The second one is a little weird. We figured the exchange rate is 1:10 so €1,- is 10SVC. The country should be quiet cheap so we wanna have €100,- so 1000SVC. Arjan types in the amount but gets an error. He figures, maybe to much? He tries again, 500 now. Error again. Weird. Another try. 250 this time. No error but the machine gives 250 US Dollars instead of the local currency. Now we understand 1000 and 500 didn’t work.
Happy with the money we go looking for a place for the night. The first hotel wants us to pay $35. The second $40. In a third, no mapped, hotel they have rooms for $40 as well. “But” the guy explains “we also have $7 rooms without any luxury apart from a bed and a fan.”
“Muy bien” and we check in for seven bucks.
When we leave the next morning and go to a store for some food we find out the whole country is paying with US Dollars. The local currency is not common to use or maybe banned, we don’t know.
The highway out of town is quiet with not much traffic on it. The shoulder of the road is also pretty wide. If this is allover El Salvador then this country is good for cycling. We will find out the coming week.
The routeplanner shows us two options. The first is follow this highway all the way. The second option is a shorter route of the highway and with less climbing meters.
We take the shortcut and see where we end up. The scenery is nice and we see nearly any people.
The route is shorter indeed but goes over gravel and sometimes it’s so steep up, we can’t even cycle and have push the bikes up.
This shortcut takes the most of the day. Taking the longer route would have been faster probably.
When we finally hit the highway again around two in the afternoon we’re not even halfway our planned route and we took off at nine this morning.
The highway goes up from this point. We climb kilometer after kilometer. The sun is hot again and it hits 35 degrees. We drink a lot.
When we arrive on the top of the pass the views are great. We can see the lake in a far distance where we wanna stay for the coming night.
From the top we ride down. When we finally arrive in El Paraíso it’s a half a hour before sunset. A guy on a motorcycle comes driving along us and asks in English where we are from. While still driving we chat with him and ask him if he knows a cheap hotel in town. He tells there is only one, owned by a man he knows. The owner also speaks English.
When we arrive at the hotel the owner is not there but Jose, the motorbike guy explains he will be here in a few minutes.
In the meantime we order a few pupusas which they bake right in front of the hotel.
The owner shows up and we check in. When checked in we go out again. Our fresh baked pupusas are already waiting for us. Together with Jose we eat. He tells about his jobs in the US and here in town.
The next day it’s Arjan’s birthday and we do a luxurious breakfast in one of the cafes before we take off for another day cycling.
The planned route goes through the mountains with a lot of altitude meters so we hope we can make it to the planned hotel we found on iOverlander. The only hotel in the wide area.
We decided not to do dirt roads anymore in El Salvador. The gravel is not gravel but 10cm stones and dirt roads are even more steep than highways we figured.
But when you think you know it all it turns out different. Today’s mountain highway roads are very steep as well we discover soon after leaving town.
Our today’s progress is very slow. We stop a lot along the road or when cycling steep hills. On some moments it’s even nearly 40 degrees so we drink a lot but are thirsty all the time.
It’s nearly impossible to keep the dinking up with all the sweating. We didn’t count exactly but we did drink at least 9 liters per person and pee just once a day a little.
At the end of the day it’s impossible for us to reach the planned town and hotel before dark.
While Kim is waiting for Arjan after another steep climb she realizes this can be a nice wildcamp spot for tonight. The road is nearly empty, the spot along the road is hidden and has a flat plateau with an awesome view over a lake in the distance.
After checking out the place we drag our bikes up the plateau and enjoy the sunset over the lake.
The sky is clear so we expect a lot of stars. We decide to keep our tent as underlining and go sleep on top of it.
When it starts getting darker we see the first stars but we also hear the first mosquitoes ?
After another 10 minutes we put up our tent. Those little bastards drive us crazy already.
In the morning we start the day with the leftover 27km climb from yesterday. Another hot day though northern El Salvador where people hardly see any tourists. Even more rare are white tourists on bicycles.
Some people are very friendly and wave, others seems to us very unfriendly. They look at us as if we did something wrong to them when we wave or greet.
But as said we also meet friendly people. When we stop for another drink along the road a guy asks us where we from and if we need something, he lives opposite the road. “Yes, if you have water??”
He takes off and turns back a few minutes later with four bottles of water. “Thanks a lot!!”
In the late afternoon, after a long dirt road (no other option was possible) we arrive in Sesori where we ask around for a hotel or other place to stay.
Some guys tell us there is nothing around but say also to go to the police-station for help. A very friendly officer explains a lot to us and points us to the local soccerfield just around the corner.
When we discussing the spot with the officer a few ladies in front of a small shop greet us.
While chatting with them they offer us to stay with them. There is an unused room in the house with a bed we can use if we want.
Wow, that’s a great offer!
We move our bikes in and make new friends with the whole family who are living here.
They show us around in the house and we take a shower. Elci, the mother makes us a meal and we feel very welcomed by these lovely people.
At night the chicken around the house keep us awake several times.
When we start to pack up again the next morning Elci asks us if we like to go swimming with them today.
“Sounds good but can we stay another night as well then?” we ask.
Elci is happy to have us around for another day and in the afternoon we go swimming in the nearby river.
The day is relaxing for us after 10 days of cycling without a break.
When swimming her grandson and a lot of kids go also with us.
In the evening we all eat papasus somewhere in town.
Before we leave the next morning Elci gives Kim a longsleave shirt. (She sells secondhand clothes in her shop as well) She also tries to find something to give to Arjan but can’t find any that fits.
We give her a warm goodbye and leave again.
Our goal for today is a small hotel very close to the border with Honduras. The Mapy.cz navigation app shows us a route of 80km with 921 altitude meters. Not to bad since we already had days in El Salvador with more than double the altitude meters.
One down point on the planned route, another 26km of dirt track is included to shortcut from one highway to another.
When we finish the dirt road we find ourselves a small restaurant for lunch, a few papasus and a few beer. Arjan’s Happy Birthday beer. Three days to late but who cares. A drunk guy enjoys us as well but after a while we got sick of him and take off again. Still 45km to go.
The last part of the day goes fast and with a lot downhill. Luckily the small hotel does still exist and we check in. We’re now not even 5km from the border.
Because Honduras recently had a lot of political problems we cross the country at its most narrow point. From where we are now in El Salvador it’s just 160km to the Honduras/Nicaragua border. Two days of cycling to keep the risk as low as possible.