Our Central America tour (12): from Nicaragua to El Salvador

Another day, another guide, another county. On Tuesday morning, we met our guide for the remainder of the trip, a loud, hyper and ever so cheerful Guatemalan called Sandra Molina who would regularly shout “OK, chicos!”. We were leaving Nicaragua for El Salvador and today was all about travelling between the two countries. As Brian put it: “If you’re going to Salvador, don’t Dali.”

We started at 8.30 am, travelling in two mini buses and heading north east up a peninsula which encloses the southern portion of a large lagoon between Nicaragua and El Salvador. We had a comfort break at a town calked Chinandega and then turned off the main road to take a dusty and bumpy dirt road for the last three quarters of an hour. At the end of the peninsula was a tiny town called Potosi where a navy facility provided immigration control.

At this point (12.30 pm), we and our luggage boarded separate motor boats for the trip across the gulf which brings together Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador: Golfo de Fonseca. The problem was that there was no jetty and the boats drew too much water to reach the beach, so staff had to carry our bags to a small boat while we waded in bare feet in water up to our knees in order to board our only slightly larger boat. The wearing of life belts on board was “mandatory”.

The weather was excellent and the water was placid. Around half way across the gulf, we entered Salvadorean waters and we were approached and stopped by a Salvadorean navy vessel with armed personnel who wanted to check that we were not smuggling drugs. Obviously the Salvadorean navy is not overly busy because we were very soon approached by a second navy vessel and this time all our passports were studied

Our initial destination – reached at 2 pm – was an island called Zacatillo. This is one of 12 Salvadorean islands but one of only three that is populated. We waded ashore for lunch – choice of either fish or shrimps, all caught and cooked locally. It was a pleasant example of what Sandra called “community tourism”. If we thought Isla Ometepe was isolated, then Zacintillo is even more remote and we felt as if we were in another world, eating fresh fish while watching the water lapping the beach below a near cloudless blue sky.

After an hour on the island, we had our last wading session and the the boat proceeded across the gulf to take us to the mainland of El Salvador. We disembarked at a sleepy place calked La Union where for the next hour Sandra sorted out the immigration procedures. We now had another coach which was smaller and less comfortable than the one we had in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Most of our bags went on the roof but some had to come inside on seats.

As in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, we used service stations as stops for comfort and refreshment, but we soon discovered that something was different in El Salvador. In one corner of the service station was an ATM machine and standing alongside it was a private security guard in uniform wearing a pistol and a shot gun.

We turned off the main road to take a minor road north to a part of the country that is particularly deprived and suffered badly in the civil war. It was well past sunset and very dark when we reached the small town of Perquin and our accommodation for another single night: the Perkin Lenca Hotel was another collection of chalets, this time on the slope of a steep hill. It was 7.20 pm when we arrived – a journey door to door from our hotel in Nicaragua to our hotel in El Salvador of almost 11 hours.

Before we all crashed, we went to the hotel restaurant for a light dinner. On the return to our room – sorry, chalet – we observed a brilliant canopy of multitudinous stars in a cloudless sky. Very, very different from London where the ambient light means that we see only a handful of stars.


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