Welcome to El Salvador

The border crossing between Guatemala and El Salvador turned out to be surprisingly easy. We had chosen the small border crossing of Angiatu, which is off the beaten track of the large main routes and thus rather quiet. There was no long line, no stress, and no busy “helpers” wanting to earn a little on the side. It was also certainly helpful that it was Sunday afternoon. Beforehand, we had already made copies of all our important documents and then only had to get copies of the Guatemalan export certificate. Except for the four Quetzales for the copies, the entire border-crossing procedure cost nothing! Only filling out the endless diverse forms by hand took a certain amount of time, and even the border officials had to fill out a lot of diverse forms. Nevertheless, we managed to have everything done in less than two hours and were allowed to drive into El Salvador. El Salvador does not have an especially good reputation. The history of the country is marked by war and criminality, so a lot of travelers avoid it. However, we had heard other stories, too, and they sounded very enticing. We had hardly passed the border when the surprises began – a tremendous sunset with volcanoes on the horizon made the countryside glow in surreal colors – what a greeting. The hotel with a restaurant which where we were headed for the night turned out to be an “auto-hotel“, a special kind of hourly hotel found in large numbers throughout all of Central America which unmarried couples can retire to for several hours alone. It works in the following practical way: you can drive your car directly into a garage belonging with your room, so no one sees who is staying there.

Hmmm, since we needed a safe place for the night, we told the surprised managers that other travelers had also spent the night there, and we got a good parking spot on the former restaurant’s parking area, electricity, cool beer, and our own watch dog. The night was quiet until, all of a sudden, first a goose, then a donkey, after that a rooster, and then, at the very end, a turkey kept there all started screaming loudly for the sun to rise – we woke up in a virtual zoo. That morning, we drove on towards the Pacific and made a stop in Santa Anna to do some shopping. This was when we experienced our next surprise. Two days before, we had thought we were driving into a developing country, but there was an enormous mall with a full parking lot, lots of shops, all of them full of people, and even a skating rink – fitting to the Christmas season. It was just like in the USA, and, after stopping at the super market and the fast-food place, we hurried on our way. Man oh man, talk about monstrous Santa Anna, and here we were shopping at almost the U.S. level, not just optically, but also price-wise (El Salvador even has the U.S. dollar as its currency). Our trip continued on to Ruta de las Flores, nota bene along very good roads. It was a stretch with good views as we drove through the highlands, past lovely small villages, lots of coffee plantations, and volcanoes on to the Pacific.

Here are some private pictures from the Ruta de las Flores.

We are now at Playa El Zonte, where we are once again enjoying absolute sunshine, warm Pacific waves, and black sandy beaches. After all the many rainy, dismal, wet days in the past few weeks, we are tanking up on sun again before continuing on southwards. There will be more about the beach in our next report, but we have a few photos for you as a contrast to the North American and European winter right now.

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