Tyler, Garett Jones and I visited El Salvador for a few days, just for fun. Here is a travelogue of some of our adventures.
The moment we exit customs Tyler grabs a driver and starts speaking in rapid Spanish. Neither Garett nor I are fluent but we are laughing because we know exactly what Tyler is saying. Tyler wants pupusas and not pupasas turÃsticos but estilo familiar. The driver understands as well so we jump into his van and he brings us to a pueblo with about 8 or 9 pupuserÃas in direct competition–we learn later that this is the town speciality. We get Pupusas de chicharrones, queso and lorocco, a herb that is hard to find in the United States. Bien Gusto. Tyler is sated so we continue on to Suchitoto, the small colonial town that will be our base of operations.
The next day we take a boat tour of Lake Suchitlan, an artificial lake nestled among hills and volcanoes. We ask our guide to take us to a local village–it’s an unusual request but we are the only tourists in town so why not.
We climb a long hill, it’s blazing hot but we have a look around, get a drink and having seen all there is to see start to head back down to the boat. That’s when we hear the sirens and gunshots–other people hear it as well and stop walking. Only now do I remember the advice from Apocalypse Now, “Never get out of the boat!”
Tyler asks the guide what is going on. He isn’t sure either but he asks a local and tells Tyler it’s “the running.” Tyler is puzzled and looks as confused as I am–this is not a good sign–the word has many meanings, it could be the running of the bulls, the running of the race, the running? Well it seems not to be gunshots so I joke to Tyler that it would be awesome if it were the running of the bulls.
Not 15 seconds later I turn around and I am confronted with an angry bull bearing down on me. It looks like this:
Tyler, Garett and I jump out of the way. What the hell is going on?! With a second or two to recover, I realize the bull is being driven by a gaucho. The bull is snorting and none too happy, the sirens and shots are making it skittish, but the guacho slaps it hard, gets it under control and then, as if in a dream, the gaucho and bull vanish around the corner. We breathe a sigh of relief.
The running of the bull–as Tyler, Garett and I have coined the event–however, was not the running.
It was at about this time that things started to get a little surreal.
The sirens are approaching, the “gunshots” are getting louder and we see a strangely dressed man coming up the hill towards us. He appears to be tall, very tall, wait…am I in a Fellini movie?
The man is on stilts and is accompanied by a coterie of devils.
As the group passes, we are handed a handsome annual report with pictures of the mayor and the year’s accomplishments. Ah, this is fiscal policy! Now we understand.
We head back to the boat, pleased with our luck and well satisfied with the day’s events.
Addendum: If you go here are few practical things to bear in mind. El Salvador is not geared towards tourists–this has positive and negative aspects. On the positive side you can believe the prices you are quoted, there is not yet a “take the tourist for all they are worth” culture. On the negative side, there isn’t much to buy. There aren’t many indigenous people and, in part because there isn’t a tourist market, there isn’t a strong artisinal culture, as there is in say Guatemala. There are a few Mayan ruins but nothing as extensive as in Guatemala or Mexico. Few people speak English, even at hotels and restaurants. The pupasas are great but the food variety is limited. We were perfectly happy exploring for two days but this is one of the less exotic countries of Central America.
(By the way, do you see the devil at right, so oddly framed between the bars of the truck. Why is he looking at me this way?)
We stayed in Suchitoto at a small (6-8 room) hotel called Los Almendros de San Lorenzo. It’s run by a former El Savadorean diplomat who lived 30 years abroad and his partner, an interior decorator. Highly luxurious and recommended but anomalous, don’t take this as representing Suchitoto.
El Salvador has a very high murder rate, more than 10 times the US rate. Suchitoto, however, is safe and San Salvador seems fine for walking around in the main sections although every shop with anything of value has a guy with a shotgun standing outside.
On the way back from the village after the boat ride we were going to take the bus back into town. We asked some locales where the bus stop was and they volunteered to give us a ride in the back of their truck. Here’s a nice photo of Tyler (taken by Garett) as we traveled the bumpy road back into town. I believe we discussed Mundell and optimum currency areas.