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Day 13 Suchitoto back to San Sal

Written on: Sunday August 5th, 2007

A journal entry from: Central America Road Trip 2007

Arose early this morning (as I should after having hit the sack so early the night before) and strolled towards the center of town enjoying a little taste of a more quiet ambiance as the townsfolk were only beginning to stir for the day. I should mention that having come on a weekend the town was much busier the day before with visiting San Salvadoreans and other tourists than it would be during the week, and as a result I suspect the town ambiance was also be much different. I took a few pics of some of the grassier sections of roadway. A dog sleeping in the middle of the street. An old man walking along the road cleaning the gutters. Shopkeepers sweeping the prior evenings rainwater from the sidewalks in front of their shops or stalls to the closest drain or setting up their stalls in the now nearly empty town plaza. And then a walk through the Central Mercado where by now sellers were beginning their workday and local families sat eating breakfast at the various comedors. In all it was quite colorful but obviously much smaller than the one I had seen the day before in San Martin.

After a while I head back to the plaza and a wait for the internet shops to open up. Centro del Arte on the south side of the plaza opened first so I decided to give them a try. The google satelite maps seemed to take forever to load. I don´t know if it was their connection or just the google server, but in general I´ve found internet connections throughout my trip highly variable sometimes even within one shop from one moment to the next. At least it didn´t go out in the middle of a long post like happened to me at several other places during this trip.

When I got to done I struck up a conversation with Chama the owner of the shop. He was wearing a Boston College T-shirt, which was close to where I grew up so I asked him (in spanish) about it. It turns out he spoke perfect english. He didn´t actually go to BC, a friend had, but he did go college in Toronto and told me he had attended a conference of El Salvadorean diasporans at Harvard so he knew Boston. It turned out he was quite an interesting, intelligent and talented guy (my first real central american intellectual type). No he wasn´t wearing a Che Guavera beret, but he did have a "Romero Vives" slogan on the wall (Romero was the popular Salvadoran archbishop who was assasinated back in the 80´s), as well as prints of his various photographic artworks, which were quite nice.  

I asked him about local sights mentioning a waterfall that I had seen listed on Lonely Planet and he told me of a much better one and "directions" on how to get there. Now armed with a plan for the morning, I ordered a banana batido and carrot cake for an informal breafast before starting out.

I had been told to right at the church and go to the end where the road would veer off to the left, down over a stream and back up a hill I came to a crossroads. This must be the dirt road Chama told me to look for but I asked a nearby kid to make sure. I turned left and saw the radio tower on my right (if you passed this you´ve gone to far). From here Chama told me it was a 20 minute walk. Again it was quite pleasant as long as one tried to stick to the shadier areas. At one point I catch a glimpse of the lake through some trees, but there was a cow with his rump in the way. So I asked him to move and obligingly he turned around to pose for the picture.

At this point I was beginning to wonder how accurate Chamas 20 minute estimate was, but along came a family in a tuck which pulled over to offer me a ride. I love this country, one does not even have to stick out one´s thumb to hitch a ride. I jump on-board neglecting to ask where they were going. Chama had said I would come to a wire fence with a gate and I had assumed that was the end of the road. However, after speeding along the road for a while, I thought "this seems like a helluva lot more than 20 minutes worth of walking distance", so I ask one of the little girls in the back of the truck with me "esta por cascada tercios". She had a little trouble understanding my spanish but shook her head no. Yikes, where have I gotten myself into. I tap on the cab and ask them to stop and let me off, thanking them for the lift and starting the long walk back the way we had come.

Now some might be a little panicky at this point, and I´ll admit I was a little concerned about being stuck out in the middle of nowhere but I figured I had plenty of water, the day was still young and at worst I´d have to hoof it for an extra hour or two or until another truck came along to bail me out. In the meantime, I was treated to wonderful views of the lake, fresh country air and small swarms of butterflies. After a while I come across a boy on a bike and ask him "donde estan cascada Tercios?".  He confirmed that it was back the way I had started from and that I needed to look for a casa blanca (white house) at which I should turn right. I asked how far and he said viente minutes (20minutes). Did I not go as far past the mark as I thought or is everything around here 20 minutes apart. Thanking him I continue on.

Next I came across another family digging in the mud on the side of the road so I take a closer look to see what they were doing. It seems they were digging up nightcrawlers. "Gusanos para la pez?" I ask the father. "Si", it turns out they were pescadores fishermen. These are the little sorts of things one can easily miss if one sticks to buses, particularly fast moving a-c sealed tourist vans and would definitely miss by flying between their destinations. I continue on.

There are not many vehicles moving in my direction but one finally comes and offers me a lift for the remaining distance. "Cascada Tercios?" I ask this time. "Si" and after a short drive they let me out in front of the gate. If its any help for those following my footsteps, the wire fence Chama referred to was actually a chainlink one which anyone should have no trouble spotting once they know what to look for.

Heading through the gap to the right of the gate (the white house was just beyond to the right) I start down an overgrown cobblestone path. Chama said the path for the falls veers to the right but I saw only one path. After a short distance I came to the end where there were a bunch of moss covered tables and a nice view of the lake. I snapped a couple of pics but where were the falls? I could hear them off to my right but did not notice any side trail. I headed back up the hill and wind up back at the gate. Back down to the mirador. Still no trail. This time when I headed back I notice a barely discernable trail to the left just before one heads up the hill so I follow it along and soon come to the top of the falls. Its a tricky scramble down some rocks to get to the bottom for the best view of the falls but well worth it.

I linger a while and snap a few pics, but it is getting hot and I need to head back to town so I start back up the hill and begin my hike back to town. Soon a truck stops to pick me up. This time it was another fisherman with a little boy and a cooler filled with a bunch of fish in the back with me. The boy and I try to exchange a few words but he seems to mumble and we have a difficult time understanding each other (for some reason I don´t have this problem as much with adults). We stop once along the way for the papa to sell a few fish to one of the roadside comedors, but are soon back at the towns central square. I hope off and this time insist that the driver accept some dinero for gasolina.

After lunch, I had over to the central market to catch the bus back to San Sal. One conveniently comes along in a matter of minutes. This one is not as colorful as the one the day before but featured another aspect of chicken buses that I had left out - blaring latino music. However, the seats were also a little roomier and more cushioned.

Heading through San Martin this time the market was gone, so I guess that might just be a Saturday thing for them. We get back to San Salvador and I decide to walk it the several blocks back to the center of town and try to catch a bus from there. Along the way I passed a couple of blocks of shoe repair stalls. I mention this for some of my readers, who like me used to be in the shoe business. Another sort of grotty market, the plaza of Liberty , the National Cathedral, etc. And I start asking around which bus and where I needed to catch it. After like 10 minutes and various answers, I figure out I need the 22 bus for San Antonio Abad and quickly find one to get on board. Cost 25 cents vs. the $6 I had paid for a cab the day before.

I check into the Tazumel Guest House which is right across the street from where I had stayed a couple of nights before and go across the street to pick up my pack. This place cost me $25 vs. the $17 for the other place but is well worth the extra money. First of all it had AC. It also had a TV with more than just a dozen or so channels of spanish language programming. For another thing, it was immaculate. The other place had a disgustingly unflushed toilet when I first arrived, which in fairness to the hotel I gathered from the embarassed reaction of the manager was an unusual occurrance. But still I´m much happier here.

Freshened up and went out and it turned out the place I was looking for was closed on Sunday, so I stop into a Shell Gas Station to pick up some gatorade and ask for directions to a good pupuseria in the area. I understood I had to go past the Biggest (ElSal´s version of KFC) but they lost me at Gasolinera Shell. Wasn´t that where I was already at, and then they rambled off some street names I just wasn´t familiar with. Fortunately, an English speaking guy behind me in line came to the aid. In fact, he offered to drive me there. So we hop into his shiny neew pick up and take off. Turns out he was an El Salvadorean from Baltimore who had only recently returned to San Sal after 17 yrs and wasn´t really sure where the best pupuserias were anymore since everything had changed so much. But he dropped me off at the one the gas station attendants had described and gave me directions on how to get back to my hotel and warnings about walking around after dark. Yeah I know.

A little about pupusas. They are sort of the national food. And everyday around 4PM is pupusa time, though you can order it anytime. You see these women in front of big griddles with several bowls next to it. They take a ball of cornmeal dough and punch a little hole in the middle then take some ground frijoles, some soft cheese and maybe a little ground meat, then seal it back up and flatten it out with their hands and fry it up on the grill. I ordered one to go and the women seemed surprised thats all I wanted. The woman before me ordered 15, so it took a little while. As you can see Salvedoreans are serious about their pupusas. Finally, they wrap up 2 pupusas (one turned out to be filling enough) and throw in a small plastic bag of what looked like picante sauce and another bag filled with some pickled vegetables (cost 90 cents) and off I go back to my hotel. It was an early dinner for me but that was enough for me. A little TV, catching up with CNN and I call it a night.

Total cost for the day: $36.30 including $25 for my room and only a bit more than $11 for everything else. Taking buses can make a big difference.