Antigua – Panama City I

El Salvador – Monday 21st Oct

Today’s drive is 250km / 6hrs = Up @ 6am eek for an early breakfast and our first day on the road. Gonna miss my 60% chocolate breakfast pancakes. We leave Guatemala and enter El Salvador at the border crossing of La Hachadura and head for the Cerro Verde National Park.

The drive to the border on our bus “Betsy” is through a lush green landscape heavily populated with miles and miles of sugarcane planations. We exit Guatemala relatively swiftly but our entry into El Salvador is even quicker at 28 minutes and Brownie wins the sweep with the closest time. Wouldn’t mind, she was asleep when the list came round and I wrote a guess for her.

There’s 18 on the bus for our trip down to Panama, plus our driver, Duncan and guide, Jules. The age range is 26-74 with Canadians, Germans, Irish, Turkish, Aussies, Kiwis and Brits making up the group. They’re a very sociable bunch and make us feel very welcome.

El Salvador has a dreadful reputation in the international media with gang violence dominating the narrative, so we’re very much hoping to see a different side to the country than the one repeatedly portrayed by the media.

Our first night’s stay is in the stunning Cerro Verde National Park, where we are surrounded by awe-inspiring volcanoes and countryside. After a good night’s sleep we took a 4 hour guided trek up the nearby Santa Ana volcano. At 2,381 metres above sea level it’s the highest volcano in El Salvador. The trek is tiring but the views are amazing.

Wednesday 23rd Oct

Last night, we arrived in Suchitoto, the cultural capital of El Salvador, which overlooks Lake Suchitian. We’re staying in a local community centre run by a catholic nun, who came to the country to provide aid during thr civil war.

We’ve chosen to join a jungle walking tour in the nearby Cinquera Forest with Don Raphel a former guerilla fighter. The former FMLN stronghold of Cinquera, has transformed itself into a successful example of grassroots tourism by initiating a series of projects that have helped it to rebound from the horrors of the civil war. Don Raphel shares firsthand accounts of the conflict and the effects on his family, friends and wider community. It’s a fascinating morning alongside viewing remains of trenches, kitchen and a field hospital whilst learning about life during the war. After a 5km walk through the jungle, we’re rewarded with a refreshing waterfall swim.

Our experience of El Salvador, has been of a country that is green and lush with friendly welcoming people at every turn. Our Spanish is improving as locals patiently wait for our brains to find the right words. The country is beautiful and deserves to be visited by so many more tourists. Tomorrow, we leave El Salvador for Honduras, country number 5 on our amazing trip.

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