December 2, 2016 | Posted in:El Salvador

Some patches Brandy made for Maya Pedal in Guatemala

Some patches Brandy made for Maya Pedal in Guatemala

After spending so much time in Guatemala we were starting to feel a bit of time constraint so we hopped on a bus from Guatemala City to San Salvador in order to meet some friends of my mother who work for the embassy there before they went back to the States for vacation. Deanne, Vic and their kids were wonderful hosts and treated us to a taste of home in their truly gringo-style house where we were able to enjoy luxuries such as a massive fridge and flushing toilet paper. As an embassy family, they are required to live in special posh housing in the burbs. We had a laugh together about the huge amounts of security required for government staff housing, but of course if something happened to someone because of a supposed lapse in security, there would be such a sh!t storm. We left at the same time as they did and they had to have a guy come do a walk-through to make sure that all the security features were intact and that nobody was lurking around in the closets.

Unpacking the bikes

Unpacking the bikes

I know we took some additional photos while there, but they seem to have vanished.

After saying goodbye to our new friends, we wheeled over to Santa Tecla, a legit village that has been subsumed into the city by the engulfing suburban barf. The plan was to leave most of our crap in Santa Tecla with brothers Pepe and Hector whom I’d met in my Vipassana course in Guatemala. That lightened us up for a loop tour of some of the countryside we’d skipped on the bus.

The ride to Santa Tecla was only seven miles, but nonetheless we were treated to a sneak preview of the quality of El Salvador drivers. I cannot imagine any other way for this to happen in this location apart from utter stupidity.  Turns out El Salvador has some pretty ridiculous drivers. Worse than simple incompetent, they seem excessively entitled and some are downright evil. We had a close call almost every day, mostly in ways that seemed as though the driver was purposely endangering our lives. It was a strange contrast because we also received some of the greatest kindness from Salvadorans.

The ride to Santa Tecla was only seven miles, but nonetheless we were treated to a sneak preview of the quality of El Salvador drivers. I cannot imagine any other way for this to happen in this location apart from utter stupidity. Turns out El Salvador has some pretty ridiculous drivers. Worse than simple incompetent, they seem excessively entitled and some are downright evil. We had a close call almost every day, mostly in ways that seemed as though the driver was purposely endangering our lives. It was a strange contrast because we also received some of the greatest kindness from Salvadorans.

April 28, 2016

Our first day out of the city would take us down an unearned descent for several miles to Joyas de Ceren. A car passed us slowly a couple km before the park and pulled over. Usually if people want us to stop, they’ll get out or wave out the window, but these two didn’t. We rolled past, but I somehow realized that was what they wanted, but were perhaps too shy, so we turned around. The sweet mother and her daughter wanted to chat and then handed us some cold sodas and snacks.

The pre-hispanic ruins of Joyas de Ceren are known as the “Pompeii of the Americas”. They were created when a nearby volcano erupted and buried this Mayan village in ash, which preserved the site. There was little warning, but unlike Pompeii, the inhabitants had just enough time to escape, although a duck was found tied up in the corner of a house.

04-joyas

"Skeleton of a mouse" The vermin were not so lucky either. Thrown casually into the list of items found.

“Skeleton of a mouse” The vermin were not so lucky either. Thrown casually into the list of items found.

Contrary to what we’d heard we were unable to camp at the ruins, but there was a balneareo nearby where we could pitch up for a few bucks and cool off in the pools to boot. The best part was having a roof so we didn’t have to use the stifling rain fly.

06-camp

April 29, 2016

We took some farm roads out of Joyas the next day. It was a great ride, even if I was a bit on edge because the area seemed a bit depressed and there were some really sleazy guys watching us entering the dirt roads.

We followed this friendly farmer for a couple miles.

We followed this friendly farmer for a couple miles.

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09-road

We found random tourist "infrastructure" in ridiculous locations like this throughout the country. I felt compelled to read this plaque about the history of agriculture in El Salvador because I knew I would be the only one ever.

We found random tourist “infrastructure” in ridiculous locations like this throughout the country. I felt compelled to read this plaque about the history of agriculture in El Salvador because I knew I would be the only one ever.

We chatted with this boisterous crew while breakfasting at a roadside shack and they insisted on paying. Pepe’s neighbor had given me a sort of necklace with two wood cylinders. I hadn’t understood what he said it was, but that he felt I should have it because of our trip. One of the guys asked if I knew what it was and the others said they were earplugs (horribly uncomfortable and dangerous earplugs). He called them fools and tried to explain, saying multiple times that it had something to do with Bear Grylls. It took a while before I finally understood he was saying, “escout”. Oh, scouts! I had a lot of difficulty in El Salvador because they use a lot of English words, but in a thick accent and with extra vowels. Apparently these wood pieces are difficult to get in scouts because you need to do something badass, so I am honored that their neighbor had felt I was worthy, although I’m not sure it’s justified. It’s just a bike ride.

Boisterous crew

Boisterous crew

I can always spot the ice cream

I can always spot the ice cream

Typical fruit stalls along the highway, with also typical fried chicken joints on the other side.

Typical fruit stalls along the highway, with also typical fried chicken joints on the other side.

"Ain't nobody got time for diarrhea." Then don't eat that chicken!

“Ain’t nobody got time for this diarrhea.” Then don’t eat that chicken!

Asking what the flowers are for, then getting sold a mamey. Sucker. Oh, I bet YOU also want to know what the flowers are for? Well, I actually have no idea what he said, but the mamey was delicious.

Asking what the flowers are for, then getting sold a mamey. Sucker. Oh, I bet YOU also want to know what the flowers are for? Well, I actually have no idea what he said, but the mamey was delicious.

We camped at one of the restaurants that overlooks Lake Coatepeque. It's no Atitlán, but nice nonetheless.

We camped at one of the restaurants that overlooks Lake Coatepeque. It’s no Atitlán, but nice nonetheless.

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We had a few hours to kill before bedtime so we went to hang out at the restaurant that was blasting Bob Marley rather than Banda. The proprietor was an eccentric but friendly guy who gave us gifts, showed off his decorations and gave us facials because, why not? There were also a couple of drunk guys there, one of whom kept telling us how he loved American music, especially once the Marley CD gave way to the cheesy 80’s power ballads.

Brandy getting her free facial

Brandy getting her free facial

April 30, 2016

We’d unwittingly gone to the wrong side of the lake so we annoyingly had even more miles on what would be a long-ish day, given the big climb to the top of the Cordillera Balsa mountain range at the end.

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This guy was so cool, we had to buy bread from him.

This guy was so cool, we had to buy bread from him.

Leaving the lake area

Leaving the lake area

Brandy insisted that I turn around to give her another chance to get this glamour shot in front of the Volcán Santa Ana.

Brandy insisted that I turn around to give her another chance to get this glamour shot in front of the Volcán Santa Ana.

It was right in front of these police. I was hoping they didn't think I was trying to avoid their checkpoint and shoot me, so I went up and talked to them to prove that I'm a cool guy. Actually, I wanted directions and make sure that the road we were looking for up the side of the mountains actually existed and was paved.

It was right in front of these police. I was hoping they didn’t think I was trying to avoid their checkpoint and shoot me, so I went up and talked to them to prove that I’m a cool guy. Actually, I wanted directions and make sure that the road we were looking for up the side of the mountains actually existed and was paved.

Brandy got her own glamour shot, imitating someone we'd just passed posing in front of the volcano.

Brandy got her own glamour shot, imitating someone we’d just passed posing in front of the volcano.

After that beautiful glamour shot road we were stuck riding for several miles on a very unpleasant highway with a worthless shoulder and plenty of fools. At least it was mostly downhill so it went quickly. We then turned off onto another small road that would take us up a long, steep climb to the top of the Cordillera Balsa. I had kind of underestimated/understated the extent of the climb while describing the day to Brandy. I may or may not have said something like, “well, we have a bit of a climb. It’s after 30 miles of riding, but I don’t think it’s too bad…”

Brandy is not stoked about this hot midday climbing. But look at that view!!

Brandy is not stoked about this hot midday climbing. But look at that view!!

We thought we were mostly done when we got to this village an hour later. We chose not to believe the locals' diagonal hand gestures describing the road ahead and had a premature celebratory ice cream anyway. Brandy chatted with this woman while I was investigating the ice cream.

We thought we were mostly done when we got to this village an hour later. We chose not to believe the locals’ diagonal hand gestures describing the road ahead and had a premature celebratory ice cream anyway. Brandy chatted with this woman while I was investigating the ice cream.

The climbing did, indeed continue. We blasted some Phish out of our portable speaker to keep morale up, much to the bemusement of the few people we passed on this quiet road.

The climbing did, indeed continue. We blasted some Phish out of our portable speaker to keep morale up, much to the bemusement of the few people we passed on this quiet road.

The views got even more incredible though, even if the beauty of this narrow mountain range proved photographically elusive.

The views got even more incredible though, even if the beauty of this narrow mountain range proved photographically elusive.

It took us about four hours to reach the junction at the summit where there was a small overlook. We were cheered on as we arrived by some police officers who had passed us on the way up, this young couple and some youths chilling on the side of the road.

It took us about four hours to reach the junction at the summit where there was a small overlook. We were cheered on as we arrived by some police officers who had passed us on the way up, this young couple and some youths chilling on the side of the road.

It wasn't as though we were done with the climbing, but now we were on the ridge and it would just be a series of small hills. The heat was gone now and we were ensconced in a whisping cloudbank.

It wasn’t as though we were done with the climbing, but now we were on the ridge and it would just be a series of small hills. The heat was gone now and we were ensconced in a whisping cloudbank.

Every time I saw these fog warning signs I couldn't help but shout, "bee attack!!"

Every time I saw these fog warning signs I couldn’t help but shout, “bee attack!!”

A nice place to stop for a peanut butter break

A nice place to stop for a peanut butter break

View from said PB spot

View from said PB spot

We were served with one final, super steep climb on cobblestones to Comasagua. In small towns you don't use addresses, you just ask the locals where so and so lives.

We were served with one final, super steep climb on cobblestones to Comasagua. In small towns you don’t use addresses, you just ask the locals where so and so lives.

Pepe's ma immediately served us up a pile of our new favorite food from the popular pupusa stand the neighbor sets up out her front door. The infamous mamey makes an appearance as well.

Pepe’s ma immediately served us up a pile of our new favorite food from the popular pupusa stand the neighbor sets up out her front door. The infamous mamey makes an appearance as well.