El Salvador

Day 1746 Monday 27th July

Queuing to be stamped in, for free, the officer gave us a tourist map and advised us where was nice, nearby and not to touristy for us to head for, a night to put up our tent. He took time to explain that and the customs shed was not here but three clicks up the road and that we could not miss it, he bade us a safe journey. Never had that before, nice man!!!

Sure enough just over three km later we came across a long long line of trucks parked on the road side. Threading our way passed them, following a police truck, we were diverted left off the highway to a clearance shed. Whereupon a very smiley officer directed us to a shady parking area, from there we walked to a large shed with a tour bus parked and a long line of hot looking passengers lined up with their bags at their feet, waiting for the ham sandwich sniffer dog to come and check if the affa david they had signed was correct. We waited with backs cooking against a hot tin shed wall while another very smiley man took our details and vanished into an air conditioned office for half an hour. He came back with a second guy with more papers who took us to our bike for a quick look over then left us with a lady whom kept me waiting for twenty more. Soon we rode out with all papers in order, only to be stopped at the highway to get one last stamp and a photocopy. That’s when our long day went bad, for me any how. After finally finalising all papers I carefully wrapped them in plastic wallets to keep my sweat from them when they were packed in the back of my coat. As I did this Diane called out, I looked to watch my bike fall from its side stand and land close to up side down in a deep rain water ditch. With the help of two police officers we righted the poor bike to see that the right hand mirror mount had broken off the brake master cylinder. A very expensive replacement. It was nobody’s fault but probably mine, the prop stand I wedged under the right side had moved, possibly by a close passing truck vibrating the ground and fell away, then the bike just fell. Later I reckoned it was minimal damage as all the plastic was good, only the crash bars were more bent in, a little more after our fall in Sudan. Very cross with myself we rode off to our camp.

Camped on the ocean we enjoyed cold showers and well cooked local fish, fries and a salad. Great to be in our tent again we slept well, tired from the long day and the heart ache of a damaged bike. So long on the road with little real damage now this. A shop repair would be a new front brake master cylinder, very expensive if one could get a new part. Here in central America I would try to repair. Thanks to Peter Forward I have a thought.

Day 1747 Tuesday 28th July

On the road at six thirty we rode high into the mountains, great be out of humid heat. At only a thousand meters the air was cooler and less humid. The small town of Alegria had a relaxed vibe that felt good after the hectic passage through Santa Maria at ocean level, full of heat and bustling market traders and milling customers at before eight in the morning.

Riding past the small well kept Plaza I noticed a lady setting up her food stall so we made a ‘U’ turn and stopped for coffee and deep fried beans and rice. Yes that’s right they wrapped the staple diet in corn dough and fried it, nice but only have one.

Having read about a hostel with secure parking and cabins in the owners garden set in the north of town Diane went to find it, while I sat and watched hot fuel dripping from the right hand tank over flow. With no luck we went to the only hostel we saw. The bikes had to live just off the street which was ok as the town was very quiet, mother and daughter showed us our room and made us welcome. I was unloading our gear when Papa came home, he said quite a lot and went to talk with his wife. I thought he wanted us to put the bikes in the garage, it was soon obvious he did not want them on his drive, for a reason we never found out. So daughter showed us to another hostel with better parking. It turned out this was where we tried to find earlier.

In the late afternoon I offered the broken mirror mount to the cylinder, it fitted very well, the sharp coarseness of the cast aluminium fitting together beautifully. Three hours later an adequate coat of epoxy resin saw the damage repaired. As a precaution I cut from an inner tyre a ten mil wide strip and stretched it and wrapped it around the reservoir and the stem, wIth the addition of a cable tie I reckoned the job was a good one, (we will see). Now all I need is a mirror glass.

In the evening we went to eat at a small cafe which served traditional food, having no real idea what we were ordering, just cheese with chillies we waited for our nine chosen dishes to arrive. At fifty cents a dish we did not expect a lot, when it arrived we discovered corn tortillas, some filled with spicy shredded meat others with the chilli cheese, a tomato soup which normally I don’t like but this one was delicious and a small salad. All together it was not a lot of food however on finishing we could eat no more, wonderful food of El Salvador

Day 1748 Wednesday 29th July

Riding the slightly rough road down the mountain through tunnels of trees often thinning to give panoramic views, hazy with the early morning mist hanging in the folds of vast tree covered mountains a lot of which gave the impression of being long dead volcano’s.

Unfortunately we dropped down enough for it to get very warm again, we had hoped to stay high and cooler. Joining the Pan American once again we made our way to Suchioto where we took a room in a great hostel with a very alternative bar attached. Once the bike were parked at the bottom of a steep drive we walked the town a were surprised to find the church with open doors. In Latin America nearly all the churches were painted on the inside, some with colourful murals and pictures on the brilliant white walls, unlike most of the ones in Europe where the paint was long gone, now just leaving bare stone. This one was a rich cream on the inside, the pillars clad in a cherry wood, the same as the huge alter, finished with a little gold leaf on the highest parts which caught the light from the long rectangle windows just under the eaves.

After walking the alleged eight hundred meters to the lake we were daunted by the return walk as we must have descended four hundred as well! Luckily we caught the bus, literally as the driver had no intention of stopping on such a steep hill, he changed down gears and we leapt on.

Our evening was taken by Spanish ‘lessons’ in the bar. Hung from the roof were many flags, some I knew, most were new to me. The Australian one was down side up, the manager noticed me looking and said ‘yeah I know that now but I have no step ladder to correct it’, looked ok to me….

Hung randomly lots of pictures of Che Guevara smoking fat cigars and looking cool, old rifles, mortar launchers, grenades, bullet belts, their leather now cracking with the heat, age and much use. Advertising posters from long forgotten movies. On the second level hammocks gave the occupier splendid views over the surrounding mountains while sipping still tasteless cold fizzy beer, in my opinion.

We were very tempted to stay another night, however our close proximity to the bar was threatening to damage our bank balance.

Day 1749 Thursday 30th July

Not getting away particularly early, but both bikes fired up wonderfully, just as well as the drive was a steep one, up. We took the advised road to Aguilares, it wound through basic villages and pleasant green farm land, no cows goats or sheep grazing the fields or running across the road, strange. Sadly again I was unnerved by missing, presumed stolen, missing inspection covers, leaving a very deep hole a metre diameter. The oncoming drivers were only too aware of the holes and weaved across the road as needed to avoid, made for a very alert ride!!

Being stopped at a police check point the KTM took offence and refused to start. Thankfully the officers took pity and slave started it off one of their vehicles… Taking a rough dirt road to Termales de Alicante a kilometre later we were rewarded with cheap camping, hot thermal outdoor baths and when the rain started we moved into a redundant masseur cabin to make our camp in. We rehung the privacy curtains, made supper while the lightning lit up the white screens and thunder rattled the roof. I felt guilty about leaving the bikes outside, a three meter square cabin was too small for all four of us. When the storm subsided the silence was absolute and we slept well.

KTM was grumpy about being left out in the rain and refused to start, once slave started we headed for the border. Fifteen minutes saw us out of wonderful El Salvador and over the grand bridge into Guatemala.