Getting up at ridiculous hours for tours or buses has pretty much been the norm for us now for the past 6-7 weeks, and we therefore felt a well-earned break was on the cards for all our ‘hard work’. In particular, this seemed to come to light one evening during dinner, when after a gentle yawn I said to Donna that I was knackered and that it was probably time to ‘hit the hay’ after dinner, to which Donna responded, ‘Mike it’s 7:30pm!’. The days of staying up till silly O’clock at home seem a long way away at the moment, as we appear to be evolving and morphing into what we once feared….morning people! Hopefully, this is just a phase though, and we will continue to try work through it.
So, a break from buses and tours it was, and we decided to hit the beach. El Tunco in El Salvador was the destination, and we were of course up at the crack of dawn to get the bus there! Ironic I suppose in many ways that we had to rise early in order to stop getting up early because we were so tired!? Anyway, we set off and
the journey was all fine until we encountered the boarder of Guatemala and El Salvador. It was then that the driver took our passports into immigration and then brought them back out with a comment you never want to hear at a border crossing, and especially not in the middle of Central America….his comment was short, and not 100% grammatically correct, however it was to the point ‘There is problem’.
After initially nearly soiling ourselves (probably me more than Donna), we asked what could possibly be the problem? We have long been law abiding citizens in all countries we have visited as well as our own, and couldn’t imagine why there would be a problem with our passports? Had that unpaid parking fine from home finally caught up with me, and there was now an international bounty on my head? Was Donna not really the girl she has claimed to be for the past 13 years, or is she secretly an international arms dealer, and hasn’t got round to telling me just yet? It’s safe to say, that my mind may have, for a few seconds at least, gone slightly wayward, but when finally asking the driver what the
problem was with the Passports, he stated that we had outstayed our allowance in Guatemala by three days, and therefore we should no longer be there. This seemed a little strange in that we knew we were allowed 90 days in the all of the C4 counties (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua), and we had only been in Guatemala 8 days?? So where was the problem? He then showed us the stamp on our Passport for Guatemala that had ’05 days’ written within the stamp. This was of course a mistake by the immigration office when entering Guatemala, however it was there, and it was also in their system, and therefore it was as good as gospel in the eyes of El Salvador’s immigration clerk. So, how do you solve a problem like this in Central America? A good question and one we were eager to know the answer to.
But it seems that there is no problem to large or too small that a few US Dollars won’t solve in the pockets of the clerks at immigration, and therefore after a bit of a chit- chat with the officials, our driver comes back and says ‘$10 each,
and then no problem’. Eager to drop this craziness, and get on our way, we forked out the $20 in bribe money, and all was well again…Magic! We received our passports back, and took a look at the stamp that once stated 05 days, however this now read 85 days by them adding a small circle to the bottom of the zero already there to create an 8 instead of a zero, genius! They also amended their computer so this was updated there too, we assumed this was the $20 worth of ‘admin’ they claimed, and reminded ourselves to check the Passports after every border crossing in future! Lesson learned
Anyway…..we finally got to El Tunco beach, and I have to say I was a tad disappointed. The guide book mentioned that the beach was more of a pebble beach, however from this I imagined Brighton’s small stones or pebbles to be strewn across the beach. What I saw were ROCKS. They were like the size of American Football’s, and the beach itself wasn’t very aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
Still, we were there for Rest and Relaxation, as well as me trying to learn to surf, so
we didn’t need a Caribbean haven, just some waves, a surfboard, and a bit of sun, which I’m pleased to say, we had pretty much the whole stay. By around 4pm, we decided to hit one of the beach facing bars of El Tunco, the Coco bar, and order ourselves a couple of frosty large beers within Happy Hour, and started to watch the surfers do their thing in front of us while the sun started to set. It was then, that both Donna and I decided we were going to like this place, and all the initial disappointment started to diminish.
The next three days were spent with Donna soaking up some rays, and getting plenty of the R&R that we set out to in El Salvador, as well as me trying to learn the art of Surfing. For me, Surfing was of course a disaster, however after several wipe-outs just trying to get out to the waves, and numerous attacks from rocks in the water, I kept on going, and after three days attempting to surf, I finally managed to get to the waves I was trying to get too (sooo much harder than I assumed on
the arms), and nearly managed to stand up once, which I felt was a victory!
When we wasn’t chilling or attempting to Surf, we were hanging out with the guys we met in our Hotel who were a great crowd of people from all over the place, and just swapping travel stories, and discussing what was on the cards next after travelling, something we are still a fair way off from, thankfully!.
All in all, although this was our only stop in El Salvador, we are both really pleased we stayed there, as I think it was just what we needed in order to set off again…..Next Stop Copan, Honduras.
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