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Published: September 16th 2018
Here we are, spending some time in the last country of Central America I have never visited. Put it simply, El Salvador doesn't have the best record for safety, so basic rules do apply. Kind of funny to write when you know I'm writing this today from Congo DRC!
Yes, El Salvador is classified as one of the more dangerous country in the world. There is no war here per se, but the gangs, and gang wars do rule in most part of the very poor country. So I was not going to play any game on this multi-weeks trip. Why El Salvador, well, it was an easy 48 hours stop between Roatan and my next stop, just an hour from here. San Salvador is also country count 157 for me. As of today, I still have to visit Haiti, Surinam and Guyana to complete a visit of every single state in the all of the Americas! So yes, I'm closing the list!
I'm staying at the Sheraton. Not many tourists here, it is clearly a business/NGO/government hotel. The area is safe, the hotel is slightly old, but the renovated suite is pretty comfortable! There
is even a lounge for nice relax little dinner! I didn't play and booked my taxi directly with the hotel. The airport is by the seaside, while the capital is a good 40km away and up into the former volcanoes.
The country is the smallest one of Central America and has the reputation to be on the bring of overpopulation. The hotel is in the Zona Rosa, the top area of the city. It's a mix of US brands all over and a mess of roads that are clearly better for cars than to walk around.
Next morning, the Dive Master was supposed to arrive at 6.30am, he finally made it at 8.30am. I had find a dive center on the net. The guy in charge, a British is on holiday, but he put me in contact with another DM, Diego from Guatemala. Diego was not late, it was just that the guy who had the key to the dive center didn't wake up, so Diego couldn't get the tanks. It's Central America after all!
So Diego made it just before 9am, I was going to dive my 64th country. And
yes, there was only me...the deal would have been, if there was 2 divers, 65usd for two dives, if I'm alone, 100usd for 2 dives. Honest, as the dive site is 45 minutes drive from the hotel, and he even comes to pick me up! Diego got there in his pick up and told me to put my gears in the open cargo bed. Are you sure, like this, in San Salvador...so what ever...let's see what the day has for us!
Diego is a super nice guy. Let put it straight, today I haven't been robbed, kidnapped or anything like this. Today we are going to dive Lake Ilopango, 10km out of the capital. The lake was formed in 500AD after one of the most massive volcano eruption ever. Seems rocks were burst all the way to the Pacific Ocean! This is only my second day diving ever in fresh water. First one was the amazing site of Silfra in Iceland. Don't worry, there is nothing exceptional about diving Lake Ilopango...but i wanted to dive, and the Pacific Coast of Salvador doesn't have much to offer next to the capital!
I'm on for two
dives. I asked Diego if the area is safe...reply is...not really, but we have the local boatman with us, so should be ok. It was, so no panic...for that day!
First, setting up the dive computer for fresh water, 300 meters altitude. Well, I've never done this in my Suunto....and I don't have the manual, so let's hope I don't do any huge mistake...to top it up, Diego is low battery on his computer...It all went fine, the battery of Diego survived the 2 dives. I must have done something wrong in my setting, as on the second dive, a solid conservative one, my computer went 15 minutes in deco....never did it, just blocked the computer for 48 hours!
The visibility is some 3 to 5 meters, 28 degrees water...and all greenish or yellowish. Was truly fun, specially when the local tourists on a boat tour saw us...are you going down under the water???
We saw hundreds of very little fishes....lots of rocks...and few tilapia. On the first dive, there were few dead crabs, and on the second dive, we saw few live crab. Yes! The funnies part is the taste
of the water through the regulator. It tastes like earth or dust, not the best experience, but an interesting one never the less. we did two dives of 45 minutes each with the interval surface time on a little island on the middle of the lake.
Next, I was back to my hotel by 3pm. I asked Diego if the city has a nice Historical Center. He simply replied to me that he was too scared to go around that place on his own...good, I'll be staying in my hotel. Next morning, after breakfast I'm ready for my safe taxi back to the airport.
I haven't seen a lot of the country. We drive 45 minutes from the airport to the hotel, and another 45 minutes across the city from the hotel to the lake. But in a country with such a reputation, I'm just happy to stay safe.
Next, back to a place i haven't landed in 16 years...for some top world class diving....in the middle of nowhere! Coming soon!
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