Monday, April 28, 2014


I got up and went for a run on Monday morning.  All the roadside shrines had been dismantled, but I could see the remains of designs that people had made with colored sand, corn meal and flower petals.  It was very subdued out there after the frenzy of Semana Santa.  The hotel was deserted.  They took advantage of the slow period to replace the roof of the kitchen and clean all the grease out of the ventilation system.  They set up a temporary kitchen in part of the bar.  No one was ordering food, anyway.

Cayuco on the Rio Lempa
After my shower and a brief period spent on the internet, Venus, Patrick (a Frenchman single handing a catamaran), and I set off for La Herradura in Venus’ little boat.  It took us an hour to motor up the river.  We came to the point in the river where it split around and island and, instead of taking the left fork to go to the Paradise Marina or Lynn and Lou’s, we went to the right.  We worked our way through a series of channels between islands, tending generally to the right, until the roof of a large palapa emerged from the mangroves.  We tied our boat up to the seawall at that restaurant and climbed up onto the shore via a tire hung on the side of the wall for that purpose.  We were met by a young man whose job is to watch people’s dinghies while they go into town.  He charged $1 for this service.

La Herradura
Patrick needed to go to the ATM, so we headed up the main street towards the bank and the grocery store.  La Herradura is a rough and unattractive place, rumored to be dangerous for tourists.  We saw some young toughs, but no one bothered us.  Patrick couldn’t get any money out of the ATM, probably because they had set the limit rather low.  I got $100 with no problem. I didn’t really need money, but wanted some small bills because all I had was hundreds.

The grocery store was across the street from the bank, a few blocks up the road from the estuary.  It was a small supermarket.  We had all come in search of fresh vegetables, but there weren’t many offered.  I got a couple of small heads of not too limp iceberg lettuce, a bag of onions and a few tomatoes.  The most attractive things there were the grapes, so I bought a small bunch of those, even though Scott didn’t like them.  I did manage to get some disposable razors and napkins and some very nice small bags of sauces that were perfect for seasoning the one pound lumps of meat I had bought from Emely up the road.  The sauces cost 35 cents per envelope.  It was all I could do to spend $14 at that grocery store, since we didn’t need meat or alcohol.  They were kind enough to change my $100 bill, however, so I left with a good supply of small bills.  None of us bought much.

Pangas in La Herradura
We headed back down the road towards the restaurant on the water’s edge.  There were a bakery, a phone store, a few eateries and a couple of small grocery/liquor stores.  A small inlet held the local pangas and there were more stored on shore.  La Herradura did not give off a happy vibe.  The restaurant where we had left the boat was nice, though.  It was a big place with a two story high roof.  We stopped there and had cold sodas before hopping off the wall into someone’s panga and then climbing across to Venus’s boat.  The tide had turned in our favor, but the wind was now against us.  We had to hang onto the beach umbrella on the way back.  We saw lots of men fishing from cayucos, the local variety of dugout canoe.  We got back to the marina about noon.

Bill had been to the boat while I was gone and he and Scott had determined that our starting battery had been fried by our faulty starter and the starter was still, indeed, useless.  Bill checked around for battery deals, but couldn’t come up with anything in the way of 8Ds.  Scott spent the day reading in his cabin.  I spent the afternoon finishing the last hatch screen and then went for a quick swim when I just couldn’t stand the heat or Scott’s silence, anymore.

Hotel Beach
I couldn’t sleep on Tuesday morning, so got up, took a shower, and spent the morning using the wi-fi in the bar.  The wait staff has given up trying to sell me coffee and breakfast.  I sat up there until my back started to bother me and I got hungry.  Then I headed down to the boat to make breakfast.  Venus came by the boat, later, with her friend, Lucio, who was the captain of one of the power boats on the dock.  Lucio knew where to get batteries at a discount and had a truck to take us there.  I thought Scott would welcome this information, but he just ignored me when I told him.  He spent all day in his cabin, reading, and never mentioned our mechanical problems or what we might be doing in the future.  I was going crazy because people kept asking me what we were doing and it was very embarrassing to have to say that I didn’t know.

Ramona and Jan came by in the afternoon and I jumped at the opportunity to go out to the beach with them for a walk and a drink.  It was good to get out of the stuffy boat and even better to get away from Scott’s mood.  The best thing I could do when he got in a mood like that was to make my own plans and get on with life.  If I hung around the boat, waiting for him to act, I just ended up feeling like Cinderella, missing out on the ball.

Swarm of Bees on Porto Venere
Ramona, Jan, Patrick, Venus and I had agreed to meet at 6:45 am on Wednesday to go to El Tunco.  Patrick, Venus and I were ready, but we didn’t see Ramona and Jan.  Knowing that they had had trouble with their outboard the night before, I tried to call them on the radio to see if they needed a ride.  When we couldn’t reach them (their batteries were too low to use the radio), Venus hopped in her dinghy and went to get them.  She met them being towed by another boat and took their line to bring them over to the marina.  While Venus was fetching the Millers, Patrick and I watched the swarm of bees that had infested the power boat next to Venus’ boat.  We had seen them arrive the day before and quickly put up all our screens to keep them out of our boat.  It looked for a time at if they were going to occupy an unattended sailboat, but they swarmed around the reel on one of the fishing boats instead.  Patrick suggested that they smoke them out and we later heard that they had done so with apparent success.

Scenery on the Road to La Libertad
Once we were all assembled, we quickly found a bus going to Arco.  Every time we took that bus the fare was different.  That morning, it was 85 cents.  At Arco, we changed to a small bus going to Comalapa, which cost us a quarter each.  From Comalapa, we took a #187 to La Libertad for another 60 cents.  The coastline was very scenic.  We stopped at the Super Selecto grocery store in La Libertad to use the bathroom and then spent another quarter to hop on a #80 to El Tunco.  The whole trip took us about three hours.

Main Street of El Tunco
Surf Shop in El Tunco
El Tunco was a funky little surfing beach with a lot of backpacker/surfer hotels, surf shops, and restaurants.  You could rent a surfboard for the whole day for $10.  We had originally planned to eat at one of the restaurants on the beach, but they were no longer serving breakfast and the lunch menu was expensive.  We turned around and went back into town where we got a very nice and reasonable ($2.50 for eggs, beans, rice, cheese and rolls) breakfast at a second floor restaurant.  Once fortified, Ramona, Jan and I went for a walk on the beach while Venus and Patrick (who didn’t like to walk) sat in a café and drank coffee.  El Tunco gets its name from a rock outcropping just offshore that (supposedly) looks like the snout of a pig.  I thought that it must have eroded some since it was named because I couldn’t see the resemblance at all.  The beach wasn’t very pretty, but the waves were nice.  What sand there was appeared very dark from the volcanic rocks in the area and much of the beach was composed of round stones such as are usually found in riverbeds.  When the waves receded, you could hear the stones rolling back into the surf, which was kind of cool.  Two rivers meet the sea in El Tunco.  One parallels the town and we walked down the beach as far as the second one.  There were pleasant, hippy sort of hotels all along the beachfront.  One of them had hammocks strung under a shady structure that looked quite pleasant.
El Tunco's Namesake Rock

Hammocks on the Beach at El Tunco
Riverside Businesses in El Tunco
After our walk, we rejoined Venus and Patrick at the café and then trekked back up to the road to catch a bus back to La Libertad.  One of our missions for the day was to go to the used clothing store in La Libertad.  I suspect that a large portion of clothes donated to Goodwill ends up in places like the one we visited.  It was a huge building and everything inside was very organized.  They gave you a numbered basket and, when you were finished shopping, someone would review your items and write up a ticket with your basket number on it.  They took your basket while you took your ticket to the cashier.  Once you had paid and received your receipt, you went to another counter to retrieve your purchases, which they tied up in a bag so you couldn’t possible slip anything else inside on the way to the door.  I bought a Pierre Cardin Hawaiian shirt for Scott and four bathing suit tops for myself for $9.50.  Ramona got some sheets and Venus bought an entire wardrobe for about $80.

After the clothing store, we hit the Super Selecto to buy groceries.  It was the nicest grocery store I had seen in El Salvador.  They even had fairly nice produce, although I couldn’t find any bananas.  I bought a very nice, large head of red leaf lettuce for 52 cents and finally found some carbonated water, which had been unavailable at the other stores we had visited.  I got two bags of groceries for under $10.  By the time we were done shopping, it was 2:30 and we were all hot and tired.  We decided to share a taxi back to the marina.  There were no taxis visible, but a fellow saw us looking for one and offered to drive us home for $40.  That wasn’t bad split five ways, so we agreed.  We were somewhat dismayed when he arrived with his vehicle, however.  Instead of the small sedan we expected, he appeared in a mini truck with a crew cab.  Once we got him to remove his sub-woofer from the front seat, there was just room for all of us to cram into the cab.  We loaded our plunder into the truck bed and set off for Bahia del Sol.  It took an hour and 15 minutes to drive back to the hotel.
Used Clothing Store in La Libertad

Thursday morning, I got up early to run.  Everybody along the road is used to me now.  Even the dogs ignore me.  The bread vendors all wave at me, even though I never buy bread.  It was extra hot and humid.  I ran down the road for five kilometers and then turned around.  I was done in after 6 kilometers, but still had four more to get back to the hotel, so I just kept running.  I literally had to wring out my clothes when I got back.

Janet with Her English Students
Just as I was walking back to the boat from the showers, I ran into Venus.  She invited me to come to the local water park.  My English teacher friend, Janet, was taking her students to the park to celebrate her birthday.  Jan, Ramona, Venus and I went along.  We took ten kids.  The park was very generous.  They let the kids in for free and even sent a van to collect us.  These were kids from the island and they didn’t have a lot.  They live on an island and none of them had bathing suits.  They had a great time at the park and the simple grilled chicken lunch we had was a big treat for them.

Water Slides at Atlantis
The Atlantis Water Park was very nice.  They had several big water slides, a wave pool, a kiddie pool with smaller slides, and a river you could float around.  There were nice paved walkways that were easy on bare feet and plenty of shade structures to keep us out of the sun.  There was only one other family group with older teenagers there.  The staff followed us around and turned on the water wherever we decided to go.  Shortly after we got there, I went down one of the big water slides in a double float with one of the boys.  The float was a little low on air and folded in half when we hit the water.  The boy’s head smacked me hard right in the nose.  There was blood everywhere and it hurt like crazy.  He was mortified.  I assured him that I would live and the staff took me into the snack bar and got me some napkins to clean up my nose.  I sat in there until it stopped bleeding and then went back to our shelter and lay in a hammock for a while.  I was ready to play again when the wave pool started up.

Wave Pool at Atlantis Water Park
Traffic Jam at the Pelican Slide
                                                                                                                                      The park ran the wave pool for an hour in the morning and another hour in the afternoon.  Both times, everyone in the park was in the wave pool.   They gave us floats to sit in and we were tossed about on the waves.  They actually got quite high and I was even tossed in the air a couple of times.  We had fun playing bumper cars with the kids and each other.  Rubber doughnuts do not steer like surfboards.  There was one really tall water slide that started out going straight down so far that you actually flew back up the other side and got to come down a second time.  Venus and I had to try it.  It was pretty wild.  They had us lie down on our backs so that our heads wouldn’t collide, which also meant that we couldn’t see where we were going.  By the end of the day, I was exhausted from paddling and climbing up and down stairs.  I wouldn’t have run so far if I had known I was going to the water park later.  We were all subdued in the van on the way home, but the kids were happy.

Bill had stopped by the boat just as I was hurrying off to the water park, so I had left it to them to organize our trip to San Salvador.  When I got back, I discovered that Bill had been unable to find a driver for us.  He suggested that I talk to Martin, the chef, who had filled our propane tanks for us earlier that week.  Martin is a very useful guy to know.  I asked him if he knew someone who would like to take us to San Salvador the next day and he quickly arranged for his friend, Edgardo, to take us.  Then I went back and talked with Bill on the radio to get all the directions to the places we needed to go.

Edgardo picked us up at 7:30 (OK, 7:45 or so) on Friday morning.  Jan and Ramona came with us because Jan had a dentist appointment.  It took us a couple of hours to get to San Salvador.  The traffic wasn’t bad until we got to the city, but then it was awful.  San Salvador is hilly and made up of many different neighborhoods.  The contrasts are striking.  One neighborhood would be made up of corrugated tin shacks and the next would be neat homes in gated communities.  The historic center was a zoo of traffic and small vendors.  Newer parts of town boasted modern shopping malls and American fast food restaurants.  We dropped Jan and Ramona off where they could find a taxi to the dentist and then we headed for Boulevard Venezuela.  Close to the historic center, there was a neighborhood full of auto parts stores.  We had been directed to try Repuestos Monterrey first.  Edgardo knew where it was, but we still had a devil of a time getting there because of all the one way (una via) streets.  Traffic was gridlocked.  We could have walked much faster.  Edgardo eventually deposited us in front of the building.  It was a large warehouse sort of place and they did, indeed, have our starter … almost.  It was a very similar model, but the bell housing had the solenoid on the wrong side.  It would not fit on our engine as it was, but Scott was pretty sure we could use the bell housing from the old starter.  At $260, the price was right.  I did have to pay them in cash.  They told us that we had bought the last one and they were no longer available, although some of the parts could still be obtained.

Doesn't Look Much Like a Parts Store, Does It?

Super Repuestos Was a Zoo
While we were driving through the tangle of one way streets, we had seen a Ford OEM parts store, so we headed there next.  We were really hoping that we could find a second starter to have as a spare.  The store we had seen didn’t have one, but they sent us next door to Canhuati.  They had the same starter we bought at Monterrey, but their price was $565.  That did include the labor to switch the bell housing, but we declined.  Next, we decided to stop at the huge Super Repuestos, since we were there.  They were having a huge 25% off sale and had a DJ blaring music so loudly that we couldn’t hear a word and had to resort to writing notes.  They didn’t have our starter, but we did buy a can of carburetor cleaning fluid.  Next, we went to Colonia San Mateo to seek out an industrial parts supplier that I had found on the internet.  I had the address and had located the street on the map, but it looked all wrong when we got there.  The address was a nice residence.  I rang the doorbell and told the woman who answered the intercom that I was looking for industrial parts and wondered if I was in the right place.  She said we were and let us in.  They didn’t stock parts, but could obtain them.  She promised to call her boss and see what they could find for us.  We left our phone number in case they could come up with what we needed.

Satisfied that we weren’t going to find another starter that day, we set off across the city to go to the Battery Center where Bill had arranged for us to get an 8D battery at a good price.  The Battery Center was close to Redondo (traffic circle) Masferrer.  This was a newer, cleaner part of the city with nice, modern stores and even a BMW dealership.  The Battery Center was expecting us and was happy to sell us an 8D battery for $175, which was a good enough price that I didn’t mind having spent $100 on a driver for the day.  They even took my credit card.  Everywhere we went, we had asked for a 3-way battery switch, without luck.  Finally, we went to the main location of Marinsa and managed to find one there.  While we were there, we ran into two other couples from Bahia del Sol.  It seemed that everyone was in San Salvador that day.
Gridlock in Centro Historico
I wanted to kill some time until Jan and Ramona were ready to come back and I also needed a new hobby since I had finished all my sewing projects.  I wanted to buy a cheap guitar.  Bill had told me to try a store called Electronica 2000, which was located in the historic center, according to Edgardo.  We headed over there and immediately got stuck in the gridlock.  While we were sitting in traffic, Edgardo noticed another music store called Omni on the corner.  We stopped there.  Their prices were so low that I bought a nice Yamaha guitar and a bunch of accessories.  They wouldn’t take my credit card without my passport, but they were very apologetic and gave me a 10% discount when I paid cash.

Chinese Fast Food in San Salvador
By this time, Jan and Ramona were ready to go so we went and picked them up.  We all went out to lunch at China Wok.  It wasn’t very good Chinese Food, but it was something different.  After lunch, we stopped at Despensa Don Juan to do some grocery shopping while we had a van to schlep heavy items like beer and water back to the marina.  When we finished, it was 3:30 and time to start the drive back to Bahia del Sol.  Edgardo dropped us off as close as he could get to the docks, but we had a lot of heavy stuff to carry to the boats.  I was guarding our goods while the others ferried items to the boats when a young man from the hotel picked up the immense 8D battery, balanced it on his shoulder, and carried it off to the boat.  Then he disappeared.  We wanted to give him a tip, so had to get Martin to call him to come back.  He was clear at the beach side of the hotel by the time we tracked him down.  I waited until he came back to give him a few bucks and tell him that he was welcome to take the old battery for the salvage value.  He was glad to do so and even helped Scott heave the new battery up onto the boat.  By the time we put all the groceries away, we were ready to drink cold beers in the pool.

There was lightning and thunder in the evening and it rained during the night.  We woke up in the early morning hours because the electricity had gone off and the fan had quit.  We had closed the hatches to keep the rain out and it was sweltering in the boat.  By morning, there was still no power and we were getting low on battery.  A lightning strike had knocked out the power in a fairly large area.  Not only did we need to live without fans, we had no internet!  The hotel was using a generator to operate important items like the pool filter and the stereo, but there was no power for the margarita machine or the blenders.  It was mid-afternoon before we had power again.

Scott spent Saturday taking the new starter apart and replacing the bell housing with the one from the old starter, since the new one had the solenoid on the opposite side where it would have prevented him from mounting it next to our engine.  When he was done with that, he replaced the melted battery switch and installed a new battery switch to control which batteries were being charged by the generator alternator.  The new battery switches were much smaller than the old one, so he had to mount them on a piece of phenolic (a composite material) and then use that to cover the existing hole where the battery switch had been.  It looked pretty spiffy when he was done.  Because he still hadn’t installed the new starting battery, we didn’t yet know if the engine would start.

At high tide, Venus took us and my 5 hp Mercury outboard across the estuary to a mechanic named Juan on the island.  My outboard had been sitting for a long time and had a clogged carburetor.  It started fine, but would die when we tried to give it gas.  Ramona and Jan and Venus had had the same problem and he had cleaned their outboards, so we were confident he knew what he was doing.  Later in the afternoon, Bill gave me a ride over to the island to get my memory card back from Janet.  It was interesting to see the island in the daylight.  Jean and I walked from their house down to Janet’s and she showed me some of the flora and fauna on the island.  They have little blue land crabs that scuttle around.  The islanders have hunted them almost to extinction, but the properties of the gringos serve as wildlife sanctuaries.  Since the houses are mostly open, the rustling of crabs at night was a problem for the residents.

Cashew Trees
I knew that cashews were grown in El Salvador, because I had bought them from vendors on the bus, but I didn’t realize that the flat topped trees I saw everywhere were the source.  The nut grows inside what looks like the stem of the fruit.  The fruit is also edible, although somewhat astringent.  It is refreshing.  I had often seen piles of the fruits rotting by the side of the road.  Suddenly, I understood that someone had been harvesting the nuts.  According to Bill, the hulls around the seeds contain an oil with an effect similar to poison oak.  I thought I’d leave the harvesting of cashews to the experts.  I could see why they are expensive to buy, even where they were plentiful.

We had invited Venus over for dinner, so I made beef and carrots in green mole (called pipian, according to Venus) with Spanish rice and bacon slaw.  The beef that I bought at the little market down the road turned out to be incredibly tough, so I spent a long time cutting all the gristle out of it and then stewed it for a couple of hours just to make it edible.  The effort was worth it.  Venus didn’t like Salvadoran food much, so she was very happy to discover that I had made Mexican food.  We were amazed that such a slender woman could eat two big plates of rice with mole.  There were no leftovers.

I got up early to run, but only ran about six kilometers because I was still a little sore from my 10K run a few days before.  It was quiet on Sunday morning, except for the bread vendors and the milk man.  The milk man poured milk from his big jug into whatever containers his customers produced, just like something out of Fiddler on the Roof, except that he carried his jugs on a tricycle instead of a wagon.  I wondered if the cows I saw wandering up and down the road were the source of the milk.  I heard thunder while I was running, but it didn’t start raining until just after I got back when the sky really opened up.  The rainy season had come to El Salvador.  It was almost cool while it was raining.  The temperature got below 80 degrees.  Of course, it was before eight in the morning.

I just couldn’t get going on Sunday.  We went back across the estuary to pick up my newly repaired outboard.  Juan had cleaned the carburetor and the internal fuel tank for $20 and it ran fine.  Scott took it for a little spin and was actually able to get his hard bottomed inflatable up on a plane, at least with just him in it.  I did a little hand laundry because the hotel put everything in the dryer and that was pretty hard on spandex and bra hooks.  Passing pangas laughed at my unmentionables waving in the breeze.  Scott finished reworking all the battery switches.  We then had three: one for the main engine, one for the generator (it didn’t work, but we could charge batteries with its alternator), and one for the solar panels.  That allowed us to control what batteries were being charged by which system.  I napped most of the day and finally had to drink a diet coke just to stay awake.  I made dinner and then stayed up late playing the guitar.  I hadn’t brought any music with me, so had to figure out songs one at a time.  Unfortunately, my iPod died just when it would have come in handy.  It seemed that the humidity (or perspiration from running with it) had done in the charging socket.  It had been new when we left.  I would look for someone to fix it.  It was much easier to get things repaired in Central America than it would have been at home.

Cruising changes your outlook on the world.  Things go wrong.  Some plans fall through, but then unexpected adventures materialize.  You learn to slow down and enjoy what comes or you go crazy or go home.  Once you have adapted, it is hard to imagine going home where every minute is planned and schedules are rigid.  The cruisers who have moved ashore, here in El Salvador, were tired of living on a boat, but not ready to go back to the rat race.  Living in a third world country is a lot like living on a boat.  There are challenges and something is always breaking, but those hardships keep you busy and force you to be creative.  It is a social lifestyle because people have to share resources and depend on each other.  I could see living here one day, as long as the bedroom was air conditioned, I had reliable internet, and the blender worked.

Monday, April 21, 2014


Sunday morning was a flurry of activity as we prepared to leave El Salvador.  We had checked out with the port captain on Saturday, but had to check out with immigration, pay our marina bill, and stow everything in preparation for heading out to sea.  The pilot was going to take four boats over the bar at 1:00.  At noon, Scott turned the key to start the boat, thinking we would go buy fuel before departing, and nothing happened.  The brand new solenoid that we had bought in Chiapas had broken into three pieces.  We weren’t going anywhere.  It was Sunday and the marine store was closed.  The other cruisers on the dock dug through their spare parts, but no one had the right sized solenoid.  Bill went somewhere to look, but couldn't find one either.  Someone would have to go to Zacatecoluca or San Salvador to buy one and it couldn’t be us because we had checked out of the country and were now illegal aliens.  If we left the area and got into any trouble, Miguel (the immigration officer) would lose his job.  Bill and Jean offered to go the next day when the stores were open.

Suddenly, we had another couple of days to kill in El Salvador.  I spent the afternoon working on the extension for the mosquito tent while Scott and Ingemar went down to the beach for beer and pupusas.  I had barbecued steaks the night before, thinking we would be at sea where we couldn’t barbecue.  I made a salad and Ingemar boiled some yucca root to have with the steaks.  I had never had yucca root before.  It really tasted just like a potato, although it was tougher, took longer to cook, and had a stringy bit down the center that needed to be removed.  I wondered whether or not yucca roots were Paleo, but suspected not.

Cayuco Crossing the Estero at Dawn
I got up very early on Monday because the wakes from passing pangas made it impossible to sleep past 5 am.  I was out running by 6:00.  There was a lot of activity on the street at that hour between the bread vendors, housewives and merchants sweeping their driveways, and people waiting for busses to take them into the city.  I saw my first Salvadoran runner.  He was running back and forth between two kilometer marks and we passed a few times.  When I started traveling to Mexico twenty years ago, no one exercised.  Now, the Mexican government is pushing people to live healthier lifestyles in an attempt to reverse the trend towards diabetes.  I saw a lot of people walking and running in the morning and the government offered free Zumba classes in many places.  This trend did not seem to have reached El Salvador yet.

This week is Semana Santa (Holy Week), which translates to spring break in Latin America.  Everyone heads to the beach.  Here in Bahia del Sol, it’s party time for affluent Salvadorans.  A room in this hotel costs $99/night, all inclusive.  The employees working at the hotel earn $120 every two weeks.  The guests are clearly not of this class, although most are Salvadorans.  Concentration of wealth is certainly not just an American problem.

Bill came back with our solenoid about 2:30, but the connector on the end of the piston was incompatible with our starter.  Scott tried to switch it for the piston from the old solenoid, but the cylinder was ever so slightly too small.  We needed to find a machine shop to shave it down for us.  I was spending the afternoon sewing an extension to the bottom of our mosquito net, so Ingemar went with Scott as translator.  It was great to be relieved of that responsibility for once.  There was no machine shop in the immediate area, but one of the engineering staff from the hotel agreed to take it to a machine shop in town and promised to have it back by 11:00 the next morning.

Mar y Sol Restaurant
To save our provisions for our passage, we decided to go out for dinner.  We wanted to go down the coast to a waterfront restaurant called Mar y Sol (Sea and Sun.)  Ingemar invited one of our neighbors from the dock, Venus, to come with us.  She had a little motorboat, so we all went in that.  Venus was from Mexico City and lived alone on a 32’ sailboat.  She seemed to be very competent around boats, had a lot of local knowledge about Central America, was very current on local politics and spoke several languages.  She was very interesting company.  We had a lovely dinner of pupusas, ceviche, breaded fish and grilled beef, washed down with local beer, of course.  The restaurant was located on a pier jutting out into the bay.  They had a dinghy dock where customers could tie up.  Our visit there was an extremely pleasant, relaxing interlude.

Our newly turned piston arrived at 9:00 on Tuesday morning.  It fit nicely into the cylinder and the solenoid worked, but the starter still didn’t kick in.  Scott discovered that the old piston was concave on the bottom, whereas the new one had been flat.  The piston was not making contact when extended.  Ingemar and Scott set off to try to find someone with a welder to fill the depression.  The hotel maintenance shop had a welder and they let Scott use it to alter the piston.  By 10:30, they were back with the now twice altered solenoid and Scott set about reassembling the starter for the second time.  Still, no happy noises issued from the starter.  Scott disassembled it and discovered that the main power lead had come unsoldered from the stud.  We were not too happy about our Mexican rebuild at this point.  The only good thing I could say was that the Mexican solenoid cost only about $15, while the Salvadoran one cost $43.  We got what we paid for.

The Immigration and Port Captain' Office in Bahia del Sol
Path to Connecting Bus in Arco
It was noon on Tuesday of Semana Santa and we knew that if we didn’t get the starter fixed that day, we could be stuck until the following week.  The trouble was that we were theoretically quarantined at the hotel because we had checked out of the country.  We went to talk to the port captain and immigration.  The port captain said we were fine.  The immigration officer said that, per the letter of the law, we needed to check in again, but he gave us permission to go to Zacatecoluca without having to go through that process and pay all the fees again.  We scurried off to find a bus.  Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long.  This time, we had the process down.  We took the #495 to Arco, walked through the field, and caught a #512 to Zacatecoluca.  The #512 was beyond packed.  When we first started, Scott wasn’t completely inside the bus and the heavy starter was on my toes.  I was wedged between two men.  When the conductor tried to pass by, I practically had to sit in one man’s lap.  We stood all the way to Zacatecoluca.

Scott with Mechanics at Prado
We got off the bus at Lubricenter Gato where we had previously purchased oil.  I asked them where we might be able to get a starter fixed.  They directed us to a shop called “Prado” around the corner.  At Prado, we were greeted by a quartet of cheerful mechanics who seemed to find our plight very amusing.  They immediately set about repairing the starter and did a very careful and thorough job while we waited.  We waited in the office and chatted with the owner, from whom we bought a set of 14 metric wrenches for a whopping $15.50 and a spare solenoid for the discounted price of $40.90.  Everyone there was very nice and helpful.  It amazed me how a garage that appeared to be a ruin with no serviceable equipment could repair anything, but we had had the same experience time and again, usually with fine results.  They soldered the lead back onto the stud very sturdily and then tested everything thoroughly and adjusted it until the starter purred quite nicely.  They also showed us how to adjust it in case we had trouble later.  The bill for the repair came to $16.95.

Menu at "Biggest"
By this time, it was after 3:00 pm and Scott was hungry.  We crossed the street to “Biggest”, a burger and pupusa fast food place, and got some lunch.  Then we went to the grocery store to buy a little more fresh produce and some cold water for the return ride.  Starting from the bus terminal, we managed to get seats, but the bus was soon packed and my left toes were trod upon repeatedly.  At least we caught a #193 and didn’t need to change buses.  We got back just in time for me to cook the marinated chicken wings I had left out to thaw.  I must say that Salvadoran meat and produce were far superior to their Mexican counterparts, although Salvadoran ceviche was bland in comparison to the Mexican version, despite being made from very nice seafood.

I went for another run on Wednesday morning and Scott got up early to install the starter.  We had an appointment with the port captain at 8:00 am to get our exit paperwork altered to reflect our new departure date.  We had to wait for quite a while and chatted with Scott from the boat, Roller Coaster, whom we hadn’t seen since La Cruz.  Once our paperwork was in order, we went back to the boat because Scott still had one wire to connect.  It was soon connected, but the engine did not start.  Not only did it not start, it hung up, overheated, melted the solder holding the leads together and also melted the battery switch.  Fool’s Castle has an exceptionally heavy duty battery switch to support lots of current because everything on the boat is big.  The local marine store, Marinsa, did not have one that large in stock.  It would take them two weeks to order one because it was Easter week.  That wasn’t going to work.

I had stopped to talk to Roller Coaster Scott on the way back from Marinsa.  He was an electrician and seemed to have some good ideas.  I suggested that our Scott go consult with him and then I set about taking the rear plate off the battery switch.  By the time the Scotts came back to the boat, I had the rivets out of it and was able to turn it when it was loose.  Roller Coaster Scott got it apart and whittled away some of the melted plastic until the copper plate sat flat enough that the contacts could once again turn without hanging up where the plastic had buckled.  We would want to buy a new one in Panama, but it would serve until then.  

Next, they set about repairing the bad connections in the starter.  Apparently, the connections were good enough to make the starter work when it wasn’t under load, but not good enough to handle the extra draw when it was attached to the engine.  At that point, the resistance from the bad connections caused things to overheat and solder to melt until it fell apart again.  They replaced a section of bad wire and soldered everything back together again.  At the end of the day, we were back to where we had been at eight in the morning.  Obviously, I had to cancel our rendezvous with the pilot to take us over the bar.  Bill joked that we were cursed when I called him on the radio to update him.

Scott dragged his heels on Thursday morning, not wanting to know what would happen when he tried the starter.  When he finally installed it and turned the key, it did the same thing it had the day before.  It looked like we would need to have the starter completely rebuilt.  Scott took it back out and he and Ingemar headed off to Zacatecoluca on the bus to see if our friends at Prado could rebuild it for us.  I spent the day working on the mosquito tent.  I finished adding a panel around the bottom to lengthen it, but had enough fabric left to add an additional vertical panel that would increase the circumference and give us a sturdier border around the entrance that we could clothespin together without tearing the netting.

Scott and Ingemar returned about 6:00, having managed to get the ever helpful guys at Prado to rebuild the starter while they waited.  The cost was $57.  A holiday bus schedule was in effect and there were no direct busses to Bahia del Sol.  They caught a bus to Arco, hoping to change to a different bus to get home, but that line had stopped running, also.  They ended up riding home in the back of a series of pickup trucks with 25 other people.  It was an adventure.

The buses in El Salvador all appear to have started life as school buses in the United States.  The yellow school bus paint is visible wherever the newer paint is scratched or peeling.  The bodies have been repaired so many times that they are a patchwork of welds.  They have battered bench seats designed for children and no shocks.  I remember when buses in Mexico were the same, but Mexican buses have improved.  I suspect that the Salvadoran buses are the same ones that were operating in Mexico twenty years ago.  El Salvador may be where school buses go to die.

The morning of Good Friday, I got up early to run.  The hotel, and indeed the entire peninsula, had filled up with wealthy Salvadorans.  There was no mistaking them for the local people.  They were taller, lighter skinned, better dressed, and drove private cars.  The only private vehicles driven by the local people were battered pickups used by some of the men in their lines of work.  I ran into a group of four urban Salvadoran men out running.  They cheered me when we passed and cheered even louder when we met again an hour later.  I had been running a bit further each day, but my time was remaining the same.  I was gradually adapting to the heat and humidity, which had really slowed me down when I first started running in El Salvador.

I was curious about the reasons behind the civil war in El Salvador and did some reading.  I was struck by how much the conditions in El Salvador that precipitated the war sounded like current conditions in the United States.  The majority of the wealth in the country (mostly from coffee plantations) was concentrated in the hands of the wealthiest 2%.  Much of the rest of the population lived in poverty.  When it looked like the peasants were going to acquire power through a popular election, the elite supported a military coup and took over the government, maintaining power for the next twenty years by terrorizing the common people and killing anyone who opposed them.  After twenty years of violence and something like 75,000 people killed, many of them women and children, a very moderate (some would say co-otped) democratic party took power.  The status quo was maintained, although the military was prohibited from being involved in government.  The disparity between rich and poor has not changed much, if at all.  The whole thing reminded me of the “Occupy” movement if the Koch brothers had decided to buy the military to put it down.  Reading about it sent chills down my back.

Optmistic about our chances of leaving that afternoon, I went to the local grocery store after I showered and ate breakfast.  The shop was a kilometer or so up the road.  Like the marine store, customers could not enter the store.  We approached the window and asked for what we wanted.  This was difficult, since I had no idea what they carried.  I did manage to buy five pounds each of chicken and beef.  The meat was frozen and packaged in one pound lumps.  The beef actually looked like roast, instead of the wafer-thin cuts we saw everywhere in Mexico.  For $29, I got 10 pounds of meat, two pieces of cheese, three avocadoes and two bunches of the biggest radishes I had ever seen.

Unfortunately, our rebuilt starter did not turn over the engine.  Scott worked on it all day, but was unable to determine exactly why it was not working.  The boat engine was not seized.  He was able to turn it over manually.  It seemed like the starter was either too weak to do the job or there was some electrical problem preventing it from getting enough juice to do the trick.  It appeared we would need to order a new starter from the USA and wait for it to be delivered to us.  Ingemar decided to return home for Easter, since it did not look like we would be sailing any time soon.

We were still illegal aliens in El Salvador. It seemed like I ran into Saul, the immigration officer, everywhere I went.  Rather than skulk about and try to avoid him, I adopted the policy of befriending him.  He turned out to be a rather interesting guy.  He was a former professor of electrical engineering who lived in Zacatecoluca when he was not working out on the point.  He stayed out on the coast during the week when he was working.  He liked to fish and would freeze all the fish he caught and then take it back to Zacatecoluca, when he returned home, to share with families who couldn’t afford enough protein to feed their children.  He was very patient with us.  When Ingemar decided to leave, he had to check back into the country so that he could check out at the airport.  Our friend stamped his passport as having arrived from Honduras by boat.

Venus' Little Boat
Once we determined that we were not leaving any time soon, I went up to the office to drop off a load of laundry and pay for another week of dockage.  On my way back, I spied Jean at the bar and stopped to pick her brain about how to ship parts into the country and what mechanics and electricians were available in the local area.  She was optimistic that we could get whatever we needed if we only waited until after the Easter holiday.  Our friend, Venus, offered to take us to see the mechanic in her boat the next day.  A pig roast was being planned for Easter and I looked forward to attending that.

I was moving slowly on Saturday morning and the internet wasn’t working in our boat.  After my shower, I stopped at the bar to drink a cup of coffee and use the wi-fi.  Eventually, Scott came along and we ate breakfast up there.  I had huevos rancheros with some very tasty reddish refried beans (there must have been chorizo in them) and one of the rolls from the bread vendors who swarm up and down the main road every morning.  I was surprised to discover that the bread was moist and yeasty, unlike the generally dry and tasteless rolls we were always served in Mexico. 

By the time we were done with breakfast, it was 8:00 and time to go see Saul, the immigration officer.  Not knowing how long we would be stuck in El Salvador, we decided it was time to legalize our presence.  Poor Saul was in a quandary as to how to handle our situation.  Our passports had been stamped as leaving the country but, since we never actually left, they were not stamped as having entered anywhere else.  This made it difficult to justify our reentry.  He called people at a number of other offices to ask what to do.  It was early on Saturday and no one was answering.  He had fudged Ingemar’s passport to look like he had gone to Honduras and then come back to El Salvador because he knew that Ingemar’s passport would be scrutinized at the airport.  Since we would be leaving by boat, it wasn’t so important.  We already had a 90 day tourist visa and, for some reason, he didn’t want to charge us another $10 for a new one.  Eventually, he figured out how to cancel our exit in the computer system, although our passports still said that we left a week previously.  Dealing with the port captain was easier.  He just took back our zarpe and told us to come and see him again when we were really going to leave or if we needed to renew our temporary import permit for the boat.

Finally freed from officialdom, we were headed back to our boat when who should we spy in the bar but our long lost friends, Ramona and Jan, from Jatimo.  We had not seen them since La Cruz and I had been very disappointed to discover that they were not in Bahia del Sol when we arrived.  Fortunately, it seemed that they had just been travelling in Guatemala.  Their boat was anchored quite a ways up river, so we hadn’t seen it.  We stayed and chatted with them, catching up on all we had done since we last saw each other in December.  Venus had agreed to take us to see the mechanic that day.  She agreed to take Ramona and Jan to their boat on the way.  We made a very jolly party as we set off in Venus’ little boat.  With the sun umbrella up, we must have looked very picturesque.  People kept waving and taking our pictures.  The bay was swarming with pleasure boats and jet skis.  Spring break was in full swing.

Paradise Fishing Lodge & Marina
We dropped Ramona and Jan off at their boat with promises to see them again at the Easter pig roast.  We then continued a few miles up the Rio Lempa to the Paradise Fishing Lodge and Marina where Willy, the mechanic, was located.  The Paradise Lodge really was a little paradise.  They had a nice, shady palapa to hang out in and a cute little pool set in the middle of a pretty lawn and attractive landscaping.  All of the buildings were freshly whitewashed and in good repair.  Everything was very clean.  Willy, who was from Miami, looked like a character out of an action film.  With his buff physique, crew cut, muscle shirt, and sunglasses, he appeared rather fictional.  He seemed certain that they could either fix our problem or get us a starter.  Scott asked to see his junk pile and discovered an old generator that he hoped could be used as parts to repair ours.  Willy agreed to come to our boat that afternoon, but told us that we would need to get clearance from the marina before he could come there.

We got back into Venus’ little boat and motored back to Bahia del Sol against the tide.  Traffic on the estuary was heavy and we kept having to turn to cross power boat wakes.  Venus’ boat was very dry compared to an inflatable dinghy, but we still got spray, which felt delicious but left us covered in salt.  Willy was due to call us at 1:30, so we rushed off to the office as soon as we landed at the marina.  When I arrived at the office, there was a long line.  Check out time was 1:30 and a large portion of the guests were leaving that day to get home in time to celebrate Easter at home with their families.  I waited impatiently.  Just as I reached the head of the line, Scott arrived.  Gustavo, the general manager, who was the person we needed to see, walked in.  We left the line and followed him to his office.  Unfortunately, we discovered that Willy had been banned from working at Marina Bahia del Sol.  His boss, John, was not, but John was in Delaware for the next week or so.  It seemed that we would have to tow our boat to the Paradise Marina if we wanted Willy to work on it.  Clearly, nothing was going to happen before Easter.  I had paid for the slip through Monday night.  We could arrange for the towing on Monday and leave Tuesday.  We were not at all dismayed at the prospect of moving up there.  It was beautiful and several miles closer to the grocery store.  Venus, too, said she wanted to move as soon as her month’s rent was up.

I should have got up to go running on Easter Sunday, but just couldn’t make myself do it.  I wanted to see all the roadside shrines that people had constructed, but I missed them.  Instead, we had a lazy morning and I worked on sewing the last remaining mosquito screen.  At 1:00, a panga arrived to take us all up the river to Lynn and Lou’s house for the pig roast.  Everyone in the marina and most of the people from the anchorage went along.  There were 22 of us packed into the panga.  We were riding pretty low and it took a while to putt up the river.  It was a jolly party, though, and we all joked about sitting on one cheek.  The estuary was much quieter than it had been all week, so we didn’t have to deal with too many wakes.

Lynn and Lou's House
Lynn and Lou’s home was fantastic.  They had a nice covered dock where we tied up the panga and also a boat launch ramp.  A tidy lawn shaded by palm trees stretched from the river to the swimming pool.  They had built a hot tub in a gazebo, but discovered that the pool got very warm in the sun, while the covered spa stayed nice and cool.  It became the cool tub.  Everyone who had been there before and knew to bring a bathing suit immediately got a drink and jumped in the pool.  We had to settle for dangling our feet in the water.
Cold Tub at Lynn & Lou's

Lynn and Lou's Shady Yard

The house was a nice open plan with three bedrooms and three baths.  There was a large covered patio with a bar and several tables where we eventually ate dinner.  Everything had been lovingly constructed and painted with murals by local artists.  They had a family who worked for them, cooking, cleaning and maintaining the property.  Everything was spotless.  This cost them $600 per month.  The couple’s little boy, Eduardo, was a lucky little kid.  Lynn had clearly adopted him as another grandchild.  The women prepared us a nice meal of pork roast, yucca root, salad and rice.  The guests brought the drinks.  We spent the afternoon socializing with friends and lounging in the water until dinner was served.  Then we stuffed ourselves and were treated to exotic desserts like cheesecake and ice cream.  Cheesecake had never tasted so good.  The panga returned to pick us up about 5:30, but no one was in a hurry to leave.

About sunset, we all piled back into the panga and started down the river.  We didn’t get very far before we heard the terrible sound of rending metal and the motor quit.  We had blown a piston and weren’t going anywhere.  We drifted for a bit and then put down the anchor.  Amadeus, our boatman, called someone on his cell phone.  We sat there and passed around a bottle until Rafael showed up with another panga.  Transferring 15 or 16 people from one panga to another at night in the middle of a body of water was an interesting process.  No one seemed to take into consideration that the boats weren’t tremendously stable and needed to have our weight distributed evenly.  Scott and I scrambled around, trying to keep the boat from tipping while people clambered over the gunwhales into the other panga.  Once the majority of us had switched boats, Rafael was able to tow the disabled panga behind us.  We went very slowly, but it was a beautiful, starry night and there were no mosquitoes, so no one minded.  We delivered several couples to their boats and then stopped to let Bill and Jean wade ashore to their home.  At long last, we returned to the marina about 8:30.  It seemed like it should have been midnight.  I went straight to bed.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


Pool at Hotel Bahia del Sol
One of our reasons for going to El Salvador was to participate in the El Salvador Rally and, hopefully, see some of the friends we had made earlier in the trip.  It had been a long time since we did any socializing with other cruisers.  Having our boat torn apart with oily tools strewn everywhere discouraged us from inviting anyone over for dinner or drinks.  No sooner had we recovered from our all-nighter, when Ingemar informed us that we were being picked up at 6:00 to attend a fund-raising dinner over on the island.  There are a number of Americans who have retired in this area and a few of them live on the island.  Conditions on the island are somewhat primitive and the El Salvador Rally was conceived as a means to raise funds to provide the inhabitants with basic needs like clean water.  The dinner we attended was a fund raiser for the English school that one of the American women runs on the island.  The local school only goes through the sixth grade.  Prior to the establishment of the English school, few of the children were ever sent over to the mainland to continue their education.  Now, several of her students are attending middle school on the mainland and one girl has even obtained a scholarship to attend the university.  We had a lovely dinner of grilled chicken, rice and vegetables, accompanied by really cold beer.  There were about 20 of us and it was fun talking to the other cruisers and the expatriates living in El Salvador.  It seemed like a pretty nice place to live.  Our hosts had a house on the water, with a huge covered porch that served as a kitchen, dining and living area.  As hot as our galley got when I cooked in there, I could see why the kitchen was outdoors.  The only downside was mosquitoes, but someone lent me some repellent.

Back at our boat, we were pleased to find that the howling wind had cooled the interior to the point where we could actually sleep under a sheet with the fans off.  It was heavenly.  All night, a cool breeze blasted through the port lights.  For the first time in months, I didn’t recoil every time Scott got anywhere near me.

The Road to Costa del Sol
Thursday morning dawned clear and still windy.  I awoke about 5:30, but stayed in bed, luxuriating in the cool, until about 6:30 when I got up to run.  The temperature was fine for running.  It was no hotter than a summer morning in Benicia.  I ran up the road that runs down the center of the peninsula between the ocean and the estuary.  On either side of the road, deep lots ran from the road to the water.  While there were a few mid-sized hotels on the ocean side, development was minimal.  Hotel Bahia del Sol, which owned the pier where we were docked, has properties on both sides of the road, stretching from the Pacific to the bay.  The hotel consists of small bungalows painted in bright colors along a road of paving stones.  It seemed more like a neighborhood than a hotel.  When I reached the road, it was busy with bicycle traffic and busses heading to Zacatecoluca and San Salvador.  Many young men were riding along the road on bicycles with huge round baskets on the front, ringing their bells, and hawking freshly baked bread.  I ran up the road for about two miles before turning around and running back.  El Salvador is much lusher than Mexico.  Most of the lots were forested with coconut palms, mangoes and other tropical trees I didn’t recognize.  After Mexico in winter, it seemed very green.

Bus to Zacatecoluca
We needed to buy perishables and oil for the engine, none of which was available in the nearby area.  Scott, Ingemar and I set off to take the bus to Zacatecoluca to go shopping.  None of the cruisers had made this trip by bus (The rally had organized earlier trips by van.), so we had to figure it out on our own.  We knew that route number 193 went to Zacatecoluca, but discovered that it didn’t run during the middle part of the day.  We had to take the 133 for San Salvador for an hour or so until it reached the crossroads and then switch to a 495, which ran from San Salvador to Zacatecoluca.  Each bus cost us 75 cents.  The bus looked like an old fashioned school bus painted in bright colors.  There was a driver, a conductor who collected the fares, and a man by the rear door, yelling out the destination, helping old ladies with their bundles, and hurrying the passengers aboard by hollering, “Prisa, prisa!”  All the doors and windows were open at all times, which made for good air flow.  It wasn’t excessively hot, which was a good thing because, by the time we reached the main road, the bus was packed with standees.

Many people were changing busses at the crossroads.  The directions the conductor gave us were a bit perplexing, but a young woman who was going the same way offered to show us.  We followed a group of old women in white head scarves along a dusty path through an open field to the highway where the bus stopped.  Improvised shelters of saplings, corrugated tin, and palm fronds sheltered vendors selling water and oranges.  Ingemar bought a bag of three oranges, neatly halved and peeled, for a quarter.  We sucked on oranges and waited in the hot sun for the bus to come.  Orange peels and other trash were merely tossed in a heap in the field alongside the road.  For the first time, we knew we were in the third world. 

San Miguel Volcano
Our bus came along, eventually, and we headed off east, towards Zacatecoluca.  The road passed through cane fields and we could see volcanoes in the distance.  A half an hour later, we entered the outskirts of Zacatecoluca.  The concierge at the hotel had told us to go to the main bus stop and we would find all we needed nearby.  He did not, however, tell us that the main stop was a bus terminal.  Everyone we asked seemed to have a different opinion as to where we should get off.  We finally stepped down near the public market.  After walking through the smelly market, we were pretty sure we didn’t want to buy our food there.  We found a supermarket in the center of town, but wanted to buy oil before we shopped for food.  Everyone directed us back to the highway to buy oil and it seemed the bus terminal was down there, too.  By this time, it was almost 3:00 and we were hungry, which didn’t help our organizational skills any.  We decided to eat first, but still headed in the direction of the highway, away from the majority of the restaurants.

None of the eateries we passed looked as if they had adequate refrigeration or hygiene, so we kept walking until we came to the highway.  Scott spied a hardware store, so we stopped to buy snap shackles.  I had no idea how to describe those in Spanish, so I told the clerk I needed something to attach a dog chain to a collar and he understood right away. .  Ingemar went off to scout for food while we shopped.  He located a clean looking restaurant and a nearby supermarket (probably the one the concierge expected us to find.)  There was an oil change place on the way, so we headed over there to buy oil.  The garage didn’t accept credit cards, so I shelled out $95 from my grocery money for a five gallon bucket of oil suitable for diesel engines.  The garage was close to the bus terminal, so they were kind enough to allow us to leave the heavy bucket there while we finished our errands.

We at La Campana, a fast food Mexican restaurant whose logo looked suspiciously like Taco Bell, although the menu was quite different.  I was disappointed to see that there were no pupusas on the menu.  Instead, Ingemar and I had Cuban tortas (ham, cheese, guacamole and pico de gallo on thin, crispy bread) and Scott got a grilled steak.  We were very pleased when the waitress asked him how he wanted it cooked.  In Mexico, all meat was thin and well done.  This steak was actually juicy.  After lunch, we crossed the parking lot to the supermarket.  In Mexico, produce was very reasonable and all prices were in kilos.  In El Salvador, prices were in dollars and per pound.  Produce was more expensive, but meat was a bit cheaper.  It was nice to have a different selection of cuts of meat.  I bought chicken wings in a different marinade than those we had been eating and also some seasoned pork chops and small chunks of both beef and pork, seasoned for tacos.  Scott found an English speaking butcher and talked him out of a small bag of ice to put in our cooler to keep the meat cool on the way home.  We spent almost exactly $100.  I was relieved to see that I still had enough money after buying the oil.  After Ingemar chipped in for his share, I still had enough to pay my bus fare home.

Scott Carrying His Bucket of Oil 
Bus Terminal in Zacatecoluca
We carried our groceries across the street and retrieved our bucket of oil.  Then we set off to walk the couple of blocks to the bus terminal.  Scott has carrying the 5 gallon bucket of oil and the heaviest bag of groceries.  He walked as fast as he could, so as to get it over with, while Ingemar and I trailed behind.  I stopped and bought some tamales from an old woman by the curb and then caught up with them at the bus terminal.  We had missed the 3:30 bus, so needed to wait for the next one at 4:00.  It was very hot in the bus terminal.  We bought some cold drinks and sat in the shade to wait.  When the bus pulled in just before 4:00, we jumped on to secure the rear seats so that we could put the bucket of oil and our groceries behind the seat.  We then waited in the stifling hot bus until almost 4:30 before it finally left.  We were sitting right on top of the sub-woofer, which was turned up loud enough that the driver could hear it in the front of the bus over eighty chattering people and a rattling, noisy bus.  We drove that way for an hour and a half.  Our only salvation was that we were sitting next to the open rear door, where we got some air.  At one point, I got up to let an old woman have my seat.  For some reason, Scott got up, too.  The woman thanked me and then installed her three granddaughters in the seat.  Scott and I had nowhere to go, so stood behind the seats with the luggage for twenty minutes until they got off again.  Gradually, the bus went from crammed full to comfortably occupied.  Our hotel was only a kilometer or so from the end of the road.  We got back just in time to have a beer before dinner.

Hotel Bahia del Sol Beachfront
Restaurant Rooster
Ingemar and Lee at Divine Providence Restaurant
Friday, I went for a walk with Ingemar and his Canadian friend, Lee, whom he had met while waiting for us at the hotel.  We crossed the road and walked through the hotel property to the beach.  Then we walked along the beach to the end of the peninsula.  From there, we could see the bar where we had come in a couple of days before.  It was a lot calmer than it had been previously.  We stopped for a beer at a beach palapa restaurant where chickens were scratching under the tables and dogs sprawled on the sand.  Each restaurant had a well dug down into the sand to provide water for washing.  Beers were $1.  From there, we continued along the beach to the end of the bus route where there was a village with a number of eateries.  We decided to get some pupusas for lunch.  As we walked down the street, looking for a place to eat, we were mobbed by touts, each trying to get us to choose his restaurant.  Finally, we chose the “Divine Providence” restaurant, which had the nicest location on a raised platform fronting the water.  It had working refrigerators, no chickens, and festive decorations.  We had a lunch of pupusas with cabbage salad and beer.  The bill for the three of us came to a total of $6.50.  The food was very tasty. 

Macaws Nesting in the Hotel Tree

I got up early to run on Saturday.  The boys on bicycles were out selling bread, again, but I saw that they had all arrived from somewhere else in the back of a pickup truck.  They were loading back into the truck when I was returning from my run.  When I got back, I got Scott up in time to visit the port captain at 8:00 to check out so that we could leave on Sunday morning.  After my shower, we walked up the road a short distance to a small marine store called Marinsa that was a branch of a larger store in San Salvador.  It was very convenient.  We had gone to buy more oil for our diesel engine, but also bought an oil pump, some fiberglass resin and an oscillating fan for the galley.  Scott spent the afternoon changing the oil and getting us ready for our trip to Panama.  I spent it entering the waypoints for our next leg into my GPS.  It would be almost 1,000 miles from El Salvador to the Panama Canal and we were planning to go straight through so as to avoid having to spend a couple of days checking into and out of Costa Rica.  I was sorry to miss the parrots, howler monkeys and coral sand beaches in Costa Rica, but promised myself that we would take the time to explore Central America on our return trip when we wouldn’t have a schedule to keep.
Ingemar with the Dancing Girls

Bill and Jean, Rally Organizers
The closing party for the El Salvador Rally started at 4:00.  The beer truck was late, so we had to make do with hard alcohol for the first hour.  The chef at the hotel specialized in Italian food, so we had a lovely meal of grilled vegetables, gnocchi, two types of seafood pasta, and some tasty fish.  We were awarded a bottle of Chilean merlot for having gone through the most hell getting to El Salvador.  We also won a tote bag and hat from Quantum sails.  Earlier in the day, Bill had arrived with a swag bag full of t-shirts, flags and hats, so we were well loaded with remembrances of El Salvador.  After dinner, there was a brief floor show of Latin dancers.  After the show, they tried to get up all to dance.  I got some blackmail pictures of Ingemar dancing with the girls in skimpy costumes.  It was fun talking to the other cruisers and hearing their future plans.  Only Maluhia, a catamaran, was continuing further south.  They were headed to Ecuador for the summer and then on to the South Pacific.  We were the only boat headed to the Panama Canal.  It seemed a bit lonely that of the 160 or so boats that left San Diego together last year, we were the only ones headed through the canal.