We made it to El Salvador.
For months, almost since we'd come to Guatemala, my husband always said, "I want to check out El Salvador. I want to go to El Salvador." El Salvador was always on his mind.
We'd tried once to visit, and they wouldn't let us in.
Now we were finally here, with the intention to find a house to rent for one month, two months, or more... who knows, maybe we'll have a baby here.
So when we woke up the next morning (after staying at the 'roach motel' in the border town), we were anxious to get started on the day, and to find our new home.
Heading southwest toward the coast, the scenery was beautiful and the roads were great -- smooth and straight. Greg was so excited that there were no speed bumps, even passing through the small towns! After Guatemala's never-ending tumulos (their word for speed bumps), it was a nice break.
Driving along with our playlist on the speakers, the sun was shining and we were feeling good, the kids singing along to the music. All of a sudden I caught a glimpse of it. Reaching a rise I could see over the trees a glimmer of sunshine on a gigantic body of water.
"The ocean!" I exclaimed. "I can see it." Goosebumps went up my arms and big smile crossed my face. Everyone started yelling and getting excited. Ever since our last trip to the beach in Guatemala we'd been aching to go back (in fact Atlas would wake up in the mornings and say, "I want a beach house.")
Finally there it was, stretching out before us. The energy and exhilaration were palpable.
And then Greg screamed out and the truck swerved just a bit.
"I just got stung by a bee on my arm! Quick, give me some oils, it hurts!"
"While we're driving, with the wind blowing?" Laughing and shaking my head at the oddity, I pass him some peppermint essential oil for the pain.
The road wound along the top of cliffs, and passes through several tunnels. Every so often, beautiful ocean vistas came into view. It is a gorgeous and pleasant drive.
Before we knew it, we came to the first town that we had considered looking at to live -- El Zonte. All of a sudden, there it was around the bend... and then it was gone, that quickly.
"Wow, that's small," I thought. "Where would we buy groceries? Do they even have internet? Plus the beach was way down at the bottom of those cliffs."
"Should I go back and we can check it out?" Greg asked.
The mama in me replied, "We better find out where we can buy groceries first." (Our family eats a lot, living closer to food is a good thing, I say.)
So we kept going. We passed through Palmercito, Sunzal, and El Tunco. Either the beaches were too rocky, or the towns were too small. Lunch time was approaching, and the kids were aching to swim, so we started looking for a place where we could relax and use the internet. A nice hotel maybe, or restaurant. (I needed to check in with a client who's website I was designing.)
Nothing. Nobody. A nice fancy hotel with a pool on the beach. Do you have internet? Nope. Not us.
Hotel after hotel and not a one offered wireless to their guests. How could this be?
As we were driving through El Tunco (for the second time), I saw a sign for El Pupa Hotel and remembered that they'd been recommended by our friends from Retire Early Lifestyle. They had internet! Stop the truck! We asked how much to use the pool and internet for an hour. Five dollars? Okay, we'll do it. (But after we unloaded and got into the pool, they charged us $10... because we had so many kids 🙁 )
I got some work done while the kids swam, and Greg grabbed some pupusas for lunch. Yum! (Only three for a $1). My gregarious husband also made friends with a surfer and asked him about this town, and about Nicaragua, where he had been living previously. He told us about this great place he loved called Las Penitas. We'll have to check it out, when we finally go to Nicaragua.
But for now, was El Tunco someplace we could live? We walked down to the beach to see what it was like.
It was rocky and rough, definitely not a place for kids. I guess we'll keep moving on.
We drove to San Blas and saw some beautiful homes, so we decided to see what rental prices might be. Our challenge was that we couldn't call on any rental signs, because we didn't have an El Salvador phone. And we didn't want to buy one until we knew IF we were staying for sure. So we had stop at stores and 'rent' a phone, or borrow phones from caretakers (if they were living at the property.) Kind of a slow and annoying process.
The first nice place we were able to call on wanted $1000 a month. Woah. That seems a little high. Maybe it's a fluke. So we called on another, and another. They were decent places, not really nice, but livable. A little old, a little 'rusty'. But they could work.
Two-thousand a month. Three-thousand a month... are you kidding me????
For this rusted out, old place, you want $3000 a month?? We paid $3000 a month to live in a $2.5million dollar, 6500 sq ft. mansion in the Central Valley of Costa Rica... and that was five years ago. Are you crazy people??
We couldn't believe it. Discouraged and disheartened, we found a camp spot right on the beach, then drove into La Libertad to buy some groceries. But shopping didn't help our mood. All the prices were 10-15% higher than what we were paying in Guatemala. I thought El Salvador was supposed to be cheap?
Back at our camp site, we analyzed what to do. Maybe we'll have more luck tomorrow? Maybe we'll check out the market in Libertad and find better prices on food? For now, we'll enjoy the waves and the sand and our roasted chicken bean burritos.
In the morning, there was a gorgeous sunrise on a a gorgeous beach.
I like this area, if only we can find some place affordable to stay.
Getting creative, my husband checks out next door to where we are camped, which is an unfinished house, kind of open-air/outdoor living style. It's on the beach. There's a bachelor living there. We get a little tour. There's some tables, a kitchen area (no water, stove, fridge, etc.). There's no beds. We'd have to sleep in our tents. There's a toilet that you flush with a bucket of water, no shower. But there is a pool. Maybe we could stay here... we did camp for seven weeks in Mexico at Laguna Bacalar, at a campground/hostel with access to kitchen and bathroom. It was nice.
This place was less nice, they couldn't charge much. So we asked. If we stayed for a month, how much would it cost?
Twenty dollars a night! Twenty dollars a night???!! That's $600 a month! That's a really nice place in Panajachel, Guatemala. There's not even a bathroom that works, and there's no running water in the house! Across the street was no better. Greg looked at a place and he thought it was bad (which means it must have been really bad)... peeling paint, scary looking, dirty. It wasn't even on the beach, but it did have a pool... $50 a night.
Give me a break. I don't mind 'roughing it', but I'm not going to pay premium prices to do it. I think it's time to move on.
So we did. We packed up and headed south.
We stopped in La Libertad again on the way, and visited the market. The people were super friendly. Almost everyone passing by wanted to talk to me about the kids, the baby in my belly, where we were traveling from, and on and on. It was a little uncomfortable for me, since I'm not a very talkative person... but they were so nice.
But the market? We've visited a lot of markets, and this was the dirtiest, SMELLIEST market we'd ever encountered (except for maybe the markets in India.) And the prices weren't that much better than the store.
Yes, I still have more to tell... I'm sorry to bore you with all the never-ending details.
Before leaving town we visited the boardwalk (malecon), and that was really nice. But a nice boardwalk didn't help solve our problems of where to live.
So, you guessed it, we moved on. Now the main road diverged from the coast. The next likely beach town was much further south. We drove through the cities of El Carmen and Zacatecoluca. The day was waning, and my husband was feeling ill.
"I can't go any further," he told me. "I have to stop for the day."
We pulled into the first place we found, a gas station, and parked with the truckers. "I don't really want to stay here," I thought. But where else would we go when he's too sick to drive?
The sun was setting and we got attacked by mosquitoes. My husband crawled into the roof top tent, sick to his stomach (a little later he emptied all it's contents.) The kids were hungry, so I gave them snacks instead of dinner.
Then I cried. Maybe we shouldn't have left the comforts of home. Maybe I can't do this 'travel thing' anymore. I just wanted to find a nice place to rent. When were we going to find it?
I couldn't sleep that night (I blame the big pregnant belly) and instead sat in a camp chair in a gas station parking lot, looking out across the neighboring field as the moon set, pondering life.
Here we are in the middle of... who knows where, not knowing where home will be next? Did we make the right choice to take off and leave the Homestead? Are we doing the right thing? Where will we end up? Where will we have this baby? All the uncertainties, inconveniences and precariousness of travel... can I still handle it? Why is the very nature of travel so 'uncontrollable'?
You do the research, you try to prepare, you have expectations of what you'll find, of what it will be like, but then it throws you for a loop, makes you uncomfortable and annoyed and pushes all your sensitive buttons. Why?? Maybe I need to go back to being a tourist instead of a traveler.
Have you had similar experiences while traveling? Tell us about them.
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