US to Central America flights are often midday, costing precious daylight touring hours. The Rapid Traveler landed in Sal Salvador on a Saturday 13:00 for a three-day weekend. He dashed through immigration, paying the US$10 for an El Salvador tourist card and out to negotiate a car. Typically he would utilize public transport, but that is in short supply at El Salvador International Airport (SAL) a.k.a. Comalapa International Airport, further a.k.a. Cuscatlán International Airport, over 50 km from the city center.
- From the airport, head north on the San Salvador road to scenic overlook Puerta del Diablo, execution sight during the civil war.
- Bypass San Salvador, looping to the northwest for El Salvador’s sole UNESCO World Heritage Site, Joya de Ceren.
- Push on northeast to Suchitoto to overnight (later changed).
Several taxis quoted US$100 for the route, eventually negotiating down to $90. On the road by 13:30, arrived Puerta del Diablo at 14:05. A quick hike to the highest peak and back down the mountain at 14:30.
Weekend traffic around San Salvador was light. The suburbs have as many huge shopping malls as US suburbs and many of the same brands. They one-up oversize Americans with a chain restuarant called Biggest.
Joya de Ceren, the ‘Pompeii of America,’ is a village buried by volcanic eruption in 595 AD. Well presented museum and site. Spent half an hour, out at 15:45.
North on the Honduras road, branching off east to Suchitoto and its purported weekend arts festival. The festival was not in evidence but the town is pleasant and the lake sparkling. Already 17:15 after the long drive, The Rapid Traveler parted with his driver and got greedy with time. Knowing full well that buses vanish at sunset in much of Central America, he tested his luck by taking a bus to Aguilares on the San Salvador-Honduras highway, hoping to transfer to a northbound bus for La Palma.
As the bus trundled to Aguilares the passengers were winnowed to one beside The Rapid Traveler, plus the ticket vendor and the driver. They began trying to communicate with The Rapid Traveler, answering his lack of comprehension with faster and faster Spanish. But the core message was clear: too late for a connecting bus. Taxi? No. Hotel? No. A dilemma.
They huddled and it was decided the ticket vendor would take The Rapid Traveler to his home. What generosity! The backup, it turned out, was a gas station.
The ticket vendor and driver brought The Rapid Traveler to a small pupusa shop for dinner and then to the ticket vendor’s home. Four walls, no windows, shared outhouse across a courtyard, a bed, a hammock and about as many possessions as The Rapid Traveler had in his backpack, yet this wonderful young man generously opened his home to a complete stranger who could barely fumble through a Spanish phrasebook.
The Rapid Traveler struggled with what would be an appropriate show of appreciation. Cash seemed crass. But the ticket vendor started asking questions about The Rapid Traveler’s simple MP3 player, internal USB and AAA battery, ideal for travel. The Rapid Traveler changed the menus to Spanish and it became a humble offering to a generous soul.
The rooster jamboree began at 03:25 so it was a relief at 05:30 when “vamonos” was exclaimed in the dark and it was off to work for the ticket vendor and Honduras for The Rapid Traveler.