El Salvador & Honduras Weekend, part 1: the bus ticket vendor shares his spare hammock

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.

The plan:

  1. From the airport, head north on the San Salvador road to scenic overlook Puerta del Diablo, execution sight during the civil war.
  2. Bypass San Salvador, looping to the northwest for El Salvador’s sole UNESCO World Heritage Site, Joya de Ceren.
  3. 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.

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Puerto del Diablo

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.

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Biggest trumps Burger King

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.

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The road north

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On to Suchitoto

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Better take the shoulder

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The purported weekend arts festival

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Suchitoto's cathedral

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A lovely Suchitoto home

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Great lake below Suchitoto

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.

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New friends, savory pupusas

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.

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A roof over my head

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.

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  • jcb

    nice review, it makes a great change from a lot of the 1st class ‘maxo luxe’ reveiws from the other blogs. it’s more interesting than comparing a hyatt to a hilton in freso for sure.

  • Mike

    I must know how u have so much time to travel. Lol. Must change my career to whatever u do. 😉

  • guera

    It takes a lot of guts to travel in the hinterlands with no guarantee of a place to stay at the end of the road. Btw, you were lucky. For me the rooster cacophany usually begins about 3:00 am.

  • @ Mike – I work full time which is why I have to take these fast trips. My company was closed for MLK, Jr Day so I did this trip Sat-Mon and did not miss any work or use vacation time. Sure, I compromise on what I can see in such a short time, and go as fast as I can, but this is the balance I have struck to see the world. Other times I have business trips and pay out of pocket to extend in the weekend and use those are a jumping off point. Some day I need to work in Europe and then I would be rolling in days off!

  • @ jcb – thanks for the words of encouragement, I travel to learn and luxury travel generally erects barriers to learning. Now if only Chase El Salvador would offer an El Sapphiro card to US cardholders I could really get a flood of readers! 😉

  • @Rapid Travel Chai, I believe the word you’re looking for is El Zafiro 🙂 I might not remember all my Spanish, but I learned a few gemstones while on my honeymoon in Mexico…

    Talk about an adventure! I’m too much of a planner to leave my overnight stay up to chance, but it sounds like it worked out for you. And think – you wouldn’t have earned any miles by paying cash for your hammock but now you can use that credit card to buy a new mp3 player! Haha. Can’t wait to hear the rest of your story.

  • Pamela T

    This is why we travel! What a great experience.

  • Awesome report as always! You’re a lot more adventurous than I’ll ever be haha… takes some major cojones to travel like that on a whim! Glad everything worked out well.