So where were we......
Just completed the border formalities, and realising in the process I had lost my drivers licence, it was late in the day and we still had a 4 hour drive to the capital San Salvador. Driving as fast as we dared we entered San Salvador just after dark and unfortunately true to Murgs style, none of the directions made sense.
After getting lost in the North of the city, we eventually found a phone box and called for more detailed directions. This was the first time driving in the dark for over 6 months, add to this lost in San Salvador (voted in the top 5 most dangerous cities in the world) and we were very nervous! Anyway, another hour lost and we finally arrived at our destination. About 6 months later than our predicted ETA at the start of the journey.
Well it was great catching up on old times and what we had been up to in between the last time we had all seen each other. Murgs is a school teacher at a local English school here on a three year contract, and was fortunately currently on holiday. We weren't sure how long we were going to hang around but it was nice to be in 4 walls, have a warm shower and watch loads of TV.
On the first day we took a drive in Lodzi up the volcano overlooking San Sal for a cup of coffee and the view of the city at night. On the way down the brakes started smoking something embarrassing and after stopping to let them cool down we continued our journey. Now we had tried to buy new front brake pads in Costa Rica and they were so expensive we ended up just getting our old ones re-padded. However the mechanic did state that the quality of the re-pads left a lot to be desired. James was also aware that we needed new seals on the brake pistons.
We decided to bite the bullet and find a Landrover garage in El Sal and get new front brake pads fitted. After the mechanics had removed the front wheels the front brake pads literally just fell out of place (as you can see from the photos). They were a disaster and we were extremely lucky they had not failed on us! However as well as getting the seals replaced the mechanics advised us that 7 of the 8 brake pistons were rubbish as well. Okay how much for new ones. $45 each! As we both sat there revelling in our misery the chief mechanic came over and said they had some second hand ones that were in much better condition than ours, would we like them. Hell Yes! The best part was they gave these to us for free. Big thanks to the guys at Motores Britanicas in El Sal. So getting another mechanical dent put in our budget we departed at least happy that our front brakes were now all in order.
We made a couple of day visits out to sites around San Salvador including Devils Door view point where we attempted a little rock climbing, the colonial town of Suchitoto set on a pretty lake and down to La Libertad- the entrance to the El Sal coast.
We decided to go to Playa Tunco just near La Libertad for New Year as we found a very rustic and cheap camp spot (with our favourite French family staying). We arrived around mid day and watched an amazing sunset on 2005 and welcomed in the New Year on the beach. One of the highlights is all the locals here love these firework bangers, setting off millions of them all over the beach. You have Dad encouraging his 6 year old son to light these crackers and throw them as high as possible into the air. It was so surreal. The highlight of the evening was eight youths ranging in age from about 6 years old through to about 14 having a firework battle…..against each other on the beach.
They were about 20 meters apart and firing these random crackers at each other which fly through the air at great speed. There were a few on target which was very amusing. Every now and then one of the teams had a firework which shot out a bright red firework out of the same tube (very accurately) at about 5 second intervals. The holder would take off down the beach in the direction of the opposition (who would flee full pelt) holding the firework in their hand aimed at the fleeing opposition. These connected every now and again to every-ones amusement. What a sheltered world we live in in Europe and Australia. Anyway after spending a couple of hours surfing on the point break we returned to San Sal so we were in the city for James birthday, for which we went out for a gorgeous Argie steak dinner.
A few days later we headed off from San Sal with Murgs to visit Cerro Verde, a mountain right next to the very active volcano Santa Ana. We spent our first night in a rustic hostel (Kerry and I camped) on the edge of a beautiful crater lake Laguna Coatepeque. Here the water was clear and blue and awesome to swim in. The evening was spent playing scrabble, cards and reading and lazing in the hammocks.
The following morning we tried to enter Cerro Verde but were turned back by police as the whole area is closed off after a massive eruption about 2 months prior, they weren't sure it was safe for foreigners yet! We continued on for the rest of the day driving through coffee covered mountains to a river called Rio Aguas Calientes (in English Hot water river) Where we visited was just in a rural area, a bit off the beaten track but Murgs had been here before. When we arrived we were led by a local down to the river which is a cool 40 degrees Celsius, yep the river, there was also a 20m waterfall where this warm water cascaded down in a very picturesque setting. There were a couple of local lads out jumping from about 7m into the base of the waterfall so James and Murgs joined them.
That evening we pulled into a very welcoming family run hostel in the sleepy town of Tacuba, on the edge of the Bosque El Impossible national park. After spending a lazy night here we booked onto a walking tour the next day with Manola for a 5 hour trek through the mountains to a 40m high waterfall. After a hearty breakfast, we departed on the hours drive to our drop off point and started the trek.
After a gruelling 3 hour trek along, around, over and down coffee covered mountain sides we arrived just before lunch at the water fall. A 40 m high cascade dropping into a deep pool set in a small ravine. The excellent bonus was the different rock levels where you could jump down into the pool ranging from 12m down to about 6m. All three of us did various dives, jumps and in Kerry's case fall into the pool. After a packed lunch we then started the trek out the valley for about another hour and half…..straight up! Needless to say we slept well that night.
The next day we cruised along the coast all the way back to San Sal and were planning on leaving for Guatemala first thing Monday morning. However after some thought and correspondence with James' mum whom had managed to get a replacement Drivers Licence in a very short time we asked her to courier a couple of items over to us and would wait in El Salvador for them. Once arranged we thought we would give Murgs some breathing space and went down to the campsite we had found on the beach and just….. Yep you guessed chill out and keep on surfing.
Making ourselves quite at home in the campsite was very easy and we thought it would be a long 4 day wait for the package to arrive. The days zoomed past with only our surfing improving before we got the confirmation from Murgs in San Sal that the package had arrived bang on time as predicted. We are currently back in San Sal for our last night with Murgs before hitting the high road into Guatemala first thing tomorrow morning.
Of note is we are approaching our 1st anniversary of being on the road with Lodzi, at this precise moment 3 days short of 365 days. Wow a year of memories that fortunately has not just slipped by. We have had the time to take in everything we are doing and time to evaluate exactly how lucky we are. We are so often told we are doing what every-one just dreams of and extremely lucky to be doing this together.
As a final note for our first year travelling, a big thanks to every-one who has helped make our dream come true. A big thank you to Mr and Mrs C for all the running around you do back in Blighty, we truly appreciate it. Thanks to all the people we have met and have helped us during our trip, and to Captain and Mrs. B. for convincing us to embark on this journey Landy style and the advice that when you choose your car, make sure it is full of character and you like its personality. Therefore when anything and everything is going wrong with the car, you can still look on it with fondness. This is very true!! Lodzi, the big chunk of metal we fondly refer to as "Nuestra Casa".
Take care all and please continue to write, as always it is great to get external news