Can’t say that crossing into El Salvador was difficult but it was worryingly disorganized, with the exception of the official that met us when we first entered and guided us through the initial part of the process. After that things went down hill, the lady taking care of our vehicle entry was more than a little distracted, as she flirted with her co-worker. After she stamped our paperwork we were sent to immigration, where all but one of the 5 counters closed for lunch, it was 11:15am, the crowd grew restless and started heckling the one guy left behind. The wait gave us chance to read over our vehicle import, discovering that all the flirting had led to multiple mistakes on our import form. We had no choice but to go back and try to explain in our terrible Spanish what she had missed, not before we waited 30 minutes to be told that we did not need a stamp and needn’t have lined up (we did need to be processed but that is a story for later). When we got back to the import office it was- surprise, surprise -closed for lunch. We wandered back to the truck and Heather decided to speak to the first guy again, he was not impressed with his coworkers. We were marched back to the office, past the guard, and interrupted the office lunch while our guy insisted they fix our documents, 5 minutes later feeling slightly guilty for ruining people’s lunches and making a bit of a scene we were on the road.
Our plans for El Salvador mainly consisted of relaxing on a beach for Christmas. But before all that stress we decided that we should stop at a hot spring for a pre-relax. We had the pools to ourselves and soaked away our border woes.
Our Christmas accommodation was a treat to ourselves, we splurged on a private bungalow with AC and a private bathroom. What’s more the Mopelia resort specializes in craft beer from around the world. What better place to spend the holidays? Giles, the Belgian owner was a fantastic host, and had a soft spot for Overlanders. His parents traveled the Pan-Am with him and his sister in the late 70’s, so he certainly has an appreciation of our method of travel, his parents were over for the holidays and shared their stories from the road.
We eventually dragged our ourselves away from the beach and to Cerro Verde National Park. We hiked the countries highest volcano, it was a bizarrely crowded experience, we were joined on the hike be close to 200 Salvadorans, the trails were full of laughing, panting and good natured ribbing. The hike itself was not the most interesting but the reward on top was fantastic as we were treated to sweeping views across El Salvador and were able to peer in to the brilliant turquoise crater lake.
Our last night was spent in Miramundo, at a hostel that let us camp for free as long as we ate in their restaurant. We ate a fantastic meal while watching the sunset over El Salvador.
Our last day was less good, a failed attempt to climb El Pital, the fees for parking were not worth the 15 minute hike on a cloudy morning. I followed this up by cooking our brakes on the steepest longest road I have ever driven. I pulled over to see steam rising from the wheels, we crawled the rest of the way in 4 Lo, and I learned a humbling lesson in engine breaking techniques.