Tuesday, August 3, 2010

International Travelers

It's been a good few weeks here in San Salvador.  Since we've had visitors in town, we've been traveling around with them some and been enjoying the area.  For their 2nd weekend here, we all went to Barra de Santiago.  It's about 2 hours from San Salvador in the western part of the country, on the coast.  It was beautiful.  We stayed in a hotel for about $50 a night and a couple from the embassy that joined us stayed at the semi-inclusive resort next door, so, we got to see how luxurious the hotels can get.  Our hotel was great - simple rooms and hammocks on the beach.  You can't ask for much more - unless you're asking for hot water, pool, bar, gorgeous rooms, and kayaks - in which case, the other hotel was made for you.

We started our trip by going to a beach restaurant that wasn't much to look at, but, had some great food.  They went out and "caught" our food after we ordered it - I say "caught" because they could have just taken a boat somewhere else to buy it, but, regardless, they showed off the (dead) lobsters and shrimp before cooking them.  I've eaten a lot of seafood since being here, all of it relatively cheap and all of it delivious.  After lunch, we went back and talked to a guide about surfing, seeing sea turtles laying eggs, and going into the mangroves.  Sophie and I surfed for a bit.  We're not very good, but, hey, we were able to get up on the board.  The guide didn't speak any English, so, it was fun learning the 4 words you need to surf - subirse, agarrar, levantarse, and nadar.  I knew all of these, so, I got to show off.  After surfing, we read for a while, ate, and then went on a 2 hour (!) walk on the beach with the guide in search of sea turtles.  We didn't see any.  There were a lot of other locals out searching for sea turtles because a hatchery in the area (I believe with funding from USAID) pays $2 for 12 eggs.  Our guide was onto something, though, because he discovered that he could take some gringos on a walk and charge much more than that, even if no eggs were found.

You talkin' to me?
The next day, we went to the mangroves and walked around in the mud.  Crabs were everywhere and our guide was not afraid to dig them out of their holes and then try to make the crabs battle each other.  Different crabs had different ways to defend themselves.  One tried to dig himself into a hole and got everything in except for his huge claw.  Others would raise their claw up and make it look like if you stepped any closer, he would attack you.  Still others just ran.  It was all good fun on a beautiful morning.  After the trip, we lazed around the hotel before heading back to San Salvador.

Every three weeks at work, I have to lead my team in planning for the next three weeks.  When everyone was in the same office, this was a full day affair, complete with free lunches.  After half the team moved to India, we woke up really early (4am) in DC to maximize our time.  Then we started to get later in DC, like, 6am.  Now that I'm in El Salvador, that's 4am for me, so, it was pretty grueling.  This past week, we tried splitting the planning into 2 days starting at 8am in DC.  This helped my sanity as well as the sanity of my other coworkers.  It's nice to be able to tweak it so that it works out best for everyone.

Anyway, back to traveling.  Sophie's sister got into San Salvador on Thursday and we had been planning to go to Copán in Honduras from Friday-Sunday.  However, to get to Copán, we needed to drive.  Unfortunately, our license plates only allowed us to drive inside El Salvador, so, Sophie spent a lot of the week trying to figure out how to get there.  Rental cars that cross the border are extremely expensive.  The embassy vans (which are pretty cheap to rent with a driver) can't leave the country.  So, we resigned ourselves to paying a lot of money to have someone drive us in his 10 passenger van.  Bummer.  Since it was a per-day fee, we decided to just go for the weekend and spent Friday hiking the Santa Ana volcano again.  It was a gorgeous day with patchy clouds in the sky.  Last time we went up, we weren't able to see much once we got to the top, but, this time we were able to see into the volcano and see all the volcanoes and lakes around.  It was awesome.  While hiking back to the parking lot, Sophie received a phone call telling us that our plates had arrived - so, goodbye driver, hello Sophie & Case driving a full car for 10 hours!

The drive to Copán was nice - you drive across El Salvador, then through the mountains in Guatemala before crossing into Honduras.  At one point, we diverted to Esquipulas, where we walked around a nice basilica that contains the famed "Black Christ," who apparently performs miracles.  Unfortunately, everyone wanted to receive a miracle, so, we opted for the replica of it rather than wait in line.  We had diverted to Esquipulas due to a horrific accident with a tractor trailer and a large cargo truck.  Seeing the wreck really highlighted the dangers of passing while going around a curve - we were told that 3 people were killed in the wreck.

Once we got to Copán, we settled into our hotel, which was very nice.  We had a triple room with 2 doubles and single, so, all five of us fit in there for around $100.  It was a steal - the place had flowers in the courtyard, a pool, a hot tub, and a free breakfast.  Copán itself is quaint and touristy - cobblestone streets, three-wheeled mototaxis, and craft shops.  It was a shock (and mildly annoying) to go everywhere and have people speak English to you.  The next day, we went to the Copán ruins.  They were pretty extensive and pretty.  After having visited Tikal and Machu Picchu, though, it didn't feel as magnificent as I think it should have felt.  There were some cool stone carvings that were better than the other sites, but, it didn't have the allure of being in the middle of a jungle like Tikal and we weren't in the Andes like in Peru.  But, I'm not saying that it wasn't beautiful.  There were tons of absolutely huge trees that had roots that were probably 20-50 yards long, and the views of the surrounding hills and mountains were great.  The museum at Copán also had some cool things to show off.  We ended our time in Copán by eating pizza.  Yum.

Now we're back in San Salvador.  Our two guests left yesterday, so, Sophie, her sister, and I went to Costa del Sol, which is near the airport.  We were surprised by how sandy the beach was and will definitely be returning.  It was $0.90 to get access to the beach and a pool.  Pretty nice.  None of us got severely burned, either, which was a plus considering how freaking hot it was there.  Life in the tropics is rough.

No comments:

Post a Comment