Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Guatemala to El Salvador, La Hachadura

Tuesday morning. Wake up, walk Winston and chat with the gas station attendants. We have breakfast at a restaurant next door and pack up. We have decided to try to cross at La Hachadura. If the bridge is really impassable then we will turn around and go to Las Chinamas. Well, the bridge was definitely down and several makeshift piers and planks had been set up to cross the river. We watched. We waited. We chatted. The locals, the police, even the bus drivers agreed... we could make it! Okay. We head down into the bank of the river. Ahead are 4 "bridges". These are temporary piers made from tree trunks with planks on top. All very shaky, all very narrow and no railings. I say a prayer and Tom forges ahead. All I can see is the river below us. Oh well, at least it's not too far of a fall if the worst happens. I unbuckle my seatbelt, just in case. My side, my side, I keep muttering to Tom. Meaning that we are awfully close to going off the planks on my side. "Hey, what about my side" he says. "Just concentrate". As we head over the rickety makeshift bridge, I wish we had a camera handy. There is no way this would be allowed in the States. Liability comes to mind but with the river rushing beneath us, a truck ahead of us and a bus behind, there is no turning back. Finally we cross the last bridge and climb up the far embankment. Tom glances over and notices that my seatbelt is undone. "What, you think if we went over, you could jump?" We start to laugh. Partly at the the insanity of it and partly because...we made it! We are 30 mile from the border. I start checking and re-checking our file. All is in order. We arrive at the Guatemala departure and are again inundated by the tramitadores. We tell them we need no help. Tom and I have agreed on this. We have many borders to cross and we need to get used to it. The officials, the questions and the paperwork. It really is not so bad. Just go slow and be patient. At the checkpoint we go first to the temporary auto window to have the vehicle stamped for exit. Then to immigration for our passports and finally to Quarantine to get Winston stamped out. Change our Quetzales for U. S. dollars (El Salvador uses dollars as it's national currency) and onto the El Salvador side. Thoughts of bribes, shakedowns and bureaucracy cross my mind. Everywhere there are signs in English and Spanish that there are no fees expected and none were requested. We went to immigration and had our passports checked but because of the CA4 not stamped. Whilst Tom started the temporary Vehicle Importation Permit, I went to Quarantine to deal with Winston's paperwork. I was through in less than 5 minutes,the vehicle permit took longer. The customs agent checked the RV, but did not go inside. We had exited Guatemala and entered into El Salvador in less than 2 hours. We high fived one another and beaming with calls of goodwill from all sides and directions from customs as to our route we took to the streets of El Salvador. Gangs, drugpushers, militia, police bribes... what would the roads be like? Well, for one thing, they are better maintained than Guatemala. Less potholes. And all those other scary mindtraps, that first day all we ran into were people waving at us and smiling. We relaxed. Our first stop was going to be a string of beaches north of La Libertad, a large port. We turned off the main CA2 onto the playa road and followed it around. We found one area for parqueo and the restaurant owner said we could park but kept changing the price on us. We decided to go to the end of the playa and if there was nothing else, we would come back. As we were driving along, we came to a beautiful hotel resort called Sabas. We stop and talk to the armed guard, who in turn brings the general manager. La Senora Bianca told us we could park by the street, the guard would watch out for us and that for drinks and/or a meal (if we wanted) we could you use their sparkling, refreshing pool. I needed no further encouragement. We parked and readied the RV, changed into swimming gear, grabbed Winston and headed through the hotel to the pool and the beach. Fantastic. We walked Winston on the beach and tested the ocean. Warm and with the kind of waves Tom likes. He gets his boogie board and Winston and I head to the pool area. There is a couple with a young child and older lady already at the pool. I listen for a second. They are American, well almost. They are from New York and on a 2 week vacation. He is from El Salvador and the older lady is his mother. We talk for quite a while. He tells me that like anywhere, be alert, be watchful but have fun. I sip my beer, play with Winston and watch Tom in the waves. The sun is setting. I am definitely having fun.

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