Weeks 74-75 – 3, 2, 1…

El Salvador
Another tour break, another vacation. We are rounding off Central America. First stop is the country used to be known as Provincia De Nuestro Señor Jesus Cristo, El Salvador Del Mundo – no less! Despite the long name it’s the smallest country in Latin America.
We rented a car and drove to Suchitoto, a miniature colonial town. Supposedly it’s interesting on market days but it wasn’t one of those days and there weren’t any noteworthy sites so we decided to take a walk to a nearby waterfall. After 30 minutes in oppressive heat we reached it. There was one minor nuisance – it’s dry season and there was no water. Empty handed, we returned to town and hid from the heat in our B&B.

The morning after we drove off to Santa Ana and climbed its namesake volcano, the highest in the country. We started the hike in arrière-garde but quickly moved to avant-garde to get away from chatty American girls with all their OMG’s and “like”. When we reached the crater, before our eyes appeared a smoking and burping lake of fluorescent green color. 360° view of the neighboring area was stunning. Santa Ana itself was pretty unremarkable – theater, church, municipal palace, all on the same plaza.

The next day we made a few stops along La Ruta de las Flores, that meanders through the Salvadoran coffee region. Those were at small towns of various degrees of charm but once again it wasn’t market day so they were pretty sleepy. We had more luck with waterfalls though – Julie even dipped in one near Juayua. Somewhere along the way we ate pupusas, the Salvadoran national dish, which with a slip of a tongue may become something completely different..

Then it was a turn for the beach. We stayed at El Tunco – a good surfing spot and a decent beach. We enjoyed the sun and the ocean; I didn’t even get burned. The cherry on the cake was a picture perfect sunset.

Our last day in El Salvador we spent in its capital San Salvador under punishing sun. The historic center consists of a few blocks of mixed colonial and Art Deco buildings, albeit many of them are not in very good shape. The rest of what we saw isn’t worth mentioning.

To summarize our impression of the country – it has potential.

El Salvador in numbers:

0 km – distance cycled, embarrassing but inevitable with town hopping
21041 km² – the size of El Salvador
2381 m – the height of Santa Ana Volcano

A short flight transported us from the Pacific to the Atlantic side of Central America. We landed on Roatan Island, Honduran territory technically speaking, but with a distinctively different Garifuna culture. Because of various historical events, modern locals are mostly descendants of black slaves from the Cayman Islands and their first language is English.
Half hour later we were on a white sanded beach trying not to fall asleep and as a result get burned.

Arriving in the morning gave us a false impression that the town of West End is quiet, with a few tourists. But as the day progressed there were more and more people on the beach, in bars and restaurants. By dinner time the party was in full swing.
Because we were staying here for a few days I unpacked my Brompton and rode around the island. Actually, I cycled almost the whole length of Roatan, starting at West End going all the way to Punta Gorda and then back. The island happened to be quite hilly and roads are in pretty bad shape but both Greengo and I survived.

Only other activity we did was snorkeling. I, however, didn’t have much success: since these days I fashion facial hair, my mask would leak all the time. The rest of the time we basked in laziness, induced by the sun and the sea.

Honduras in numbers:

79 km – distance cycled
59 km – length of the Roatan Island
1833 – the year slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire

On our latest travels we went from a plane to a small plane to even smaller one – we flew from Roatan Island to Belize on a single engine, 12-seater. It was with Tropic Air which somehow associated for me with the Tropic Thunder movie: it can’t be serious. We might have flown over the Great Blue Hole but we wouldn’t know because it was cloudy.

Trying to combine leisure with cultural experience, we came to Hopkins village, the center of the Garifuna population of Belize. It has its own national holiday, Hopkins Day, and was voted “The Friendliest Village in Belize”. We got a glimpse of Garifuna culture on a couple of occasions when their drummers played and sang in restaurants where we dined.

Hopkins is a good place to chill but I cannot stand still so I cycled to the Placencia peninsula, about 65 km to the south. It seemed there were more properties for sale than not along the way. I wasn’t too tired when I got to Placencia town and I figured it shouldn’t be much more difficult to cycle out than cycle in. I overestimated my endurance but, too proud to admit it, I stubbornly pedaled all the way back. When I arrived at the hotel I was dead tired but the bragging rights are mine!

About a week ago the winds shifted and brought a great deal of seaweed to the shore so we did not swim at all while in Hopkins – such a pity. But we rested in chaise longues on our private beach; my cycling tan should be evened out by now.

After a few tranquil days in Hopkins we moved on to Caye Caulker, a small island off the coast of Belize. It’s supposed to be very laid back but we chose the wrong time to visit – Easter weekend. It was full of visitors, foreign and locals. Many of them, including us, gathered on the only beach: the Split. At night there were parties celebrating, no doubt, the resurrection of Jesus. Still we had a good time on and off the island, swimming in turquoise water, canoeing, snorkeling, cycling and eating out at local stalls.

We only spent a few hours in Belize City transiting out of the country. We got there on Easter afternoon and it was deserted, as if all its population left for Caye Caulker for the long weekend. Most everything was closed: we hardly found an open restaurant and a convenient store. It was eerie walking through the silent and empty streets with dilapidated houses. When I ventured out for a short ride I almost got a ticket for cycling on a one way street in the wrong direction. The police left me off the hook, even without a bribe, maybe because they had a soft spot for Russians.

Belize in numbers:

152 km – distance cycled
8h 19m – time on the saddle
4 – the number of highways in Belize
450 – islands in Belizean barrier reef
2 km – is the width of Caye Caulker at the the widest point