Day 152-168 El Salvador & Honduras
We spent a total of 13 days cycling in El Salvador and a total of 4 days cycling in Honduras.
We crossed the border into El Salvador at La Hachadura on July 9th, 2016. Another quick and easy stamp at immigration, and no problem with the bikes. We were all smiles!
Shortly after crossing the border, we cut off onto a dirt road to explore the countryside and make our way to the beach. We set up the photo above at the exact moment that a local told us we shouldn't take the small dirt road we had just turned onto... It was too muddy and steep. He told us to just stay on the PanAmerican Highway. We decided to listen, and hopped back on the main road.
The Panamericana welcomed us with a large wide shoulder and mellow rolling hills along the coast. We stopped immediately for pupusas then pushed on through the heat with rolling fields of cane and corn around us. For lunch we would usually make our own guacamole salad with tortillas accompanied by fruit and other veggies. However the pupusas and potato empanaditas with the classic cabbage relish (repollo) that is served ubiquitously in Salvadoreño restaurants was hard to resist. Three empanaditas for 25 cents! 25 cents for a pupusa! 25 cents for a medium sized watermelon!
After cutting off the PanAm onto a small dirt road, we arrived in beautiful Costa Azul, where we would end up staying for the night. A nice elderly man let us camp on an empty property next door to his house. In the evening his two young children, eight year old Andrea and five year old Miguel came over and hung out with us. Inquisitive Andrea had about a hundred questions for us about our travels. We eventually wandered down to the ocean where the four of us swam as the sun was setting over the horizon. What a beautiful welcome to El Salvador!
After a restful night, we left Costa Azul and headed back to the highway. It was another full day of cycling in humidity and heat, but easy flat terrain. We were not complaining with views like this!
By the end of the day we made it to Playa Mizata, a tranquil little fishing village with almost no tourism or gringos. We found an empty little campground on the beach for $4. There were two Canadian surfers camped there, and with the amazing beaches and big break we started to see why this coast is known for its great surfing.
After a wonderful, quiet evening, we left precious Playa Mizata the next morning and headed into a hilly 20 mile section right along the coast. We enjoyed some nice little climbs that always paid off with extraordinary views. It reminded us of parts of the hilly California coastal roads.
We encountered about half a dozen long dark tunnels that were pretty exhilarating to ride through. Never a dull moment when you're traveling by bicycle. After a long and hot day, we landed in El Zonte and camped at a hostel on the grass next to the beach.
We enjoyed an amazing sunset on the beach that evening, a beautiful end to a beautiful few days.
After El Zonte we had a short ride through the last hilly bit of the Northern coast of El Salvador. It is so crazy to think that we have been in this country for less than a week and already have passed through almost half the country. We decided to take our time through the rest of El Salvador so we can really soak it up!
The people here are extremely friendly, generous and welcoming, and quite beautiful. Unfortunately many of the beaches are littered with trash, but certainly not all of them. We could have cycled the entire country along the PanAmerican Highway in about 5-7 days. That gives you a sense of how small the country truly is. We spent 13 days total in El Salvador.
We opted for the hot, flat coast where we could cover many miles but also swim in the ocean at the end of every day and camp on the beach. Taking the inland and more mountainous route would certainly have its own challenges but also many of the country's gems like Suchitoto and La Ruta de las Flores. Sadly we missed them but caught the incredible coast instead. El Salvador is definitely a place we both want to visit again and spend more time.
After a solid day of climbing and descending, climbing and descending, we made it to El Tunco and found a beautiful hotel right on the beach, Tekuani Kai, that gave us a couple free nights in their hotel in exchange for photos. The room was an exquisite treehouse apartment on the second floor with glorious air conditioning. We were so happy! We spent the evening walking around the town and enjoying the sunset. While we were out we met an Uruguayan couple whose bus we saw back in Antigua, who have been traveling with their three kids all over Latin America. In the evening we made dinner on our sweet treehouse balcony.
Upon leaving El Tunco we cycled through Puerto La Libertad. Erin's friend Ricardo, who linked us up with his cousin Angélica way back in Yurécuaro, Mexico, connected us with more of his family just past La Libertad.
We stopped and had some cold refrescos in Ricardo's family's restaurant Blanqui, Erin ordered a fresh lime juice and Mehedi ordered fresh orange juice - both were delicious! It was early though so we did not eat and instead hopped back on the bikes after the short but refreshing stop. ¡Vámonos!
After El Tunco the terrain mellowed out significantly. The heat really picked up towards the later part of the day though. In the late afternoon Mehedi stopped at a mango tree dropping fruit on the side of the road. The woman Catalina whose house we were stopped in front of invited us in. We rarely refuse these offers when they find us. We rolled our bikes into her compound and she offered us dinner and a place to stay for the night.
We spent several hours chatting with them about the woman's eldest daughter's harrowing experience with coyotes (human traffickers) smuggling her into the United States. It was clear this family didn't have much, but when we showed up at their door, they greeted us with open arms, fed us and made us feel right at home.
We talked a lot about it after we left their house. How can we help? What can we do? It is clear that America doesn't need better borders. It needs better foreign policies that don't cripple the economies of its neighbors.
After departing from the lovely Hernandez family's home we pedaled inland through beautiful rolling hillsides of jungle with large swaths of farmland cut out in the valley bottoms. The views were fantastic but the heat was intense. We camped that night just past Zacatecaluca in another family's yard beneath their portal.
The next day we cycled through Usulután, a large and lively city with hundreds of street vendors, pupuserias, tiendas and a bustling city square. We finished riding that day just outside of Usulután in Santa Maria, where we found a recreation park with pools and picnic areas. The owners let us camp in the back away from everybody and offered to let us use the outdoor shower. The park's property had a huge pasture containing about 30 goats. We found a little casita with a portal roof and cement pad under which we pitched our tent.
Now that the rains are more common we try to camp under a portal or something covered due to the intensity of the rainstorms. We have a fully waterproof tent but sometimes it rains so much the ground floods up to an inch deep in water.
We had a strong, early start out of Santa Maria the next morning. Shortly after getting on the road we cut off the main highway towards a back dirt road leading to El Cuco. We wanted to explore this route through Playa Espino but suddenly a guy on a motorcycle made a U-turn to stop and tell us it may be dangerous in that direction. We turned around and headed back to the main highway. An 8 mile detour but possibly saved a world of trouble.
We enjoyed more beautiful riding with Volcán San Miguel on our left and grazing cattle and goats on our right. Mellow, rolling hills, so lush and green! We had a good 10 mile climb in the afternoon, followed by an extraordinary descent, another small climb and a final, long descent to our destination back at the coast Playa El Cuco.
Upon arriving in El Cuco we met another friend of Erin's from LA, Lissette who owns a beautiful resort and awesome hostel. She gave us our own private room in her beautiful hostel, Casa Canela. It was hard to leave beautiful Playa El Cuco but we were ready to pedal again after a few day's rest.
We had a great early start out of El Cuco and found a beautiful but kind of muddy dirt road that hugged the coast for a few miles then cut back to the Pan American highway. Once back on the highway the terrain was pretty mellow with some moderate climbs but we made it just past La Union by 2pm and we were now less than 20 miles from the Honduran border.
We had lunch at a pupusa spot and camped behind a gas station where they had big grassy fields, pools & some covered areas for picnic tables. We took a nice nap in the hammock together and then went back to the pupusa lady for dinner. It is a good thing we are so active with all these pupusas! After dinner we sat with our feet in the pool and looked at the stars. Then we crawled into the tent, read, and fell asleep. Another beautiful day!
We got early start for the border and stopped for a quick breakfast. Shortly before we crossed into Honduras we met Jose, a fellow cyclist who started in Ushuaia, Argentina and is touring north to Prudoe Bay, Alaska! Awesome! We enjoyed a quick roadside chat, then we were on our way. In the morning we were passing a large property where a young horse bucked and neigh'd at us, then followed us along the fence line, galloping at full speed and neighing loudly. He followed along with us as we cycled for at least a full minute. It was such a beautiful, precious moment, one you may never get traveling in a car! It was a perfect send off from El Salvador.
We arrived at the border of Honduras by 9am on the 21st of July. The line for immigration was already very long so it took awhile to get through. After an hour and a half or so we were cleared to pass, and we stopped at a roadside eatery at the border for lunch before cutting off the main highway onto a dirt road. The road was spectacular, quiet as could be and filled with goats.
The dirt road stretch was stunning and we made it to the town of Alianza where we camped for the night in the grounds of an old school. Alianza had a colorful charm to it with its unique houses with clay shillings on the roofs. People around town were extremely friendly toward us, and all seemed to take pride in their pueblo, telling us "this is the best little town in all of Honduras." Really cool to see so much pride!
The town was very charming and the plaza was quite active in the afternoon and evening. It reminded us of some of the little towns in Mexico. Quaint with a real sense of "home" and community. We pitched our tent outside the old school under a long dilapidated portal. Fantastic welcome into Honduras.
We started the day with making some tasty chia flax oatmeal on our BioLite stove and were on the road by 6am again. It was a beautiful, full day on dirt roads through tiny pueblos where people seemed really excited about us passing through. We saw lots of very healthy livestock and animals grazing about in beautiful clean pastures.
During one break, Erin walked up to a young male cow who was grazing by the fence line. She stuck her hand out to pet him, which he gently received with warmth. He got closer and it was clear he really enjoyed the soft pets. These animals are such gentle giants.
We were out in what felt like the middle of nowhere, and figured there had to be a tienda in the next town coming up. When we arrived there the local tienda had no produce so we were debating a can of beans for lunch when the women who ran the tienda offered to make us some food – a simple but mighty plate of eggs, beans and rice. It was perfect.
Bellies full, we hit the road and we were expecting a river crossing. We kept asking locals about the river as we got closer and all of them said it was dry. It's true, we wouldn't see any "wet" rivers until Costa Rica.
Shortly after crossing we found an old mango grove with a full water pila on an otherwise empty lot. A beautiful night of stealth camping and easy water access with no disturbances other than mangos dropping from the trees above. None on our heads, thankfully. Mehedi was able to find a perfectly cured branch which he carved into two spoons. Did we mention that we're now sending a spoon to every person who makes a $100 donation? Mehedi has been busy finding beautiful locally sourced hardwood, and whittling gorgeous spoons at camp! This is one way we can say thank you from the road.
After the mango grove we were back on pavement and had an exhausting day on the PanAm highway - a lot of trucks, buses and passenger cars for most of the day with a terrible gravel shoulder. It was noisy, smoggy and not the best riding conditions but we got through it. Really makes you appreciate the more physically challenging but significantly quieter, cleaner dirt roads!
We stopped for wifi at the Choluteca mall and spent several hours shamelessly enjoying AC! Have we mentioned how humid it's been since we've been back on the coast? We cycled just outside of the city and found a place to camp in a vacant lot where the caretaker next door gave us permission. In the evening Erin played guitar while Mehedi whittled spoons.
The next day we left our campsite and cycled to the border of Nicaragua by mid-morning, but we're saving that story for next time.
See you in Nicaragua!