Diary/Photo Journal

Week of December 07, 2003

We made it into El Salvador relatively easy; however, this did not relieve our tension about this country.  Of all the areas we have visited thus far, El Salvador was by far the more nerve wracking country.  There is a pervasive feeling of not so much of danger, but more of  wariness.  Also, this was the first country where everywhere we went, there were armed guards for the local businesses, banks, restaurants, hotels, etc.  Just not something we were used to seeing.

Usage of

Kids crossing
on horseback
bus washing

Really nice
El Salvador

If I had to
do this,
I would
have no food
and no water

We stayed a night in Santa Ana and a night in La Libertad (which is on the Pacific coast).  One thing we can say about El Salvador is that we had two of our top ten meals at out-of-the way restaurants.  It is unfortunate that walking around at night in La Libertad was considered dangerous because the city had potential to be a really nice place.  It had a beautiful stretch of beach with a very nice surf break.

Lone fisherman at sunset
and one of our top ten meals:
Fried fish (unknown) stuffed
with shrimp, covered with
onions and a cream sauce (unknown), rice, salad,
fried hand made tortillas sprinkled with cheese,
sautéed calamari (unknown
sauce)- all excellent for $10 US
Views of La
Libertad and
the surf break
Of course, a
nice sunset

Even the buses
get in on the

We made a quick run through Honduras after a hellacious border crossing.  It was not so much anything we did, just the paperwork and the fumbling bureaucracy was laughable (after 2 1/2 hours).  We lumbered into Choluteca (at night) and searched for a place to park Cindy.  On the way to Choluteca, we passed a couple with Washington state plates and we had a hunch they would be right behind us, and our hunch was correct.  Conrad and Alice (from Port Orchard, Washington) met up with us just in time for us to converge on what seemed to be the only available combination secure parking and hotel (the great majority of hotels do not have parking, especially not secure parking or parking for tall vehicles). 

Smoking volcanoes

San Miguel
and Viejo

And you thought traffic
in Los Angeles was bad!
It took awhile for them to mooove :-)

We ventured through the Honduras/Nicaragua border together, now prepared for the swarming of the border "helpers" that for a fee, help you through the different unmarked windows, unsigned doors, unidentified people, etc. that you need to see, be inspected by, receive a stamp from and to which to provide payment.  While we were finalizing our paperwork, we met two travelers from England and offered them a ride to Leon.  James and Emma readily accepted and we were on our way, finally.

Typical armed
Gerson and Conrad
among the sea of
border "helpers"
and money exchangers
and who knows who

Our two-van convoy negotiated our way through a god-awful road and we dustily dragged ourselves into Leon, Nicaragua.  We enjoyed a walk through the market area and a visit to the main Cathedral de Leon, the largest such cathedral in Central America.  We also partook in a simple lunch at a nearby hostel and afterward, each pair headed their separate ways.  Conrad and Alice were going on to Costa Rica to meet their daughter for Christmas and James and Emma just continued to wander the streets until they met up with their tent being shipped into Managua.  James and Emma purchased the around-the-world flight pass (similar to what Matt and Sarah did - back in diary page 2) and have a few months left of their journey.

Cathedral de Leon
largest in Central
America - built in 1747
and took over 100 years
to complete

Mercado outside
of the Cathedral

Leon lunch crew
Conrad and Alice
(and furry new
best friend)
James and Emma

We had hoped for a quick escape from Leon but alas, it was not meant to be.  We ran into one of those delays caused by people blocking our path and making demands.  We were at an impasse for almost 30 minutes before a trucker took us under his directional wing and we bypassed the blockage.  What was this dangerous obstacle you ask?  Well, there were many of them, armed with full backpacks with who-knows-what inside and faced with very hostile looks. 

Alright, alright, they were students protesting the government taking money earmarked for education and spending it on some disagreeable government project.  Large rocks and many bodies blocked our path so over curbs, through backyards (thank goodness many homes don't have fences), across patios, through gates, across sidewalks and through a marsh and we slipped the noose.  It was certainly a good feeling to come out on the road on the other side of the barricade and far enough away to elude their rock-throwing at anyone that tried to pass.  Actually, this protest was organized in all major cities in Nicaragua and made the headlines in all the area's papers.  In hindsight, we were pleased to see that students could organize and protest without fear of a penalty of death when not too long ago, you would not dare utter a word of protest let alone, stage a blockade.  Maybe there is hope for this country yet.

The students and the
blocked traffic on the
highway out of
Leon to Managua
Uh, policia - the students are that > way
The cars trying to take the bypass in the
other direction - this bus got stuck and
had to unload about 80 passengers

We got into Managua, but only as a jumping off point to visit the Parque Nacional Volcan Masaya.  This park is Nicaragua's second National Park and it was very impressive.  Nothing fancy, but then the twin volcanoes, Masaya and Nindiri, are awesome by themselves.  They are still active volcanoes and have a total of five craters.  The Santiago crater, still spewing hot gases/steam, has formed in between the two volcanoes and the trail allows you to walk alongside of the crater and then up along the Volcan Masaya.  The last eruption was 1772 and I was just hoping that that statistic did not become 2003.

What $5US will buy -
it is not as bad as it
looks.  The shower
had real pressure, the
toilet was old but
clean and the beds
(5 in all) were fine

Views of Santiago crater
(where's Cindy?)
Cruz de Bobadilla on top of hill - placed by Spanish in the 16th century in order to exorcise the devil in the volcano - it still erupted...
and Gerson overlooking the
basin and Louise near
Santiago crater

While we were there, we ran into one of those pesky little signs that said something about being a dangerous area to enter.  We dutifully stood at the placement of the sign, wondering if the park ranger we saw up the very same path would mind if we tip-toed up the rim.  As luck would have it, he waved us forward anyway so up we went.  And, my goodness, what a spectacular view - not only of the surrounding landscape and volcanoes, but also of our own armed military guard.  Yep, even up there on top of a volcano, there was an armed guard to protect the tourists from bandits.  Apparently, local miscreants climb up the back side of the volcanoes and wait for the unprotected tourist and relieve them of their cash.  Needless to say, the rifle, the pistol, the knife and the club kept us on our best behavior.

Where we wanted
to go and that sign thingy
The view we got
when we arrived
(Volcano Momotombo)
and our personal guard

Just some beautiful
flowers at the volcano
and the San Fernando

From there we eased into Granada and ended up staying at a red cross station for again, there was no parking that could accommodate Cindy's height. 

Granada, Lady of Guadalupe church
This day was the 472nd year anniversary
of  the second vision of the Virgin Mary
(see page 7 for story)
Many people and many loud fireworks!
and yet another boring sunset
These little guys are
all over the place and
are quite comical to

Our last stop in Nicaragua took us back to the Pacific to a wonderful little town called San Juan del Sur.  Another town known for neighboring secluded beaches and a good surf break, yet it still retains a small town charm.  Land is just starting to attract the Norte Americano's notice so buy now while you can get 1/2 acre (with a spectacular ocean view) for under $40k US.  Seeing as we are anxious to get into Costa Rica, we only stayed here one night and then ran for the border.

Gerson on
the beach at
San Juan del Sur
Cindy was not comfortable driving under this tree to get into the back of the hotel we stayed
at so machete in hand, Gerson went into the tree-trimming business.


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