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El Salvador

Departamento de La Libertad

Here you’ll find travel reports about Departamento de La Libertad. Discover travel destinations in El Salvador of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

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  • Day347

    We drove off the volcano top (not stopping at any of the miradors due to reports of armed robberies) and almost immediately were back in the hot and steamy conditions. We had a quick pit stop at a supermarket and we were delighted to see the high prices of Guatemala a thing of the past. A couple of hours of easy driving (great road surface not a tope/reductor/tumulo in sight) we hit the coast.

    This whole coast is famous for its surfing, and we picked out a nice sounding spot thinking we would stay a day or two before meandering on along the coast. However, what we hadn't bargained for was an amazing camp spot, with two pools, hammocks everywhere, great WiFi, free electricity, and even a terrace overlooking the surf beach (which had a soaking pool). All of this for 10 bucks!

    Inevitably one day turned into a week, whilst we whiled away the days hopping between pools and hammocks. Lunch invariably involved some delicious pupusas, and would have amounted to a couple of bucks each (if it wasn't for the large beers that accompanied it). At most we stretched ourselves to walk a massive 800m to the end of the cove, but many days we didn't even manage that! To be fair it's stinkingly hot (35C+) and really humid so you can't do much, and there's really not much here (half a dozen rustic restaurants). I doesn't even cool down much in the evenings and we are thankful for the air con.

    Beach life is dangerous to the belly so we eventually hauled ourselves of this beautiful spot and on south towards the Honduran border.
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  • Day180

    Von El Tunco hatte Diana schon gehört.
    So ging es nach der Holperstraße vom Hotel weg die Straße weiter nach El Tunco.
    Auch einer der Ortsnamen der mir gefällt.

    Kurz nach Cara Suzio, als dann der eigentliche Highway nach El Tunco beginnen sollte, musste ich aber wieder abbremsen.
    Polizeikontrolle. Anti Narcotico!
    Ein grimmiger Bulle mit Sonnenbrille kam auf mich zu und wieder wusste ich nicht wie ich die Situation einschätzen sollte.
    Mein Standard Prozedere klappte auch diesmal perfekt. Alle Papiere gleich zur Hand. Motor aus. Die Rucksäcke vorne gemeinsam checken...
    Ich klappte den Kofferraumdeckel nach dem Check wieder zu und sah, dass mittlerweile alle 4 Beamten um meinen Wagen standen. Der älteste scherzte lauthals durchs offene Fenster mit Diana über México und Tijuana.
    Und die Anderen befragten mich über das Auto. Auch schon standard. Ein Standard der mir gefällt.

    Die Piste war bestens präpariert und führte nun geschlängelt der Küste entlang. Voll fein um gemütlich dahin zu cruisen.
    Gegen Abend fanden wir gleich an der Einfahrt des Örtchens ein günstiges Hotel mit Parkplatz.
    Gute Entscheidung. Die Stadt war gnadenlos überfüllt. Nach dem Check in und einer Dusche ging es zum Pupusas essen in die Stadt. Alles voller Surfer.
    Lange waren wir nicht in der Stadt, weil wir früh los wollten um eventuell die Hondurasgrenze zu passieren.

    Um kurz nach eins war mein Kaffee noch halb voll. Ich dachte an meine hinige Windschutzscheibe. Diana hatte mir am Vorabend geraten über dem Riss, die Scheibe einzuschlagen um den Riss aufzuhalten.
    Also suchte ich einen großen Stein und warf diesen aus sichserer Entfernung mit voller Kraft gegen die Scheibe.
    Mein erster verzweifelter Gedanke blieb dann doch das Isolierband.
    Im Familienchat riet mir Nadja auch als erstes Tixo zu probieren. War schwer zu bekommen. Superkleber gäbs überall, würde aber sicher in Chaos und am Sitz angeklebeten Shorts enden.
    Während Ingo die vom Fachmann bestätigte Schnelllösung empfing erblickte ich das Panzertape auf dem Kühlschrank auf der Terrasse.
    Die Experten rieten ebenfalls zu Klebeband auf die Aussenseite der Scheibe zu kleben. Gewebeband olé!

    Nach dem Klebebandunterfangen war es auch fast schon zu spät um großartig los zufahren.
    Wir packten deshalb die Rucksäcke wieder aus dem Auto ins Zimmer und schlenderten an die Promenade zum Essen und sahen den Surfern kartenspielend vom Café aus zu.
    Später am Abend blieb Diana noch in der Stadt und war am feiern während ich mich schlafen legte..

    Am nächsten Tag irgendwann um Mittag gings dann eh schon los Richtung Honduras.
    Vielleicht kommen wir ja heut über die Grenze...
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  • Day249

    After another night of chatting with locals and their kids at a church in the small town of Chilata, we decided to split up to try two different routes to the coast. Antoine and Joe took the adventurous route up onto a high ridge road, while the two of us opted to descend to the coast sooner and ride the winding "Sun and Beach Route" to La Libertad. We got a 6 am start since we knew it was going to be hot on the coast, and quite enjoyed riding up, down and around the numerous coastal headlands, especially since surprise tunnels made the little hills even smaller. We made good time to La Libertad, pushing to stay ahead of the heat, and then luckily managed to bump into Antoine and Joe after a quick tour of the Malecon. It sounded like we may have made the better route choice...Read more

  • Day250

    We missed meeting up with Karl's Aunt Jodi, who came down to El Salvador to a friend's beach rental house a month before we got there. Luckily for us she very kindly treated us to a couple nights of accomodation at Rancho Tranquilidad when we finally made it to Playa San Diego. What an amazing treat to relax poolside for a day with a beautiful kitchen and air-conditioned rooms. Antoine cooked up some delicious meals including crepes loaded with fruit from the passing fruit truck, and we did a lot of reading and relaxing (and Karl still managed to find a way to be helpful by cleaning the pool in his snorkel gear!). Thanks Jodi!Read more

  • Day134

    Pupusas, chicken buses and smashing surf!

    Last October on my first day of the trip, I stripped down to my undies and dived into a refreshingly cool Pacific Ocean in Venice Beach, LA. 132 days later, after crossing the continent and back, I can happily report a much warmer dip in the same ocean - 3700 km southeast of the starting point. And what an adventure it's been since then!

    El Salvador won us over in a battle against Honduras. We really wanted to swim with whale sharks in Utila and go white water rafting in Honduras' finest national park but the travel time and cost involved in the detour put us off. El Salvador it shall be.

    We shuttled there from San Pedro via Antigua where we spent a night back at Matiox Hostal. Comfy beds, delightful showers and good wifi just a few of the reasons we love that place. The border crossing was a joke, as people literally jostled at the window booth of customs to get their stamps. Lines and order apparently a foreign concept. Luckily our van driver had the wits to fend them off and hand over a stack of passports. No questions asked. Easy. On entry to El Salvador we didn't even get out of the van. Nor did we get a stamp. Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras have a centro-american pact of some sort (perhaps someone can fill me in?), hence the aforementioned ease. Happy days!

    We're now holed up in a tiny surf town called El Tunco. It's so small that you can walk a lap of the whole town in under five minutes, maybe six if you're decripid like me. Our hostel, la Sombre is a minute from the beach and if you hobble over the rocks to the western most point, you'll find a reknowned surf break called El Sunzal. That's where we've been spending our time!

    We hired surfboards for $10USD (yes, back on the USD) per day (same price as our accomodation!) and have spent mornings and evenings flailing about in the white water attempting to surf! I'm bruised and achey but it's all been worth it even for just a few good rides per session. The waves are glorious right handers, hard to read but once tamed provide decent length and relatively safe rides. My back, arms, ribs and fat man's rash are killing me.

    Everyone has fought the fearsome break with varying levels of success. Mike and I collided on a wave, yet somehow managed to escape unscathed. Cat's best wave saw her hit the beach without getting off her stomach (somewhat impressively I might add). And Char seemed to escape without too much drama on the board. We won't mention her getting stuck in a rip whilst swimming in the shallows. The unforgettable highlight for me was riding a wave over a sea turtle. Brave wee critter.

    When the wind and chop get up during the heat of the day, we've been catching chicken buses into the main town (La Libertad) for groceries and banks. A quarter gets you on board and the ride itself is entertainment. Hot, noisy, jerky, claustrophobic, uncomfortable entertainment. Or something like that. But it's nice to pay peanuts for transport for a change. It's been up there with accommodation as our biggest expense to date! On one such occasion, MERC put on the runners for the journey. Heat almost brought us to ruin, yet we reached La Libertad in a state I wish upon nobody. I couldn't distinguish disgust from worry upon greeting the girls.

    Lunch each day is pupusas. For around 50c-75c you can get a chicken and cheese filled pita. Well it looks like a pita but I'm fairly sure it's of corn derivative. Nonetheless they're delightful and three of the hot treats will fill the stomach of a hungry boy. Lunch for $1.50. Buen provecho! Come to mention it, why not pupuse for dinner too!?

    The middle of the day is hot. You know, that muggy, still heat that doesn't relent and when you mix it with sun it's a recipe for heatstroke? In case you didn't know, I don't like that kind of heat very much, so we've been lazing in hammocks and by fans or taking dips in the 'pool'. The fully-clothed cold shower also a very appealing bi-daily activity.

    Yesterday we foolishly chose to go for a walk in the afternoon heat. I made it to the bus stop - just - before turning to a liquid state. We bussed high up into the hills, found our stop and hired a tour guide off the side of the road. Antonio was a mumbler, just like me. I discovered that mumbling is not a comprehensible tongue, even between mumblers (yet I refuse to do anything about it). So we had very little idea what we'd signed up for except that we were paying this guy $3 a head and there was ample mention of 'cascadas' (waterfalls). That was good enough for us so we sweat our way down the valley to a series of rock pools/jumps. Add these to the aforementioned list of hot midday activities. A much needed cool off consisting of a series of rock jumps into different pools and a rock slide for the less boney bummed swimmer. It was a little sketchy but the locals showed us the ropes and we were away laughing - Cat taking the cake for the biggest pre-jump build in suspense. The uphill return wasn't as bad as expected, as Antonio was the least fit by far and set a delightfully slow pace, his sweat putting mine to shame. Him and I would make great friends.

    Our ticket out of El Tunco was a chicken bus. Luckily Mike and Char set an alarm and woke up the sleeping beauties for the 6am bus! Very apprehensive about the journey, we stumbled out onto the road and awaited our chariot. Our destination: Juayúa, Ruta de las Flores.
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  • Day116

    How long: two nights
    Stayed: Papaya Lodge
    Travelling with: Tom

    El Tunco is the surfing capital of El Salvador and from what I have read is one of the only stop offs most backpackers make in El Sal....much to their own loss. So I was expecting somewhere overrun with gringos
    Tom was making his way up from El Cuco so a arranged to meet in El Tunco. I had planned to try my hand again at surfing but after one look at the sea knew this wasn't going to happen. Absolutely beautiful black sand beach with wild waves....certainly not for beginners.
    Met Tom and headed straight down for a battering in the sea! It was rough and wonderful and so refreshing after my journey. Grabbed a bite and headed back to hostel for an early night as bad cold coming on.
    Next day was sick so had a quiet day split between beach and hostel. Went for a walk along the beach and came across a group of very cute young boys playing in the sand. They gave me a great show of hi jinx and acrobatics when they saw the camera come out...very entertaining. Met Wei by chance and had lunch with her and Tom. She tried to tempt me to go to Suchitoto with her next day...which would be the most sensible direction for me but will stick to my crazy plan to go north(again) and check out the Ruta de las Flores.
    Thankfully it being off season the town (and hostel) was quiet and not overrun with gringos so it was nice to just relax and nurse my cold.
    Very quiet couple of days in "the party capital of El Sal" getting sensible in my old age :)
    Was tempted to stay a third night but forced myself up and out and hit the road for Juayua.
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  • Day127

    How long - 3 weeks
    Stayed - all over
    Travelling with - solo y Céssar

    Back to El Salvador for a few weeks of rest and more exploration of this amazing country. Also time to try and improve my Spanish
    First off a night in San Salvador where I caught up with the boys that I met up in Juayua. Next day to Santa Tecla which is a lovely little suburb of San Salvador. It's the place where the San Salvadorians go to party at the weekend so there's some lovely bars and restaurants. Also a really nice street market. My return to San Salvador also coincided with Susan doing a fleeting return to El Salvador from Guatemala to see the port at La Libertad. So I checked into the hostal in Santa tecla and jumped on a bus down to meet her. Had a lovely afternoon strolling the fish market and the sea front. La libertad a bustling fishing port with market and great seafood. Lovely seafood lunch and a few beers with Susan and then back to Santa Tecla.
    Fun Friday night in Santa Tecla with the boys and their brother who had just arrived back from NY for a visit.
    Back to Juayua to hang out and chill.
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  • Day44

    El Tunco is the Surf & Party Spot in El Salvador.
    I was really looking forward to finally getting back on the board. Sandy and I got us boards for one day but ufortunately it was a lot harder to get back into surfing than I expected and as the waves were pretty crazy the first two hours I only got washed all the time and only managed to stand up a few short rides in the white water. We went back into the water later and after a few nicer waves I paddled out into the ocean to watch the sunset from there - at least a good exercise for my arms.
    The next morning I got up early to meet my personal surf guide at 6:30. But as the waves were unsurfable for me (probably due to the full moon) I didn't even get into the water but returned my board and decided to spend that money on yoga instead. There was a pretty fancy yoga studio in El Tunco and the session was pretty nice.
    Except for Yoga and Surfing we spend our days relaxing and went out every night for "Ladies Night" - I don't even know the name of the place but every night between 8 and 9 girls would drink for free. That's the way to fill up a bar ;)
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  • Day47

    El Zonte is one of the more quiet surf beaches close to El Tunco. I went there for one night with Kajal who I had met before in Copan Ruinas and now again in El Tunco. Sebastian and Sandy only came to visit for a few hours.
    I think El Zonte could have been a place to stay longer if I would have been better in surfing already. I think a lot of people get stuck there. We hang out on the terrace of our hostel watching other people surf and enjoyed a nice dinner watching the sunset.
    After I was woken up the next morning by sunrise visible from our dorm I got on another long chicken bus adventure to go to El Cuco.
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  • Day46

    Surfing, swimming, sweating profusely, muchas pupusas and the first of many chicken bus trips.

    We've left behind Guatemala and travelled southeast to our next country, El Salvador. El Tunco is a small beach/surf town - if you can even call it that! Two or three streets are all there is to this place, lined with a mix of surf shops, restaurants and hostels. Supposedly on the weekend it's a crazy party town but we were visiting midweek so it was hard to imagine this, as it almost resembled a ghost town whilst we were there.

    Back at sea level and edging closer to the equator, temperatures and sweat levels have substantially increased to the point of a minimum of 4-5 swims and/or cold showers a day. Lows of about 24-25 degrees and highs of 30+. Lucky we have a beach almost on our doorstep and hot water doesn't exist in the accommodation here.

    El Tunco is known for its surfing, so we thought we'd give it a crack and hired a couple of boards to share on our first day. Our collective surfing history was somewhat limited so we were all really just freestyling on this one. Mike and Rich managed to get out there alright and get up on their first wave together as Cat and I looked on from the beach. This particular stretch of beach (El Sunzal) requires paddling quite far out, possibly about 100m-200m or so. It became apparent we'd left it too late in the day though to head out, particularly by the time Cat and I tried as the currents and waves just prevented us from even straying far from the beach itself, let alone to reach any decent waves to try to surf on. El Tunco is a black sand beach with stones too, which makes it not overly enjoyable for swimming or for walking - especially when the tide is high. We returned late afternoon to much different surf, and the boys managed to get a few good waves. Meanwhile Cat and I got thrashed in the waves near the beach and I almost got taken out to sea in a strong rip whilst getting dumped with suddenly huge waves!

    Sunsets are something El Tunco does well. Due to the fact that the beach is south-facing, you can actually see both sunrise and sunset here. Scores of people flock to the beach front with beers in hand to watch the sun go down each evening, others out catching the last waves of the day with the sky a mix of orange and pink as a backdrop. Stunning.

    The following morning we vowed to get up early (6:30am) considering this is the best time for surfing and we were thankfully rewarded with this truth! Mike sat out due to a reinjured chest/rib but Rich had some good runs and us girls gave it a shot, with not much success. Cat managed to catch a wave the whole way in, just not standing up! And the only time I managed to get up was when Rich gave me a push onto the wave to get the momentum going. Back to the drawing board to find some strength in the arms to get on the waves on our own.

    New country means new local food and for El Salvador that means pupusas. Pupusas are essentially fried thick tortillas - almost like a thick pancake - with various fillings, usually combined with cheese. Chicken and cheese, beans and cheese and revolutas are the usual suspects, the latter of which is actually quite tasty despite what the name implies - consisting of pork, beans and cheese. We went through a fair few pupusas in our time in El Tunco, usually served with a tomato salsa and a coleslaw of sorts, they're a cheap meal when you only need 2-3 and they set you back a modest 50-75cents US each. I think we will be having a lot more of these over the next few days!

    Pupusas aside, eating in El Tunco is expensive so we caught our first "chicken bus" into the nearby town that is La Libertad to buy some groceries. Chicken buses are also common in Guatemala, local buses that are actually old American school buses usually with a colourful paint job - so called because people can take anything and everything on there with them, including live chickens. Our bus rides so far haven't been quite so eventful, but they work on express pick ups and drop offs from anywhere along the road. There's always a couple of guys on each bus who collect the money, whistle at the driver when people want to get off and help people with their things at lightening speed but the bus is still already driving off when you've only got one foot inside. Payment is a combination of honesty based and a memory test for the guys working on the bus as they usually take payment every few pickups as opposed to when each person gets on. Somehow the chaos of it all works.

    La Libertad is a pretty grungy little place that didn't require a visit for anything other than cheaper groceries and to attempt more ATM withdrawals. Mike and I have been battling to get any $US out since we arrived in El Salvador, even after trying multiple ATMs. Still unsure if this is due to the ATMs not agreeing with our travel card that usually doesn't have any problems, or if they just have no cash in them. Thankfully Cat and Rich withdrew a decent amount of cash before we left Guatemala which has been enough to bankroll the four of us so far, but cash funds are definitely getting low between us so hopefully our next stop will provide the goods.

    With the confidence of catching a few chicken buses up our sleeve, we thought we'd try another direction from El Tunco - inland to the Tamanique waterfalls. You can do this as a tour from El Tunco but we thought we'd give it a go semi-independently to save some cash. We made it to the Taminique town with no problems but still without having found a local "guide" to show us where the waterfalls actually were. 10 steps in the direction of the waterfalls though and local guy sitting outside his casa asked if we needed someone to show us the way. We agreed but had to haggle his price from $5USD a person down to $3 a person - still steep compared to other blogs we'd read but still cheap really and we couldn't have done it without him. The path was not signposted in any form, you wouldn't have even known there was a waterfall there unless you'd done prior research as we had.

    Twenty minutes of downhill walking later, on terrain that would have benefited the use of our walking sticks from Acatenango and sneakers as opposed to the trusty jandals, we arrived at the waterfall. It wasn't so much a waterfall - more comprising of a few different swimming holes - but it gave us a spot to do some jumps and cool off for a while. The local guys there clambered all over the rocks for various outrageous jumps and provided some good entertainment in between our own jumps. I think there was a bigger waterfall we could have visited as well afterwards but we were all spent and didn't want to get back to El Tunco too late so we gave it a miss. Our guide Antonio was absolutely dripping with sweat on our walk back, this time via a cemetery. We weren't really sure why he took us through there, nor did we feel overly comfortable about it but we made it back to the town in one piece.

    The El Salvadorian people so far are already noticeably different to the Guatemalans. They're much less friendly and open, but perhaps they are more guarded here due to higher causes. The murder rate in El Salvador is one of the highest in the world. Just a week ago they had the first day with no murders recorded since January 2015. So I suppose perhaps it's not unreasonable to not be so friendly, but perhaps it's just down to this area too - so I shall keep an open mind for other areas of El Salvador! The locals also just wear regular clothes as opposed to traditional dress and the women seem to wear quite a lot of makeup which is something we haven't seen for a while. El Salvador is quite dirty, there is a lot of rubbish around and it's not unusual to see people chucking rubbish out the window of the buses. It's pretty sad really, it's obviously not something they care about. On top of all that, everyone speaks much faster Spanish and potentially with a different accent too because just when we thought we were making progress, we're back to feeling like we can't understand anything again!

    We're backtracking a bit from El Tunco now, heading northwest to Juayúa via long distance chicken bus, complete with terrible music which is heavy on the bass at 6am and videos to match. Mike had a rogue near-vomiting episode this morning too so let's hope there isn't the real deal whilst in transit!
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Departamento de La Libertad, La Libertad

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