We decided to treat ourselves to a Pullman bus to travel from Antigua to San Salvador, El Salvador – partly because we still had a little money left in our Christmas budget, and partly because we were still a little traumatised by our last chicken bus journey where Dan dislocated his finger. We booked it through Eddie, the owner of Hostal Los Amigos, who gave us a discounted rate of Q230 per person. However, when we asked Eddie how long the journey would take and where in San Salvador it would arrive, his answer proved distinctly unhelpful.
“5 hours total, and it arrives at the San Salvador bus terminal,” he assured us.
“Is there only the one bus terminal in San Salvador?” I asked.
“Yes, only one,” he said confidently.
He was wrong on both counts.
We were meeting my friend George in San Salvador, and he and his family had kindly offered to let us stay with them for two weeks. I met George when I was on my year abroad at the University of North Carolina, and I was really excited that we would be able to catch up and relive all our UNCC memories! So when we booked our bus through Eddie, leaving at 4am on 2nd January, I sent George a message to let him know that we would arrive in San Salvador at the Pullman bus terminal at around 10am (having gotten quite used to Latin American buses by this point, I guessed the journey might take an hour longer than Eddie told us. Unfortunately, I was also wrong).
A shuttle bus took us to the Pullman bus terminal in Guatemala City, where we sat around for almost an hour waiting for our bus to leave. Eventually it got underway, but when it got to 9am and we hadn’t even reached the Guatemala/El Salvador border, I sent George a text to say we were running late, and I would text him when we were about 30 mins away from San Salvador. I then sat back and thought no more of it – while unbeknown to me, my texts were not actually delivering to George’s phone, so he and his sister Mari arrived at the Pullman bus terminal right at 10am. There they waited for around 2 more hours until our bus arrived – at an entirely different bus terminal. Turns out there are several in San Salvador, not just the one as we were assured! Fortunately I was able to describe to George where we were on the phone, and he and Mari came to rescue us.
They then took us for lunch before driving us back to their house. When we walked through the door we were struck by how beautiful their house is, and his family were so warm and welcoming to us. His Mum had planned a whole bunch of traditional Salvadoran meals for us to try, and his Dad taught us to love tequila as a pre-dinner aperitif, to be sipped with a tomato juice and grenadine cocktail as a chaser. The food we enjoyed – especially pupusas, a typical Salvadoran dish that is made up of tortillas stuffed with things like beans, cheese and meat – was all delicious, and we had the best time during our stay.
Not only were we treated to amazing food and drinks, but George and Mari also planned an epic two week itinerary for us, and took us round to show us some of the amazing things El Salvador has to offer. One day we visited the San Salvador volcano where we took a short stroll up to view the vast crater with eagles flying over it. On another day we tackled Santa Ana Volcano, where we joined a tour group for the hour and half climb up to the summit. There we were treated to stunning views of both the volcano crater lake, which was steaming and bubbling and surrounded us with the smell of sulfur, along with the other volcanoes and scenery surrounding San Salvador. It was quite possibly the best view of our trip so far!
We also visited two fantastic museums in El Salvador: the Museo Nacional de Antropologia and the Museo de Arte. Both museums were fascinating, and gave us a great insight into the history of El Salvador as well as its artistic history. Another day we took a trip out to the San Andrés Mayan Ruins, which are just outside of town. Large parts of the ancient city are still buried under volcanic ash, but excavations have revealed that it used to be an important political centre during the Mayan era. The site also features a museum full of interesting artifacts and information about Mayan history, both in El Salvador and the rest of Central America.
As our first Friday night in San Salvador approached, Mari informed us that our trip would not be complete without a taste of the nightlife in El Tunco, a small beach town about half an hour away from their house. One thing we have been surprised to discover about Latin America is that it’s quite normal to buy whole bottles of spirits when you’re out in bars – up until that point we hadn’t indulged in this, but that changed in El Tunco! Two bottles of Absolut vodka later (don’t worry – there were more than four of us drinking them!) we were ready for an emergency rush to the 24 hour McDonald’s!
After several more heavy nights of drinking that involved more tequila than we have ever drank before in our lives, we decided to have a night off and visited the Dreamland Arcade. For $30 between the four of us we got 3 hours to have unlimited plays on a huge variety of arcade games, and after a few rounds of Guitar Hero and scoring as many basketball shots as possible our hangovers were totally forgotten!
During our stay George and Mari took us to several incredible places for food and drinks, but one place that stood out for us in particular was Sucree – they specialise in amazing pizzas, such as salmon, avocado and capers or prosciutto and figs. They also do the most epic desserts imaginable – I had the “chocolate bomb” and Dan had the cheesecake, both of which we could have eaten at least three portions of!
As well as our adventures in San Salvador, we got to enjoy a couple of El Salvador’s beautiful beaches, which we will write about in our next post!