Time certainly does fly when you’re having fun and getting waves every day. We crossed over in El Salvador about three weeks ago and have pretty much surfed every day since then; my arms are pretty close to falling off. El Salvador is very different from Guatemala, not only as we have been mostly on the coast here, while we spent our times in the mountains and rivers of Guatemala, but also the feel and people are very different. Due to tragedies of the past where the indigenous were persecuted and murdered there are none of the bright colors and indigenous arts and craft that line the streets and markets of the surrounding countries. El Salvador has suffered many tragedies and the not so distant history is one of civil war and behind the scenes influences from larger super powers. In spite of this though I found the people here to be friendly and quick to share a laugh.
We made our way firstly to El Zonte, a sleepy little village of one short street where all there is to do is to surf, exactly what we were after. The plan was to be down here in time to celebrate my birthday, and that’s just what we did. Sitting out in the water that afternoon, just me and my best mate the only ones out, super fun waves and beautiful mountains and scenery stretching out before us, happy birthday to me. To me it’s amazingly funny that I’m now 33, I don’t really feel older, but I remember freaking out when I turned thirty and now here I am three years later and I feel like I’m only just starting to figure things out. Don’t know if I know as much as I did when I was sixteen and knew everything, but I feel like I’m at the point where I’m starting to know and understand myself a lot more, though I’ll be the first to admit I have so much still to learn and to work on to be the man I want to be. Now though at least I feel like I can make a start. So starting off another year here on this planet with surf, partying with new mates and climbing one of the peaks nearby for sunrise, and a big storm, I look forward to what this time will bring. I am very blessed.
We stayed about a week in El Zonte before heading down to another spot further east with the reputation of one of the best waves in the area, Los Flores. Turned out to be a big group of us heading down with a mix of Australians, Canadians, South Africans and El Salvadorians all piled into a mini bus for the trip down, the fact that we all fit was amazing in itself. We were, or rather the others were, provided with entertainment by the son of the driver, who after serious amounts of candy and coke, decided I was his new friend in his hyper active games. Poor kid, the amount of junk he gets fed, it’s no wonder he has trouble sitting still. Was a good laugh though and certainly provided some entertainment to pass the time. We pulled up there around five that afternoon and organized some accommodation on the point right in front of the break. To be able to step out your door and watch long right handers peel away from the point is living at its finest (could only be better if it was a left). We spent five days there hanging with friends, surfing two or three times a day, and relaxing in hammocks while we tried to muster up enough energy to paddle out again. We also met some crew that lived and worked a bit further up the beach at a hotel and turtle sanctuary that works to save the turtles that nest here and who’s eggs often end up on the menu at local restaurants. Thom, the guy who owns La Tortuga Verde (the green turtle) is a passionate guy who is trying to make a difference down here in his own way. The place he has is absolutely amazing and we got to hang out there and release one of the turtles that had hatched the night before. Hopefully with work like this and by others the turtles here will be able to survive and continue to nest here. It’s always a battle when you’re working against cultural habits and trying to change the perceptions of the local community, that’s why I think kids are the key. With some of the best surf of the trip and the crew splitting up with some heading on to Nicaragua and the rest returning west we made plans to head back to El Tunco, another little town near El Zonte.
Funny story, got in from the final surf to find my phone missing from my room, Joe and the boys had been right there all day but some sticky fingered person had obviously taken advantage of the split second needed to garb it off my bed. We all suspected the girl in the next room, even the owners and after chatting with them, they took me and Ali, a friend form El Salvador, to find and question them, and after even opened the room so we could call the phone to see if we could hear it. Sure enough it rang in the backpack on her bed and I found it all wrapped up and hidden down the bottom. So stoked to get it back and we went back and Ali certainly lived up to the feisty reputation of the Lantina Chica and let her have it. Apparently a lot of people suspected her for a lot of stuff but no one could prove it, until now.
The routine of surf, breakfast, surf, lunch and then hammock, surf and then dinner continued on when we got to El Tunco and have scored lots of fun waves here as well. We also made a mission up to San Salvador to Ali’s house for a night and had a look around the city. Like most cities in Central America, it’s not the safest place to hang out, but was good to get some things replaced that I had lost in Guatemala and have a look around. The contrast between rich and poor is startling with Massive shopping malls featuring the latest in electronic gadgetry and fashion right across the road from houses made of tin walls and cardboard boxes. There is no middle class here; it’s all one or the other.
So the plan now is to head back to Kuhela in the next few days and start prepping for the trip down to Panama. Looks like we’re going to head straight there and give the bay islands a miss as we want to be there as soon as possible as Jos has managed to score an awesome opportunity to work at the next free diving comp in the Bahamas, which starts on the 9th. I’m ready to get back to Kuhela myself, back home, and back out on the water. There are a few things we need to do before we head off but we hope to leave in the first weather window we get and should take 4-5 days to get down there. The first leg of the trip will probably be all motoring as we head directly east, and into the trade winds, but once we round Nicaragua it should be a great sail down. This hurricane season has, so far, been a bit of a non-event. To be honest we could have probably been out sailing and down in Panama all ready, but then we would miss out on all the cool places we’ve been exploring this last month and a bit.
I’m looking forward to the next leg of this journey. I am still learning as we go along and this will be the longest continuous sail that Joe and I will have done together. As usual I have the pre-trip butterflies and my mind is already working through all the different things that we have to do to get underway. It’s different when you’re the one in charge on getting all the logistics and the million other things that need doing. This, for me, has probably been one of the areas I am learning most in, and also one that I looked forward to (and dreaded) before the trip. It’s an amazing feeling once you accomplish it all, but more than once I’ll admit to wishing for someone else to sort it out. All part of the learning and growing though. Bring on the next adventure.