El Salvador. The smallest country in Central America (I didn’t actually googled it so don’t fact check me). It’s about half the size of my country so it means it’s really miniature (again, no fact checking) and like most of my other lovely fairy tales it begins with “I didn’t really plan to go there”
Once upon a time, in a kingdom far far away – I didn’t really plan to go there…
When I was in Guatemala, I made the decision to make my biggest dream come true and go to New Orleans. And then came the horrifying step of actually buying a plane ticket (I HATE buying plane tickets. Ironic I know) and it came down to the 2 cheapest choices to fly from: El Salvador or Honduras. Never been to any. Heard dangerous things about both. Lovely…. at the end I went with El Salvador. Honestly I don’t remember why. But when I was in a hostel in Antigua, Guatemala I met a fellow traveler who planned to go to the El Salvadoran airport to meet his friend a day after I fly from there. “Hey Jon, are you into hitchhiking?”, “Yea”. Cool. And that’s how I found my Hitchhiking buddy.
We had just a few days for this journey. I was looking for a bit of information in the internet about El Salvador and the best I could find was a post in some blog 2 years before about some hot springs in the middle of nowhere with a photos of a puddle of boiling mud. Ok, so I guess the first destinaition would be ‘a puddle of boiling mud’.
We started hitchhiking from Guatemala. And I can’t say it was a great and an epic succesful story. We actually had to take the local bus a few times. The local bus in Central America (in those areas anyway) is called “Chicken Bus”. why? ’cause you can and will fit everything inside the bus, including live chickens. or is it because you feel you are cooped inside like you are, in fact, one of those crammed chickens? whatever the reason is, it’s a lovely experience (for short distances. I wouldn’t like to do it for more than 2 hours). A chicken bus is an old school bus from north America who’s been transformed to a normal public bus here. Usually it means crazy colors (a bit like the TATA’s in India). Unfortunately still the same leg space for a 10 year old school kid… If you want to go on the bus, you cannot hesitate- you have to run with it because they won’t really stop for anyone, including nuns. People with every possible object to sell come on the bus and try to sell you something. Food (try some- it’s really good), drink, pens, perfume, tooth brushes and the most annoying- medicines. They go on the bus and start talking for about 10 minutes (and they always stand next to me!) and try to persuade everyone to buy special pills with their speech. no one really listens of course…
Close to Guatemalan border someone stopped for us. He spoke perfect English and he said He’s from the capital of El Salvador- San Salvador. He was so nice and took us through the border. We told him we heard about this hot puddle of mud and he said he heard about that place too. He can take us there. As I always say: if you want to restore your faith in humanity- start hitchhiking. We arrived to the area and he said there’s a spa resort there if we want to go or he heard that maybe it will be possible to find that actual puddle of mud in someone’s private property. Well, it wasn’t that tough decision- 2 shabby hippies? the “puddle of mud in someone’s backyard” it is!
We found the private land (I don’t know how- maybe with the help of dios) and asked the owner if it’s possible to put a tent for the night in their property. they were a bit shocked. I don’t think someone in the history of planet earth ever put a tent there. But they agreed. After saying goodbye to our wonderful ride we started exploring the place. I honestly don’t have the words (me, no words? shocking I know) to explain that place. We felt like we landed on a different planet. Fumes coming out of the ground like smoke. A little stream of water that was cold but with hot bubbles. And the silence… It was one of the craziest places I’ve ever been.
We were very excited to spend the night there. Like explorers in a new and unknown territory. The only problem was we forgot that if there is a puddle of boiling mud and fumes everywhere… well, let’s say I ain’t no Geologist but we realized pretty fast that the ground is warm. sorry, not warm- goddamn hot! You can’t stay in the same sleeping position for more than 5 minutes before you feel like you’re frying on one side. We felt like someone (maybe dios again) just put us on a very big grill.
In the morning the friendly woman from the house came and asked us if we want eggs for breakfast. She brought some eggs from her chickens and showed us their version of cooking a hard-boiled egg. Yes, It contains a little help from the fumes. Full recipe in the pictures below:
After breakfast we decided to go next to the little river and experiment with some healthy mud. Jon went to the boiling puddle of mud and came back with red mud. I told him: “Jon, get the black mud- it’s the best one! I come from the land of mineral mud. I know what I’m talking about”. But Jon insisted it’s good mud. And for some reason I agreed. So apperently red mud doesn’t leave the skin shiny and soft. hell- it doesn’t really leave the skin at all… So my advice to you- don’t trust a Canadian when it comes down to choose the best mud…
Just in case you didn’t catch that. That’s the puddle of boiling mud:
After leaving the boiling puddle of mud we arrived to this little town on the way and we needed a place to stay. We were trying to speak to the locals but they didn’t really understand why we want to put a tent in their backyard. we sat next to the only hostel there that was sealed shut with a lock and chain and just thought about our next move. Then- out of nowhere, 3 blonde guys from Texas came and started speaking to us. They were friendly but they wore buttoned shirts with ironed pants. They looked like they fell from Mars. We were a bit shocked. And also a bit dirty, sweaty and with a huge backpack (mine, Jon has a small bag because he doesn’t need human things when he travels- like clothes or a brush) but still they looked weirder than us. And then I realized something little jewish me never thought about- Christian missionaries still exist. And I see 3 of them standing in front of me right now. It’s like in those horror movies where you see a close up of blonde kids who don’t speak and just hold hands….
At the day of the flight we were close to the airport, but not there just yet. It was in a little town next to the pacific coast. We arrived and couldn’t find a ride to get us out of there. The sun was setting and we had to make a decision. Stay and try to hitchhike in the dark or take a taxi for 30 minutes to the airport. I was very confused. I don’t want to hitchhike in the dark but how can I end a hitchhiking adventure with… with … with taking a taxi?! it’s cheating! And then a van stopped next to us, with a father and his teenager son. The son had perfect english (I guess we need to thank them missionaries) and said that they decided to take us all the way to the airport. When they heard that I’m from the Land of Jesus they got so excited and the father said that angels came to him in a dream the night before and told him 2 people will need his help. And he knows those 2 people are us. I kid you not.
It was a great ride. They were so sweet. One of the best hitchhiking rides I ever got in my life. And a perfect ending to a crazy hitchhiking journey. And to my Central American adventure in general.
It’s true I didn’t travel El Salvador for a long time. I don’t even remember the names of places I’ve been in. But I found a country with really friendly people who just want to help (maybe because they are not really used to tourists). And it’s cheap. I really recommend to go and explore this tiny secret in Central America.
So remember- Don’t take life too seriously ’cause life doesn’t take you seriously. Trust me- life called and said you’re bumming them out…. Love, Peace, Harmony and a Smile!