Michael, we are in Ataco! If you crossed the border you are probably nearby. Staying at Santo Domingo hotel.
My skin is blotchy and red – after a particularly long hot day on bikes a heat rash appears on my thighs. It soon goes, but yesterday a after 9 hours on bikes it reached my ankles and this morning, showed no sign of abating. Last week I accidentally slept with my arm against the mosquito net giving me over 30 mosquito bites to add to the sandfly bites on my fingers and toes. Not an attractive look by the pool! I tell you, it’s not all roses in paradise lol!
Yesterday we set off from our gorgeous hacienda hotel in Guatemala at 6am and didn’t find this hotel until 4pm! We planned to sleep in Costa Azul: Google maps showed two hotels and numerous rancheros with a hotel symbol. Instead we found huge private homes with razor wired high walls and a very poor community that seem to service the luxurious beach houses. We learn later that the home owners are military men, and it’s a village best avoided. We didn’t know. The 3km access track was rocky and the village tracks were soft sand – not made for a quick departure! The beach was stunning. A couple of gardeners told us to leave, no hotels here; after Guatemala it was strange to feel so unwelcome.
Back on the highway we found an upmarket ‘love hotel’, a basic garage sized room with a discreet garage space outside, all hidden from the road, and an odd little wooden box that opens to the rear ( for secret deliveries of beer!). This one is newly constructed, has ac and is spotless. Better still the owner speaks English. Internet here? No. In the town? No. Anywhere in El Salvador? He didn’t laugh at my joke!
A nice man, like most with money he spent decades in USA and he gave us a tour of his properties, talked about gangs and corruption and Trump! A man who wants to impress.
Our room cost $20 last night, $35 for tonight “ a night and a day”. Go figure. Perhaps love hotels charge by the hour??? Twice in two days we have been short-changed, small items, water, ice creams, there’s an edge here that we didn’t feel in Guatemala.
But we set off again this morning, fully recovered from bites and a tummy bug (me, from water), and climbed up a delightful road to Ataco, sea level to 1300m. It was a huge climb but a quiet road through forest with quite friendly people. The town is pretty, with a weekend fun fair and market. Everyone speaks and smiles, perhaps I’m going to like El Salvador after all.
At Monterrico we met American Michael, 35, a marathon runner, but also an ace table tennis player. Bingo!! Charles has a friend (sorry Neil), and they get on really well. Michael decides to buy a bike and cycle south, so they are off investigating tatty cheap bikes, and he buys a new bike for £70.
But despite being genuinely kind and a fun guy, also very handsome and strong, Charles struggles to understand how someone he really likes can have tattoos! Michael has the word devastation and two pistols pointing to his groin area and a full arm tattoo that includes a bicycle!!! Also Michael’s tobacco, weed and mushroom intake. They talk seriously about what the drugs are like, the effects. And then Michael talks about his girlfriends, one story about a pathological liar, had us in stitches, poor Michael, but even worse for her husband, another was into swinging parties. Michael really is lovely, it’s rare that we both like someone so immediately. Charles listened goggle eyed as Michael described all the different options for sexuality and relationships in the states. So Michael’s latest girlfriend was poly-amorous, ie they can have other lovers. Fine with Michael as he was soon travelling. But Michael left his hoodie in her flat, and the next day he saw a guy wearing his hoodie!! He stopped him, yes it was his hoodie and Michael was annoyed, a line had been crossed. Poor Charles, bewildered that Michael could share his girlfriend but not his clothing!
In conversation charles had talked about Sarah and James, and impressed by their sports, Michael asked ‘ is your daughter beautiful?’ “ She is beautiful” said Charles but suddenly stopped, and looked at Michael and it was so obvious that no way would he ever condone a son in law with tattoos! We all laughed, Michael and I at Charles, and Charles, perhaps with relief, definitely with confusion…. it was very funny. But traveling makes you face your preconceived notions, and challenges expectations. Charles’ prejudice against tattoos is softening to dislike!! Thank you Michael