17th August 2021 – 26th August 2021
368 kilometres, 2344 meters cumulated ascent elevation, 2584 meters cumulated descent elevation
Pantxika and Fred
Pantxika Goyhetche and Fred Lolliot are a French couple undertaking their next big adventure – a cycling tour of Mexico.
We arrived at 12.30 pm at the border between Guatemala and El Salvador. We knew something could go wrong when crossing this border as we’ve heard few stories before but we were pretty confident as all our documents were in order so it will go smoothly. Getting out of Guatemala was very easy, we just had to show our passports and we were directed to the El Salvador border controls. A female customs officer took care of us, she was very nice with us but that’s when everything started to change and not for the best. After she checked our passports, she took the PCR tests, called someone, took a picture of everything and handed them back to us just saying :
“Unfortunately your PCR tests are not valid so we can’t let you come inside the country”
We started to argue but she was not ready to listen and she had already taken her decision so there was no point to continue arguing with her. We had to go back to Guatemala, assess the situation and see what we should do.
As we were going back to Guatemala, two military officers stopped us and asked why were we going back to Guatemala, we were only in between the two borders, we told them what was happening and they offer to help us. They called someone, which he arrived five minutes later on a moped, asked us to follow him, we entered Guatemala without stopping at the customs this time and we stopped by a café in the city centre. The guy told us he could get some PCR test for us but it would cost 80 dollars each. We took few minutes to think about the offer and if we wanted to get a PCR test in a laboratory, we had to cycle 100 km backwards and come back. We understood we were paying a sort of a bribe to the authorities to let us go through the border. We accepted the deal, and we were able to cross the border 6 hours later.
This time we weren’t really confident when we arrived at the El Salvador border knowing we had fake PCR test, we didn’t know what could happen. It was the same female customs officer, she looked at everything and with a big smile she told us everything was in order, we could enter the country this time without any problem.
As soon as we entered the country, it started to rain, we tried to find a hotel for the night but none of them was accepting credit card, the next cash machine was in the next city 50 km away, and we had no cash except a five dollars note. We saw a petrol station with a car wash next to it, so we asked the guy there if we could put the tent for night inside the car wash and he accepted, but he asked us to pay five dollars as he would keep an eye on our stuff all the night and he would open the toilets as well anytime we needed them. We of course accepted and we were glad to relax after a long and stressful day.
We woke up at 5 am, packed our bags and we were back on the road ready to discover this new country. After few kilometres we could already feel we will have a great time here. People were amazingly nice with kind words when we were riding pass them and when we were stopping they came to see us and asked millions of questions about the trip. It’s a massive change from Guatemala where people were more shy and were shouting at us “hey gringos” while we were riding.
In the evening as the weather was starting to turn into rain, we stopped in front of a house to ask where could we put the tent for the night. They told us to use the house next door as they knew the owner was never here and not to worry as they gave us permission. In the evening the all family came to have a chat with us, also told us we could use the light, and they stayed with us for one and a half hour chatting about their country. The next morning the mother brought some breakfast and coffee (eggs, beans, peppers, tomato, bread and tortillas).
Then we took the direction of Santa Tecla next to the capital city San Salvador. The ride was not the best as we had to follow a dual carriageway most of the time. We stopped to get some fresh coconut water, we had a chat with the vendor and we continue our journey. In the afternoon we came across few thunderstorms so we had to stop to get shelter few times. In the evening we reached Santa Tecla where our new hosts Rachel, Stéphane and their two kids were waiting for us. They are a French family living in El Salvador and as soon as we arrived we were treated like kings. They made us feel at home straight away, they cooked wonderful meals, and directed us to a very good bicycle shop as Kali needed attention on it’s rear wheel. We were supposed to stay two nights but in the end we stayed three nights with them.
Then we said bye to them and rejoined the road towards the Pacific Ocean and La Libertad. Twenty five kilometres down hill, a pure pleasure. We had our lunch on the beach and we decided to carry on. We were following the ocean and it was beautiful. In the evening we stopped by a church to check if we could sleep there and the family which was cleaning it after the service invited us to sleep in their house nearby the church. Once again they provided food and coffee in the evening and we could put the tent on their terrace which was covered with a rooftop, we were glad to have a roof over our heads as it rained all night long.
The next morning we left them pretty early and took the direction of Usulutan. On our way we’ve met great people again, cycling with volcanoes in the background. We stopped to buy some bananas but there was no way we could give them any money as they insisted to offer them to us. We had the impression we were back to Turkey as the population was so kind. The ride was great once again, between the banana fields, coconut trees all around and of course massive volcanoes showing you how small you are.
When we arrived in Usulutan, we asked the fire station to sleep there but they told us to go to see the Governor next to the fire station as he will probably get something better for us. As soon as we asked to speak to the Governor, everybody was a bit intrigued but helpful as the same time. He came to meet us and he seemed really happy and excited to meet us, a journalist came to take some pictures and he offered us to sleep in a room with toilets and shower.
The next day we headed to San Miguel as it was time to get our next PCR tests to go to the next country.
We had the feeling we didn’t stay long enough in El Salvador as we had planned to fly pass the country due to the fact every government website was describing the country as the most dangerous one in the world. We, once again never felt insecure travelling by bicycle in the country, the population was extremely generous and nice with us. Authorities, once inside the country, were very helpful when needed. And El Salvador is absolutely beautiful and deserve to be explore more than we did.
Our next plan was to get our tests results and to go towards Honduras. We wanted to cross Honduras and reached Nicaragua in less than 72 hours to use the same PCR test for the two countries. Let see if we can make it…(to be continued…)