Every single cycle tourist has had one of those days, where they feel negative and can’t find a silver lining in anything. Last night that’s how I was feeling. Gina and I have seen some really cool stuff, but recently we’ve had food poisoning, some tough climbs, and the past few days we spent on busy roads with trucks barreling past. To top it off, I was reading some blogs of other cycle tourists who were riding road bikes and it got me thinking about our bikes and the amount of effort we require to push them forward.
Gina and I ended up going to bed feeling frustrated, and as we left Santa Ana in the morning we were still in a rubbish mood. Our road options in El Salvador are quite limited, and our open source maps aren’t showing much in terms of dirt around here (I’m sure it’s here somewhere but recently there has been a move to pave many of the dirt roads). We decided to ride the Carterra de Antigua a San Salvador until we reached the road which branches off to Lago de Coatepeque. As soon as we reached the smaller road our spirits were immediately lifted and we gently climbed up to a plateau above the lake. There was very little traffic and the road, although paved, was beautiful, windy, and well graded. We passed through a few small towns and beautiful vantage points of the lake. At one point I almost got bitten by a dog that must have been very hungry, and if a car hadn’t passed by to help us deal with it, the situation might have ended badly. I also had my first cup of coffee on this whole trip. Grown locally in the region, I paid 25 cents for a beautiful cup of simple, honest, black coffee. We also met a friendly Mennonite family from the U.S who used to live in El Salvador and were back for a visit, we were very thankful for some bananas they offered us as we continued our route.
The descent was just as satisfying. 600m of down a gentle slope moved us along at a nice brisk pace, but within 30 minutes we had to merge back on to the busy Caratera Senorate. At least the ride was downhill, and in 10km we had found a dirt road to ride all the way to Acachapa on the south coast. We turned off the highway and made our way through the township of Caluco (very pretty little town). We ended up tracking down a really cool but very rocky dirt path, realized we’d gone the wrong way and had to backtrack to the correct route. We were told by many locals that it would be dangerous to stray from the highway. Being in Central America, this is something we are used to hearing, yet something about these warnings freaked me out. Still, it was dirt so we were going to try. We ended up meeting Franklin, a friendly guy who decided to ride along with us to make sure we were going the right way. We eventually all got lost, and by the time we found the correct route it would have been too late to make it down to the coast. Despite being nervous of warnings, we both really wanted to ride this route. I suspect we would have passed with no trouble, but in the end we’ve had to give it a miss. Maybe someone else will try the route and let us know how it was!
We ended up in Sonsonate, in a hotel centered in the middle of the prostitution district, eating pupusas (essentiall tortillas filled with cheese and meats), and writing this blog. It’s been a long day, but Gina and I are finally starting to find our rhythm.