Time Flies in El Salvador (when you are riding the buses!)
A unique part of bus travel in El Salvador is that the bus going to where you want to go may not be the bus you want to take. As our friends, Sam and Dave from s/v Isleña, showed us, bus travel in El Salvador can be convoluted.
Two separate bus routes run up the long peninsula past the marina entrance. The number 495 buses, with San Salvador – Puntilla signs painted on the windshields, clearly goes to San Salvador. I will say more on the 193 bus route to Zacatecatoluca in the next post. But where in San Salvador does the 495 go? And how quickly does it get there? Well, it stops at the Terminal de Autobuses del Sur, out in the southern suburbs and it is painfully slow, stopping to pick-up and drop passengers at any point along the route. The trick is knowing that at the junction of the Playa del Sol Road and the east/west highway #2, a place called El Arco, there are multiple connection opportunities with buses and micro (meecro) buses going west to various destinations in San Salvador and east to the eastern part of the country. But, the real secret is, to get a seat on one of the micro buses you get off the 495 and jump onto the 138 where it does a u-turn in the middle of the road, one stop before Arco. First on the empty bus gets a seat! And better yet, the 138 goes to a mirco bus terminal one block from the Centro Historico, in San Salvador.
At all more important crossroads, venders board the buses squeezing their way from the front or back doors thru the jammed aisle to the opposite door selling drinks, fruit, endless types of foods, and an amazing array of consumer goods. El Salvador has a major unemployment issue but the response is to be innovative and entrepreneurial, sell, sell, sell. If the buses are not too packed some will ride the bus for a stop or two, while loudly explaining the virtues of their cell phone chargers, miniaturized clocks or portable speakers, all punctuated by the inevitable “ at a new low price of …… Much cheaper than in the big stores.” It is a great Spanish lesson!
|Palacio Nacional - San Salvador|
|Catedral Metropolitana from the Plaza|
|A small corner of the market|
|The Rainbow Iglesia|
A series of beams span between the arches creating steps that are glazed with coloured glass in a rainbow transition. The effect is beautiful, the sun filled space through the coloured glass, with the bright hues cast on the floor and walls, highlighting scrap steel sculptures is riveting. Definitely the most impressive modern architectural design feat that I have seen for a long time.
El Salvador and San Salvador have had a history of challenges. Volcanos are numerous, some still recently active, earthquakes and floods alarmingly common and their civil war just ended in 1992. And yet, when you drive into the hillsides surrounding San Salvador with newer suburbs, see the wide winding streets with modern cars and SUVs, walk through the vibrant modern shopping malls, some of them enormous by US standards, you realize there is a rapidly emerging young middle class.
Although San Salvador is only about 70 km from the marina we decided we would stay for two nights. We stayed in the Hotel Tazumal (503-2235-0156), a cheery, very clean 10 room hostel/hotel near the Nacional University and recommend it highly. Concepción, the owner, and Angelíca who manages bookings and the desk were great. The included breakfasts were an excellent start to our busy days. The area is very tranquil and safe for walking, even at night. While there, Angelíca connected us with Nelson who lives in the area and has a Taxi Service (503-7181-2590). Because there were four of us, it was an economical way to get to the more remote sites. The Guzman National Museum of Anthropology was well worth the visit. Nelson also took us on a very full day trip on the Ruta de Flores / Ruta Arquiologica to the northwest of the country, that I will do as a separate page.
Hotel Tazumel is on the northern edge of the area known as the Boulevard de los Heros which is north east of the Zona Rosa. Both of these areas are more modern areas with many restaurant and drink options. With lots of people on the street, they are considered safe, although at night people are told to take taxis to hotels off the main streets. During the day the big food store chains, Super Selectos, Don Juan’s and Despensa Familiar in the various malls make provisioning an easy task with virtually everything is available. We have also made the daytrip in to shop and then shared a $40 taxi ride back to the marina.