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Surfing El Salvador

Waves and finding new friends!

The bus ride on King Quality was great but the quality of the dvd player was shank - I Am Ledgend crapped itself from one to many bumps right on the sceen where the beast zombie was breaking through the glass to mash Will Smith!! AND this movie was actually in english!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

The border crossing into El Salvador goes without a hitch. We didn't even have to get off the bus this time, immigration officals checked all passports onboard. But no one received a stamp to say we had left Honurus and entered El Salv??? A quick 'dummy' bag check, more like checking to see if the zippers worked, then we are handed very glossy tourist maps and brochures.

The bus motors towards San Salvador and in no time we are in the thick of it. Straight away you notice a difference in the sercurity measures. More bars, barbed/razor wire and armed guards than any country so far. A large security gate opens to let the bus into the station then promptly closes behind. It was a tough decision to decide wether it was safe enough to travel in El Salvador. The Lonely Planet gives it a pretty harsh wrap and with 10 murders a day El Salvador remains one of the most violent countries in the world. That and its home to the Mara Salvatrucha, one of the most dangerous gangs in the Central Americas known for gruesome beheadings and machete murders. We chatted to a heap of surfers on the trip so far who had travelled El Salvador and said if you are cautious you can travel the surf areas at minimal risk.

Couple weeks previous we decided to contact a surfer on Couchsurfer (http://www.couchsurfing.org/), just to get some local information on the area of La Libertad. The guy we contacted is a surfer called Marco, who lived just outside of San Salvador with his partner Esme and his lil boy Sebastion. It was all too easy. An email to say we are coming, a call to say we are here and he picked us up from a cafe near the bus station. Straight away we got such a kind, easy going peacefull vibe. We piled our stuff and ourselves in the back of a pick up and soon enough we were on our way through the streets of San Salvador.
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Marco and Esme took us to their town house which was located in Santa Tecla just outside of San Salvador. Most of the residents of San Salvador and its surrounds live in walled communities topped with razor wire. The inhabitants drive through metal gates to enter their community that are guarded by armed private security. Apparently it is only $10US extra a month to live in a secure community so most people go for that option. The houses are also very secure, bars on all windows, even bars above courtyards to prevent entry from above!

Back at their pad we chatted surf and got to know each other. Thankfully both Marco and Esme spoke english. Marco was born in El Salvador then grew up in Germany with his German parents. He had also lived in Turkey and the Phillipines and travelled extensively with his German family before returning to El Salvador. Esme grew up in El Salvador and most of her family lives close by. Sebastion their little boy was almost 2 and cute as a button. We shouted everyone dinner and met one of Marcos friends, Felix the cat. Felix drove us to get takeaway for dinner - Pupusas (cornmeal pastery stuffed with farmers cheese and refried beans) and beers of course!

The boys talk surf and the swell thats on the horizon, La Libertad is 1 hour away and is home to the famous surf break Punta Roca. They offered us a bed and we stayed the night. We were complete strangers and they treated us like family. Their generosity blew us away. Good times.

The next day they had to go to Uni so we waited at their pad for a couple of hours and cleaned their house to say thanks. When they came back around 10am they took us down to the beach and it turns out that they have a property with accom that they are about to turn into a tourist lodge! On the way we pulled into the supermarket for supplies then we checked the surf at Punta Roca.

Punta Roca has a pretty bad rep for being dangerous to walk to and the locals can be a little menacing. To reach it by foot you have to cross abandoned property and a cemetry but the saftey situation has seemed to improve with police regularly patrolling the shore. The wave known as the best in El Salvador is described as a heavy reef break right hander that barrells and walls up similar to J-Bay. When we pulled up to check it out the swell was 5-6 ft, slightly on shore but pumping, and only a few guys out!!
First set..
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Second set...
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About a 2 min drive we arrive at ¨Mango Wald¨ the property soon to be a fully equiped tourist lodge. ¨Mango Wald¨ is located up on the hill behind El Sunzal which is 5-10min walk away. The lodge has several rooms with private bathrooms, kitchen facilities, pool, gardens, wide open decks with hammocks to chill in and all the mangos you cant eat! (plus a number of other fruit varieties). Because the property is up on the hill it is lovely and cool with the ocean breezes. All the trees provide greatly appreciated shade.
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El Sunzal has a couple of breaks, the main ones El Sunzal (big open right in the distant behind the rick) and La Bocana (river mouth reef).
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El Sunzal is set up for tourism with plenty of overpriced accom, shops and resturants. There's a main street that runs parralell to the ocean that all the accom branches off, stagnant water and worse provide a variety of nose curling aromas. Definately glad that we scored Mango Wald up on the hill! Theres not a great deal to do here other than surf, there's a good cafe that does a smokin iced coffee (too hot for hot coffee!!), but otherwise the beach is narrow black sand, rocks and cement, with armed guards every couple of hundred metres. We had lunch back at MW with Marco, Esme, Frank (Esmes Dad) and Sebastion before they left us to chill and headed back into town. Steve all excited and frothing at the mouth has his first surf in 2 months out at a 6ft plus El Sunzal. He comes in with mixed emotions. Great to be back in the water, not so great to fall off nearly every wave and have red raw surf lumps on his ribs......

The next morning Steve rises in the dark and heads down to the main road to catch a bus 8km to Punta Roca. He found a local guy waiting for the bus and stood next to him. Hola, Buenos. As the bus approached it slowed down just enough for the guy to run and jump in the door, speeding off leaving Steve scratching his head. Son of! Four more buses speed past not stopping to pick him up. WTF! SON OF!!!! Determined, he decided to start walking/hitch. Thankfully, a car pulls up containing a local and two Texan surfers. HI! You Australian? Yep, are you guys heading to Punta Roca?? Sure am, jump in! SWEET!!! Hahahah bus drivers!

The surf was insane. Long 4-5ft lines wrapping down the point, this right hander was breaking for I dont know how long but it had several barrell combo wall sections speeding down the line. light offshore not a drop of water out of place. Straight away I thought about all my natural footer mates at home. Sorry no photos, very dodgy place. I had to ninja kick a dozen thieves and bribe 8 cops to get that onshore shot the previous day. No, seriously not a place to be flicking ya camera out.....

In the afternoon we walked down to El Sunzal and hired a pushie (which won the prize for being the WORST bike in the world!) for the evening's and next days transportation to Punta Roca and back. The locals looked at him pretty strangely as all the gringos hire cars and drive, not ride pushies with surfboards. That and the bike which looked good - front and rear suspension mountain bike - turned out to be a whirring pile of crap. You could hear him from a mile away. Loose bearings, swaying wheel, noisey tires, and rode like a sideways crab like resistance bike.

Slightly onshore but no one out for the arvo session. Many waves later, and as many kook outs, Steve raced back home (top spead grinding along at jogging pace) grining ear to ear to only just retrun on dark for another lovely home cooked meal and wine in Mango Wald!
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Next mornin Steve set out on the bicycle towards La Libertad, PS a 16km round trip. Swell had dropped a little but the period was the same. Groundhog day but a tad smaller at 3-4ft.

The locals who had seen him ride to Punta and back a few times no longer stared in disbelief but yelled out hola and cheered him on whilst laughing at his stupidity. Returned bike in the arvo. Adios peiza de mierda!!

In the afternoon Marco, Esme, Sebastion, and Frank turned up to the lodge closely followed by the rest of the rellos for a weekend rello bash! We drank together all afternoon, Frank hit the vodka pretty hard, we all had a few laughs and beers. We made friends with a homemade salsa.

In the afternoon, we did a quick mission into La Libertad for more beer and some ingredients for dinner. We visited the fresh fish market which was located on a wharf. The wharf jutted out high over the ocean for about 200m, all the fishing boats moored at the end. On both sides of the wharf hundreds of stalls sold the fish, prawns, squid and crab fresh off the boats. Jess choose a nice slab of Red Snapper.

When we got back to the lodge the festivities stepped up a notch. We cooked the whole family a coconut fish curry with rice!!! We all got a few drinks under our belt and after we mentioned we were married the family started joking around with us, in spanish, about us having babies soon!!
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The next day everyone dusted off the cobwebs and was back into it, more drinks and more food! In between the festivities Steve cranked out three sessions at the nearby a frame peak - La Baranca (river mouth). Limited photos of the break again due to security reasons.
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All the family pitched in to make a massive brew of ceviche (traditional prawn salsa dish). Even though there was a lil language barrier with the family they were very patient, understanding and kind and welcomed us with open arms. Such wonderful kind people. We were complete stangers and they formally announced at the table welcoming us into their family.

Sunday afternoon and time to head back to San Salvador as Marco and Esme have study tomorrow. We cram all our junket into Marco's car and set off at dusk. Half way back the traffic stops, huge traffic jam and no one is moving. Apparently a car blew up in blames on the steep accent back up to San Salvador. Marco accidently nudges the car in front but luckily the car in front had been nudged in that same spot several tmes before so all was sweet! When the traffic finally started to move we found out that this was true, a burnt out wreck had been pushed to the side of the road.

Marco and Esme were kind enuogh to drop us off at the Tica Bus terminal and suddenly it was time to say goodbye to new friends. The feelings we had when saying goodbye to Marco and Esme were not unlike the feelings we had when saying goodbye to good friends at home. We thanked them once again for their generousity and kindess and watched their car disappear into the San Salvador traffic.
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Tica bus to Nicaragua was to leave at 3.00am so we grabbed a room in the hotel above the station. Nice room, clean bathroom, cable TV - time to veg out! ALARM 2.00am we sleepily walk downstairs and jump on the bus. Niccas here we come!!

Posted by jessnsteve 09:03 Archived in El Salvador Tagged backpacking

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