These are the first words you hear upon a successful crossing of the bar into Bahia del Sol, El Salvador. You must time your arrival to coincide with high water slack, and follow a pilot boat in. We had seen videos of boats surfing in over breaking rollers, but fortunately our entry was very anticlimactic. We were met at the dock with drinks and another hearty “Welcome to El Salvador”!
Decidedly more “rustic” than any of the Mexican marinas, Bahia del Sol offers a swimming pool, power and water (not potable), showers (not hot), wifi, and a restaurant /bar that offers $1 beers. You can also anchor, but as we are currently down to just a rowing dinghy, it would make getting to shore and back an adventure when the 6-knot ebb is running. Besides, power is included in the slip price so that means we can plug in the AC. We resisted AC for years back home in Oregon, but after spending a summer in Mexico, we now have a window unit which we can plug into the forward hatch if we are at a dock with power.
The marina is quite isolated, and the nearest grocery store with meat, produce and an ATM is a 1.5-hr ride (one way) on the chicken bus. By the time you reach town, the bus is standing room only with people hanging out the doors and riding on the roof. The buses are all old US school buses that have been “customized”. We made a grocery run into the town of Zacatecoluca with the crews of a few other boats,
where I picked up one of the traditional fancy aprons or “delantas” that all the ladies wear everyday as part of their attire.
We stopped here in Bahia del Sol to take place in the Cruisers Rally to El Salvador – a destination rally that is a great place to meet other south-bound boats. Despite the hundreds of boats cruising Mexico, only a handful venture south of the Mexican border. Organized activities have included a bus trip to the village of Panchimalco where we visited the studio of a prominent El Salvador artist, several potlucks, wine tasting, and dining out on traditionally prepared fried fish and pupusas (thick tortillas stuffed with meat,
Notice the pupusas are served on a plastic bag – that way they don’t have to wash the plates. There is no running water on the island where we ate these pupusas. This is very common for street vendors throughout Mexico and Central America.
El Salvador has been an interesting stop. Similar to Guatemala, this is a very, very poor country when compared to Mexico. Despite a history which includes a 12-yr civil war which ended only in 1992, and a minimum wage which ranges between $200-$300 USD a month, Salvadorans are remarkably upbeat people. We have had several different random strangers come up to us and shake our hands and thank us for visiting El Salvador. Prices are very high for groceries, similar to those in the US, and the majority of people subsist on beans, rice and what they can grow. The gap between the haves and have-nots is enormous. We visited a mall in the capital city of San Salvador that would rival any back home, but it is completely out of the reach of the majority of the population, most of whom do not even have potable water in their homes. Again we are reminded of how very fortunate we are. It is a good lesson to see how happy people can be with so very little.
While we have enjoyed the hospitality we have received, we are ready to move on. Spring makes us restless and homesick for the Pacific Northwest, and the endless poverty, heat, humidity and smoke from the burning of stubble in the sugar cane fields makes us long for the fresh air of the open sea. Next stop Nicaragua.