Tunco Beach, El Salvador

Beach day or pool day? That was the most difficult daily decision for the past three weeks of my life. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Screen shot 2013-02-26 at 10.10.01 AMLet me start by saying that we never meant to go to El Salvador. Our original plan was actually to bus straight through Honduras en route to Costa Rica, but Alex and Jeremy (our friends from Guatemala,) said we should check out one beach town in El Salvador called El Tunco, and since it only has two streets we wouldn’t want to stay very long. Without much more information, we bought our bus tickets and headed that direction. It’s such a wonderful feeling to be able to travel to an unintended country on a moment’s notice.

The drive was beautiful. As soon as we crossed the border, rays of sun illuminated pink and purple wildflowers lining the highway and we were able to steal glances of the ocean through breaks in the trees. At first I couldn’t figure out why everything seemed so much brighter, and then I realized—grass! I didn’t even notice the entire time in Guatemala there was no grass until I spotted the emerald carpets of El Salvador.

All three of us were visibly delighted to be close to the beach again. We checked into a private room at the Papaya Lodge, pushed our beds together to make a giant love nest, and walked down towards the shore to grab some lunch. As content as we were, we still only planned to stay one or two nights…

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Luckily, Papaya Lodge has a cable TV so on the night of the Super Bowl (one of our first nights in town,) we initiated a big party. Close to 30 people gathered in the tiny sitting area to watch the Ravens and the 49ers duke it out. We had a pool going with $0.25 betting squares— it was a great way to get to know everyone (although the night would have been MUCH better if San Francisco won the game.)

Every single person we met in Tunco was amazing and we grew as close as family with the other Papaya guests.  Each day at 2PM strangers would check in at the hostel and by the time they checked out days later, we’d all have separation anxiety.

We felt incredibly comfortable and settled into somewhat of a routine. Every morning we would wake up leisurely as soon as it was too hot to stay inside and walk down the main road for a cup of coffee and a fresh fruit smoothie. Some days we would hang by the pool at the hostel and read, others we’d rent surfboards and go play in the waves. I’m definitely not a pro surfer girl yet, but by now I’m a damn good paddler.

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One day we went with a group of people on a hike to see the nearby waterfalls. It was scorching hot outside and the trek was a bit of a challenge but the cool water at the end was rewarding and we all jumped into the pools from rocks ranging 10 – 50ft in height. Some daredevils in the group actually jumped from the top of the cascade, which seemed completely slippery and unsafe—they said that when they jumped, their feet hit the bottom!

Our waterfall tour guide turned out to have a bit of a crush on me and he quickly escalated to stalker status. I feel bad even writing about the situation but Kyle says it’s too funny to leave out. At first it was innocent enough, but then he started lurking around and knocking on our door several times a night after we’d said we were going to sleep. I’m sure he meant well, but it got to be way too much when he would demand to know who I was dating and why we couldn’t be together. The poor guy didn’t speak English, so imagine how difficult it was for me to break up with someone—in Spanish– who I was never dating on at LEAST 5 separate occasions. If I ever do have a Latin boyfriend and need to end things, I have the verbiage down pat.

Screen shot 2013-02-26 at 10.10.29 AMSan Salvador is located about 45 minutes away from Tunco, so we decided to take a day trip and check out the capital. We were all surprised at how clean and modern it was. From what we’ve seen of the main cities in Central America, most are comparable to Tijuana, but in San Salvador the roads and buildings are neat and attractive; we felt safe and visited several upscale shopping centers.

Kyle had to go back to San Diego for a couple days and we didn’t mind waiting for him in Tunco where we felt relaxed and looked-after. It was a rather uneventful week, though we had a lot of fun just hanging out. We each read 2-3 books and got to spend quality time with our Papaya crew.

Screen shot 2013-02-26 at 10.11.24 AMWe got to know the bus schedule pretty well and Meghan and I would often ride into La Libertad, the closest town, and load up on fresh produce and groceries to cook with. We had a great time whipping up creative salads and fresh seafood dishes. We would also bake desserts and sell some on the side! People started to take notice of our culinary creations and one day several friends approached us, asking if we’d consider cooking for other people. We thought it was a great idea so we planned a menu and headed toward the markets. For only $5 per person, we cooked up a fabulous meal consisting of a 9lb Red Snapper, marinated for hours in pineapple juice with ginger, jalapeno and garlic; fried plantains, rice and beans, tuna cakes, salad, and homemade garlic bread. We had a blast and everyone was full and happy.

What else? It seems funny that there isn’t more to write about after three weeks but to be honest we spent most of our time just chilling out. We had a few crazy nights out and Megs and I spent a lovely Valentine’s Day together. We went into San Salvador again to check out the Body Exhibit, which was really interesting and a lot of fun. We did some shopping and even decided to stick around and see a movie before catching the last bus home.

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It was extremely bittersweet when Kyle came back and it was time to move on. I felt strong pangs of nostalgia when the reality of leaving our new friends and temporary home hit me, but I know we will all keep in touch (and I’m sure many are on the same southbound journey!) I would love to post photos to accompany this blog post, but my phone was stolen last Saturday night… But that’s another story for another time!.

Posted on by Erica Duncan in El Salvador

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