After 10 days in El Paredon we were ready to go and so were our new Hungarian friends, Viki and Balazs. We packed up and hit the road for El Salvador, and the mushy beginner friendly point break in El Tunco. The Guatemala-El Salvador border is the worst border crossing I have experienced on the Pan American. It’s also one of the few times I’ve feared for the safety of my companions and myself. The border line was chaos, with trucks parked three abreast leaving no space for traffic coming the other way or for us to pass as we normally do. Getting through was a duck and weave ordeal, squeezing through on the shoulder or in any gap I could find between semis. People were screaming directions at me in Spanish which I mostly didn’t understand. Squeezed between two trucks, the left one passed so close it ripped off my passenger side mirror. All of this was intense but not particularly dangerous. Shortly after losing my mirror though, I was waiting for a window to go again when the door to the semi next to me opened and the driver jumped out armed with a machete. Close behind him was the driver ahead with a steel pipe. Soon there was a small gang of truckers gathered behind our camper screaming and waving various hand weapons at each other. Jessa saw a man attacking another guys truck with a machete. All of this was brought about by one trucker rear ending another. Apparently this is how such disputes are settled in Guatemala. A concerned looking local man told us in broken english to get in our car and lock the doors which we would have gladly done, but for the fact that we were one person short. Viki was not with us. Jessa and I stayed in the car and Balazs went to look for Viki, but he came back empty handed. Eventually traffic moved and we had little choice but to flow forward. We were all worried as the stress of getting through the boarder line was quickly eclipsed by concern for the well being of our friend. I’m not sure how long it took, but eventually we made it almost to the front of the line. There was Viki, waiting patiently for us to get there. We all breathed a sigh of relief. After an understandable heated discourse in Hungarian things returned to normal and we passed through the border smoothly. We cranked up some Odesza and cruised the beautiful Africa like El Salvadorian country side.
We arrived in El Tunco just as dark fell and got set up at Hostel Mopelia. It features what might be the best beer selection in Central America. In the water the next day, we got all but skunked at the overcrowded break. It was discouraging, but not ready to give up Balazs and I changed our approach and started surfing outside of peak times. We’d get in the water a first light and surf for an hour before the spot became a zoo, then we’d brave the sun and sweltering heat of mid-day. All the better if it was a bit blown out. With thinned out crowds we were able to get on waves and progress. By the end we could even come out at peak time and squeeze a wave of two in between the local shredders. The girls progressed too after getting some excellent lessons from a local surfer.
A week in it all stopped for me as I fell ill with Chikungunya, a mosquito born virus similar to Dengue Fever. For the next four days I was confined to the achy horizontal plane, popping tylenols to keep the fever down. During the worst of it Jessa woke up every two hours to check my fever which was pushing 40 degrees.
By day five I was OK to travel and we all hit the road again, bound for El Cuco. We had heard that the beach break there was mellow and perfect for beginners. We stayed at the sprawling Tortuga Verde, part beach resort for well off locals and part hostel for budget travellers. Suffice it to say the place was in the midst of a perpetual identity crisis. The owner Tom, repeatedly self proclaimed ex-pipe surfer from Hawaii, was friendly and helpful but also narcissistic to the extreme and the uncontested captain of space cadets. None the less he let me use their tools and materials for free to make some much needed repairs to the camper.
The surf at El Cuco was in fact very nice, and Jessa enjoyed it especially. A week after falling ill it was the perfect place for me to get back in the water for some mellow rides. Health back to 90% we decided to make for Nicaragua. Leaving Tortuga Verde we convoyed with a Brazilian named Caju (pronounced Cashew), a german girl named Vickey, and a dutch guy named Paul. We were glad to have company for what would prove to be a gruelling travel day, including two border crossings. First El Salvador to Honduras, and then Honduras to Nicaragua. We left early the next day, but not without a little souvenir from Tortuga Verde. Jessa and I both woke up with food poisoning. It made for a shitty 14 hour travel day. By the end of the day we were thoroughly exhausted, and the local accommodation was full. Luckily a South African yacht captain named Thomas let us crash at his place. After an epic travel day we were set up on the Nicaraguan coast close to The Boom.
The Boom has been surfed triple overhead and is legendary for it’s fat lip and it’s resulting tendency for breaking boards and bones alike. We didn’t go anywhere near it. Instead we scrounged for waves at a mellow beach break nearby.
There wasn’t enough swell to hold us there though, so after a few days we convoyed on to Leon. There we enjoyed some fantastic street food, and checked off the touristy but fun volcano boarding box.
Traveling at a break neck pace we moved on from Leon and headed to Las Penitas. We stayed at a party hostel there called Bigfoot where we surfed some harsh closed out beach break, celebrated Caju’s birthday, tried not to puke after taking hands down the most painful shot I have ever experienced; the hostel specialty “Lava shot”, and bought a whole tuna off a fisherman for 5 dollars. That turned out to be the highlight as it lead to an awesome group lunch event. Still moving fast we said goodbye to Las Penitas and hit the road again, further south down the coast.