Part four of my introduction to travel continues as we grab a bus into El Salvador and take introductory surf lessons on a rocky beach in El Tunco. The bus ride is long and twists and winds through mountainous territory and dusty towns on the way to our destination. We pass cows wandering through the streets, small seaside restaurants and beautiful scenery while listening to a Spanish radio station that cuts in and out as we round curves in the road. When we finally arrive in the small town of El Tunco, it is late in the day and we try to find a hostel. There is one available for about $20 a night and we decide to take it despite the fact that it doesn’t have air conditioning. Big mistake. Our first night in El Salvador is very hot. Being that close to the ocean, the humidity is almost unbearable after the higher elevation found in Guatemala. I consider sleeping outside on a hammock but decide against it due to mosquitoes.
We are up early the next morning and book some surfing lessons with a couple of local kids that are half our age. They are agile on their boards and as comfortable in the ocean as they are walking around town. The boards they use are short, but we rent long, foam surf boards that make it easier for beginners like us to catch a wave. After many attempts and some scraped up knees from ditching the board and landing on the rough sand and rocks, both Matt and I finally catch a wave and ride it (almost) into shore. We decide to take a break and grab some papusas for dinner and head over to a bar called Jaguar’s for some beer and live music. After a while, Matt jumps up on stage and plays an acoustic rendition of Dazed and Confused by Led Zeppelin.
We surf for a few more days, catching only a few waves our entire time there. The ocean is rough for beginners and the landing is treacherous due to rocks so after this we decide to move on to San Salvador and then take a bus out to Leon Nicaragua. Amar and Scott, the two English dudes we met in Guatemala meet up with us here. Scott has to head back to Belize to meet his girlfriend, so Amar decides to hang with us for the rest of the trip. Our last night in El Tunco is spent on the beach watching the sun set and drinking Flor de Caña rum with the English guys and a couple of Australian girls we met on the surf.
The ride to San Salvador is by chicken bus, a colorfully painted repurposed school bus which ferries locals from the market to the city. The ride is super cheap and as comfortable as a school bus can be, lasting only a few hours until we make it into the city. Matt starts to feel unwell on the trip and by the time we get to San Salvador he needs to rest in a room for a while. Our tickets to Leon are already booked, so he tells us to go ahead and says he’ll catch up with us in Nicaragua.
Amar and I start out on a ten hour overnight bus ride that takes us through Honduras and into Nicaragua. It is nearly impossible to get any sleep with the bus attendant constantly handing out customs cards and the constant stopping and starting of the bus as they pick up and drop off passengers. When we finally get to Leon, we decide to book a couple of beds at Bigfoot hostel for a good price. We party pretty hard that night. We meet a bunch of people from all over the world and grab drinks and dinner with them before jumping in the back of an open back truck to take us down to Camaleon, a dance club in town. It is past three am when I finally stumble my way back to the hostel and crash for the night.
We touch base with Matt the next day who informs us that he will meet us in Costa Rica, as the bus schedules aren’t going to line up to meet here in Nicaragua. To kill some time, we book another volcano tour with a couple of Swiss guys, some Californians, and an Aussie girl. The walk isn’t nearly as difficult as the last one. The climb uphill is quite gradual and we stop often to take breaks. We relax underneath of a tree for about an hour until the sun dips below the mountains and we start the final hike to the mouth of the volcano. We are able to walk right up to it, taking care to have the wind at our backs so the sulfuric smoke rising from the depths doesn’t overcome us. We lie down on our stomachs and peer over the edge of the crater, which is about an acre wide and around 250 feet deep. The crater walls are straight down, and the lava glows in the darkness, growling and burning. It sounds like an airplane taking off from a runway and we watch it for a long time. Our guide assures us that this volcano hasn’t erupted in many years, but it reminds me a caged beast waiting to be released from its bars.
We finally hike down in the darkness and have a few more drinks before heading to bed. The next day finds us on a bus to San Jose Costa Rica to meet up with Matt. I have to leave to fly back home as my time is up, but Matt and Amar head further down into Costa Rica for more adventures...
And that’s it! This has been the fourth and final part about my first trip outside of Canada. It was a trip to remember and the beginning of a travel addiction that has led me into many different cultures, countries and ways of viewing the world. It was the beginning of a different perspective and the beginning of a knowledge that can’t be found in text books or in college educations. Sometimes you just have to experience the world for yourself. Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this please leave a comment below.
Jonathan Beam is the author of Crimson Morning - The Philosophy of Travel, available on the member page by signing up above. He is a blogger who writes about travel, adventure and philosophy. He has also written a novel that is currently under consideration to be published!