Metapan and Santa Ana, El Salvador... What now??
Nov 29, 2004
|Having got back to the hotel early after my little adventure to Esquipulas Basilica, looked in my Lonely Planet to see what else there is to do. Could either head northwards towards Rio Dulce, stopping at places of interests or joining Emmy and Sara - one of my very first friends from Antigua who are now doing some voluntary work at an orphanage in Rio Dulce. It seems like a very nice place to chill out... because Spanish school wsa too exhausting!
Found that I had previously bookmarked Chiquimula in my Lonely Planet, as the gateway into El Salvador. In fact, it is also near the Honduran border, so it is actually possible to dip into El Salvador, see a couple of towns, volcanoes (have been put off by volcanoes since the San Pedro incident), lakes then take the chicken bus up into Honduras - described as the best journey by the Lonely Planet, then looping back into Guatemala for Rio Dulce.
So with excitement, worked out the exact route (journey time, costs, timetable of buses) in my little sketchpad, and went to sleep happy.
The next morning, was very proud of the way managed to execute my plan very well. Didn't get lost, and crossed my first border solo (albeit with a little help from a helpful old Salvadoran lady, who decided to make sure I get on the right bus with all my luggage). The only bit I got stuck at was finding the hotel (there wasn't a map of Metapan in my guidebook), and obviously chose to ask some policemen, who were standing directly opposite the hotel...
Although a little pricey, the room was nice and enjoyed a nice, hot and thorough shower - much needed, as felt very filthy in the hotel at Chiquimula. Also bought some food from the street venders before boarding the bus to Santa Ana, an 1.25hours away, the second largest city in El Salvador, but reputed to be much nicer.
The bus station was inconvienently situated away from the town, but managed to walk into the city centre, where the sights of interests were, without help! in about 20 minutes. Yes, the town was somewhat shabby, and there were many 'security guards' holding guns, but it didn't feel particularly dangerous. It was actually quite good fun.
Santa Ana may be the second largest city in El Salvador, but there is only a very small bit worthy of tourist interests. Basically some of the buildings around the Central Park; including the neo-Gothic Cathedral, the City Hall and the Teatro de Santa Ana.
In fact, the Teatro doesn't look very interesting, as there were scaffolds outside for the restoration. However, the inside is open to visitors. At the time of my visit, there were a couple of art exhibitions, and also a Korean film festival. I was there shortly before the film was shown, and enjoyed a few moments sitting in the various upper box seats in the theatre. Reminded me of my oprea going days (ok, 3) in Dresden! Unfortunately, I had to leave before the film began, if I was to catch the last bus back to Metapan before dark.\
Was very proud of the way I counted all the number of blocks to walk correctly to the bus station. It was at the terminals that I had problem. I couldn't find the right bus, and everyone was telling me different things. Having clarfied with many people that the stop I was waiting at was for Metapan, was slightly put off to see all the seats were taken already on the bus.
Luckily only had to stand for about 15 mins before I could sit down. The thing with being a female solo traveller is that the locals (men) are very interested in talking to you. This guy tried to extend our very limited Spanish conversation, and when he got off the bus, someone else almost immediately took his place. I wasn't very happy, as he wsa smoking a cigarette - having long been used to smoke free buses.
After a long and tiring conversation, where I wasn't making sense to him, and I had no clue what he was talking about, he broke the good news to me. I was on the bus. The bus was going to Ahuachapan, towards the west of the country, almost into Guatemala. My hotel was in Metapan, towards the north of the country (please see the detailed map of El Salvador to see the extent of my blunder).
I hadn't spoken English for two days, and I am sorry to say, my first words in English began with F.... Ohmigod, he was kidding me right?? That's not happening, cos I didn't really know what he was talking about the whole time, right??? He very kindly (though by now, I was getting extremely cautious) said he would take me back to Santa Ana and walk me to a hotel, though he lived in Santa Ana... "No, I will choose the hotel from my guidebook, thankyou very much!!" By now, he has given up speaking in Spanish, but using elaborate sign languages which really annoyed me, and I just wanted him to go away and let me find my own taxi to a hotel!
But he insisted on walking me there (he reassured me, he would go home after, though he gave me his address making me promise (I didn't) to send him a card or call him. I wanted to jump in a taxi, but found myself following him (luckily, only had my day pack) and praying that I would see the sign for Hotel Livingston soon. Luckily he was genuine and helped me check into the hotel, saying I should sleep early and take the first bus back to Metapan the next day.
So although some travellers have their reservations about going into El Salvador because of security issues, the only bad thing that happened to me was my own fault. And I managed to experience first hand the kindness, generosity and patience of the locals.