My day started a little after 7, waiting at Texaco, where all the buses stop/roll by as they shout out where they are going. (Unfortunately this is not the best time to ask questions about where exactly they are going. If the answer is yes you will get a 'suba, suba!!' which means 'get on!!')
I made a decision this morning to avoid going to Tegucigalpa. According to the ladies at the hotel I had to go there, but that was followed by 'make sure you watch your stuff and don't show anything of value and take off your jewelry...'. They thought Tegucigalpa was dangerous, so you can imagine what they thought of me going to El Salvador...'why are you going? Do you have family there?'. I didn't mention the sea turtles because I doubt they thought that was a valid reason to risk my life. (The function of the media worldwide is to sensationalize the news and to invoke fear.) I suppose that partially affected my desire to avoid going, but really it was because I heard from a taxi driver I could go through Langue Valle and everyone else I spoke with agreed that this was a possibility. But there was absolutely no information about it on the internet, so I wanted to see if it was true.
While I was standing there an employee on the Tegucigalpa bus tried to convince me it would be faster if I just went there and then to El Amatillo. But when I told him I was trying to avoid Tegucigalpa he just shrugged and agreed. I am sure it would have been fine if I went but there is not one terminal in Tegucigalpa and I didn't want to get dropped off at the wrong one. And, like I said, this seemed like more fun.
The bus came at 8, and what I heard was true. The Langueños bus, which stops at Comayagua, does go all the way to El Amatillo, the El Salvadoran/Honduran western border. The trip was 5 1/2 hours and cost 140 lempiras (about 7$).
I stopped at the 'salida' window for my Honduras exit stamp.
I then walked over to customs at El Salvador to check in at the 'entrada' window.
As I was walking one of the customs agents asked me if I was going to sing. I was confused at first but then remembered my banjo. I told him that I don't sing, I play. He said that was okay, he could sing...
When I got to the window the employee checked me in and didn't give me a stamp! I asked him where the stamp was but he said I didn't need one. I said 'are you sure?'. He said 'yes' but I told him that I really think I needed a stamp. He showed me my 90-day visa and said that with this visa I don't need a stamp. It is good for four countries; Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras, and all I need to do is check in at the airport when I leave. He really seemed like he knew what he was talking about but I can't help but be skeptical. Maybe it was his first day, or he read the same online article that I read when I was misinformed and missed a Guatemala entry stamp...
Time will tell!
From the border I took a bus to Santa Rosa, and then another to San Miguel, and then another to Usulután.
And then I took another to my hotel.
Actually what happened is that when we arrived at the bus terminal in Usulután I saw that there were no taxis. So I asked and they said that there are no taxis, and that if I wanted a taxi I should have got off at central park (the stop before). Since there were no taxis on the road either they recommended that I wait and take a bus back to the park. While I was waiting a nice lady who was waiting along side me asked what I needed to do. She then found the bus, waved it down and told them where to take me. While on the bus back to the park to find a cab the bus driver asked where specifically I was going, and then said he could drop me off there (the hotel is bit outside of town).
When I arrived I found out that the hotel restaurant was closed so I walked to find food. There was nothing and it was getting dark (I really barely made it on time, as the long distance buses stop running at sunset) so I stopped into Texaco. (My day started and ended at a Texaco.) They hardly had anything that would resemble dinner so I got a few snacks and decided to get a cup of noodles and hope that the hotel would heat up some water for me. As it turned out the Texaco employee asked me if I wanted him to prepare the noodles. He had probably never seen someone so excited and so thankful about ramen noodles. When I walked back it was dark. Although the hotel has seen better days the hotel employee gave me the room right next to the office, which I am sure is because he wants me next to the security guard.
Salvadorans are great people. It is such a shame that gangs have absolutely ruined this country, and its reputation.
The history of their gang problem is interesting. In short, during El Salvador's civil war many fled to large US cities like Los Angeles. There they had to form gangs in order to protect themselves from the gangs that existed there. After the civil war they were deported and took the gang culture with them, needing a way to survive in El Salvador as many didn't even speak Spanish. As of now there are about 60,000 gang members in El Salvador (and 10,000 more in prison), in a country with a population of 6 million.