Finally left Zacapa! To Santa Ana, El Salvador - Central America - CycleBlaze

December 26, 2022

Finally left Zacapa! To Santa Ana, El Salvador

Finally, after two days of no riding over Christmas Eve and Christmas with hardly any food around, waiting out the storm, and Montezuma's Revenge behind me (no pun intended), I was excited to get out of Zacapa!  The forecast called for perhaps a bit of rain this morning still, so, that with the possibility of rain and wind on this nasty uphill ride to the border with no shoulder, I was glad to pay my AirBNB host's neighbor the equivalent of another rare AirBNB and a night ($100) in between Zacapa and the border for him to take me the 85 miles up the hill.

This was a really bike-unfriendly road, with no shoulder at all, and very narrow lanes.  I was seriously concerned about what this road looked like when it continued on the other side of the border, since there are no Google Street Views in El Salvador yet.  But first - the border station!

I had researched the US State Department website and the only other two land border crossings between Guatemala and El Salvador west of here to the coast, Including the Pan American Highway, are closed due to protests there (of gas prices and such), so I was expecting long lines from re-directed traffic.  I had heard that the border between Guatemala and El Salvador was the easiest, and indeed it was super easy!  I didn't even have to fill out any form!  Just stood in line for about two minutes, handed the agent my passport who was super friendly, and I was off - no El Salvador immigration or stamp either!  I heard that Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua share kind-of a EU passport process.  We'll see if its that easy to get out of El Salvador.  Back to the road now...

It was very uphill coming out of the border station, but it did not last long - maybe a mile or so.  And so the road quality compared to the Guatemala side?  Absolutely gorgeous!  All concrete with a wide shoulder - no "curb" whatsoever, for the entire 40 miles into Santa Ana!  Who Hoo!  This made me so happy, especially it being downhill too (but with a slight headwind).

It was nice seeing everything in dollars again.  Yes, El Salvador (and Panama, Peru, Bolivia, and a few other countries) use the US dollar as their primary currency.  Although I had heard that El Salvador was trying to Switch completely to Bitcoin as their primary currency.  I say Bitcoin signs everywhere.  I don't know if street vendors had wallets, but maybe - I didn't see any of those transactions though.

A quick summary comparison for where I've been so far:

Best roads for cycling: MX 307 from Cancun to Bacalar - hands down the best technical quality road for cycling I've seen anywhere in the world.  Although, is flat - so kinda boring, and very ugly with trash everywhere.

Best country for plants/flora: That's a tough one.  Probably Belize and Guatemala, just because I like the jungle.  Mexico and El Salvador so far are much more desert-like.

Best county for animals: Probably Belize and Guatemala again, because of the (dead) alligator in Belize, and Coatimundi in Guatemala, and monkey noises in both places.  Then, Mexico next for all the iguanas.  I haven't seen that much in El Salvador yet.

Cleanest county:  Believe it or not, I'd have to say El Salvador so far, followed by Guatemala, then Belize, then finally Mexico.  Make no mistake, none are actually clean-looking though - with plastic bottles everywhere, many of them filled with pee and capped off.  I mean, what are these people thinking?  What a shame to destroy the looks of such beautiful scenery.  

Friendliest to cyclists: Maybe its just where I've been, but I'd have to say its really a 4-way tie, but maybe the edge to Guatemala, which is where I head drivers were the worst in all of Central America.  Lots of semi's there (I have not seen any train tracks anywhere yet), but they did their best to accommodate me even where there was not much of a shoulder.  In every country so far, lots of thumbs up out the windows and friendly honks (its fine - they don't know bike etiquette) and I always felt very encouraged and never like I was holding up traffic.

Friendliest in general: 4-way tie.

Best internet: Its sketchy everywhere.

Gas prices: El Salvador - about $4.00/gallon.  Guatemala - about $6.00/gallon (and its actually priced that way, even though the rest of everything is in metric).  Belize - about $7.00/gallon.  Mexico - I have no idea - that is way too much converting of money and liters and such.

Best license plates: El Salvador - hands down.  It looks like they actually attempted to make theirs look pretty, unlike just satisfying an obligation like everyone else.

My Christmas dinner - this time with bottled water in my noodles (but still no microwave)
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Loaded up and ready to go!
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Along the way to the border
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That family who took me to the border station. Francisco, Jason (son), and little Maria who was so well-behaved. Que lindo! They also wanted a picture of me on their camera too.
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It took my a whole lot longer to lock my bike (see it back there?) than to make it through the rest of the process. That window was the beginning and end.
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There's the border station down there. I climbed up pretty high pretty fast.
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I just liked the flower tree here. Okay brain trust, somebody jump in here with what kind that is :)
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Bill ShaneyfeltCan't tell for sure without a closeup of flowers and leaves, but it might be the national tree of El Salvador, a “Maquilishuat” tree.

https://www.elsalvadortips.com/national-tree-of-el-salvador

----->Bill
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1 month ago
Ken DyckmanThanks for all your comments and knowledge of the plants here, Bill!
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3 weeks ago
Just look at the quality of that road! It was like that for 40 miles! With that kind of investment in infrastructure, I'm encouraged for the rest of my travels in El Salvador.
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Fireworks vendors
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That's a 50 meter long, very wide roll of firecrackers - $175
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Check out that wifi password.
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Best room I've stayed at so far - and big!
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A regular shower - whoo hoo!
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View from my room. Second floor is generally bad for lugging everything up, but it means there are less ants usually.
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Such creative towel art!
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Watch that step, kids! Near my hotel.
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Another outdoor shopping district. These seem popular. What do they do when it rains most of the year?
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Built in 1575, part of the Santa Ana Cathedral was destroyed by lighting in the 19th century and had to be re-built.
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I sat down for a bit inside the cathedral to meditate and see what its like to be a local.
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Theater
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Today's ride: 40 miles (64 km)
Total: 732 miles (1,178 km)

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