Tacuba, El Salvador
The first class bus ride from Guatemala to El Salvador was a dream, with comfy seats, movies with English subtitles and decent scenery to look at. Immigration was a breeze, although somewhat time-consuming. We got chatting in line to a British man who was cycling from the top of Mexico right through Central America, and was planning on running an ultramarathon in every country for charity. Impressive.
Unfortunately our fantastic bus only took us part of the way to our destination, and it was a couple of chicken bus rides before we ended up in Tacuba. The buses were slow, crammed full of people and constantly stopping to let on vendors, selling a variety of food and drinks. Don't they realise that we wouldn't need the snacks if we could just keep going?
Sometimes you're not even sitting on a seat, you're just propped up by your neighbours.
Tacuba was our first introduction to the tasty Salvadoran snacks, pupusas. Corn or rice dough stuffed with endless possibilities: potatoes, cheese, beans, almost any vegetable and, if you're so-inclined, meat. You can point to what ingredients they have on offer and they will whip it up fresh for you. On a Sunday night in a small town, this was the only option we had, but it was a good one. At first we tried to buy three from a roadside stall (three was enough for a meal for one person). I was sure the woman said "vienticinco", which translates to 25, but I couldn't comprehend that these snacks were US$25. I thought I misheard and tried handing over a US$10 note but she wouldn't accept it. I showed her what change I had, and she pulled 25 cents from my hand. 25 cents. For a meal. We were dumbstruck. El Salvador is fantastic!
They may not look like much, but they are delectable and filling.
There was only one reason to visit Tacuba: to visit El Imposible National Park. In our case, it was to join the waterfall tour that takes place in the tropical forest. We didn't realise until it was too late that we could have stayed in a town much closer to the park where there was a lot more action, avoiding lifeless Tacuba. Too late now. After a two hour drive and picking up a Contiki group of uni students, we headed off into the wilderness. It was an hour of hiking downhill before we started hitting the falls, and then the fun began. The first couple were only 2-4 metres high and we all were brave enough to jump off the boulders at the top of the falls into the freezing water below. Slowly they became higher and higher, and more and more people were backing out, choosing to scramble down the rocks instead. Danny was one of those people. I was not. For me, the higher the better. And they did get high: the last jump was 12 metres. It may not sound that impressive, but when you're standing at the peak looking down it feels like you're on top of a skyscraper. It required a couple of steps as a run-up so we didn't hit the rocks jutting out from the cliff below, which increased the anxiety somewhat. Most people only just cleared them. After building up the nerves I launched myself into the air, and before I knew it I was deep underwater, kicking hard to break the surface. The adrenaline rush lasted most of the day.
I guess I'm never going to be an Olympic diver with a splash like that.
You know what else is great about El Salvador? $6 bottles of vodka. We may never leave.