Playa El Tunco, El Salvador
Our bus ride to Playa El Tunco was slightly entertaining. A clown came on board and started performing magic tricks. We learned that day that clowns transcend language barriers (for better or worse).
Everyone's gotta make a living.
The beach! A proper swimming beach, with long stretches of black sand, few people and no smelly seaweed. It had been weeks since we had seen the water and we were glad to be back on the coast. It was worth putting up with that clown for half an hour.
There were only two streets in the town, both lined with restaurants and surfboard rental shops. After grabbing a delicious veggie-filled burrito, we hit the pool in the hostel to get some respite from the extremely hot and humid conditions. Why didn't we swim in the beach? Have you ever tried walking on black sand in the middle of the day? I can tell you now, you come away with third degree burns on the soles of your feet. The was a reason the beach looked empty when we arrived. Later that afternoon, once the surface temperature was somewhat manageable, we headed down. The water was warm and a few waves had started to roll in, which Danny took as his cue to rent a surfboard. He was a keen surfer in his younger days but I had never tried it. I was content to kick back watch Danny attempt to relive his glory days.
No such luck. Danny immediately offered to give me a lesson, and by offered I meant insisted. Repeatedly. His lesson consisted of two instructions. 1) Get on. 2) Stand up. Armed full of knowledge I swam away from the shore and endeavored to do what everyone else seemed to be doing with ease: surf.
If Danny could do it, so could I.
It turned out that I was not a natural surfer. After falling off a couple of times I managed to stand up on my third go, and lasted all of five metres. I was brimming with confidence after this minor success, yet my progress halted here. Over maybe 30 more attempts I only stood up on the board a handful of times, each one in the whitewash and not travelling far (if anywhere). As reluctant as I was to try, and as terrible as I was, I had loads of fun.
We celebrated our epic failures (Danny was not much better than me) with cocktails on the beach. We stared at the pros as they carved up the waves and watched the sky turn various shades of pink. Three local gentlemen, armed with guitars, stood in the middle of the sand and serenaded the beachgoers with Latin American music of bygone days. I had never heard of any of the songs before, but it was beautiful to listen to.
Following a giant wok-in-a-box dinner, we took a night stroll along the sand, absorbed by a lightning show taking place on the horizon. It didn't rain on us but it did kill the power at our hostel for the night. Did I mention that El Tunco was by far the hottest place we had visited on our travels? No electricity = no fan = pools of sweat = little sleep = not happy.
As if sweating all night wasn't enough, I attempted to go for a run along the main highway in the morning. I don't think I have ever run in such muggy conditions. It was horrible - for me, and anyone else within 10 metres of me. Swimming was a much more sensible option.
All day we waited for the surf to pick up so we could get out in the waves again (yes, the surfing bug had bitten us). I was sure I could improve on yesterday's performance and was ready to prove to the world that I was an all-round natural athlete. Once again, it was the third wave that made me think this was actually possible. I caught it all the way to the beach, even leaning slightly to turn. That burst of adrenaline was possibly my downfall. I didn't even come close to properly catching another wave. The best I could do was stand up for a couple of seconds before the board went flying out from underneath me and I got dunked beneath the water. There were more cocktails to celebrate/commiserate.