12.20.08 Crossing El Amatillo Border into El Salvador
El Salvador Travel Blog› entry 45 of 57 › view all entries
12.20.08 Crossing El Amatillo Border into
Terrific day in
Border Details (skip to ***** to bypass border info)
We were early enough that although there were many trucks around, it was not complete chaos.
Then we parked where told and I told the Guide that I wanted to write down his name off his identification card. I then told him that I would only pay him, I would not pay any moribida or fee without a receipt, and that I would accompany him everywhere (just as Harriet instructs). He was fine with all that and excellent help.
We followed our guide to the Vehicle Office. For some reason, the guy there would not do my passport vehicle stamp yet, so our Guide took us to another building. We walked through women set up making breakfast on grills in the street for people to buy. It looked delicious, but we were taking care of business.
While there was a long line at that office, the Guide knew people and caught a woman walking in. She was going to open a window for him, but then a Vehicle Inspector walked up to our Guide, greeted him warmly, and immediately escorted us out to the RV. He did a quick check of the numbers and stamped my passport.
At this point, we went to change money only to discover that they use U.S. dollars in
Our Guide for El Salv also got his name written down.
The El Salv. Guide then showed me a road turning off to the Left. Everyone else was going straight to the gate. He pointed that we were to go left there to do our Vehicle for
A guard helped us park by a loading dock and we asked if that was the Vehicle area. We walked up the only concrete steps and noted a line of people on a bench waiting. There was a locked metal door and we waited by it behind another man. We sort of asked the bench people if we were to wait and they were very helpful in telling us what to do.
A man eventually opened the door (you can tap on it too with some keys) and he kindly gave us a paper to complete (all in Spanish) for our vehicle info. We took it back to the RV and used the former documents from other countries to complete the needed info. I can see where that is much less stressful than having someone ask the questions in Spanish while I sit there.
Then I took the paper back to the man in the secure room, provided all the copies that our Guide had us prepared and my passport, license, and title, and waited on the bench. The kids can wait in the rig during the vehicle paperwork, so they did schoolwork and Ned and I took turns getting CA books to read, looking at maps, getting breakfast, etc. An RV sure makes it easy to be comfy no matter where you are. We also talked a little with the people there and they gave road driving advice, assuring us that the police so omni-present in
Then after about 30-45 minutes, as the bench warmers slowly began to clear (and busloads of people came in and had to have luggage checked by dog-sniffing and bags opened and trucks unloaded one heavy bag at a time), I was motioned into the secured room.
As one man typed in the info that Iâ€™d completed on the sheet, the other officer provided terrific driving directions (which Iâ€™ll detail below). Then I showed him my GPS and he had a great time learning how to work it. It was really a fun time! I think all my copies that had been made at the copy shop were returned (or at least most of them), and I got some extras that must have come off the copier, so I returned those. I was given an original and one copy of my vehicle document, which I carefully checked for accuracy (the VIN, license plate numbers are the 2 biggies), and then signed.
I returned to the rig and a man with a bicycle cart was making some icies with ice, syrups, and sweetened condensed milk. They were only $.50 each (I thought heâ€™d said $2 each, not 2 for $1, but he made sure I understood that it was less than, after I handed him the money- very honest!), so as I kept adding to our order, I asked the Guard, whoâ€™d been standing there near our rig, watching and occasionally smiling if heâ€™d like one and he nodded, so I bought one for him too. We consider ourselves ambassadors and a little kindness goes a long way, both directions. I am grateful for every person that we meet who is kind to us. I hope this trip has made me a kinder person. Every single person we met today was very nice!
Then we headed back up to the intersection with the gate and although I was told to keep the original and give the Guard the copy, the Guard asked for the original as well, checked the vehicle numbers, gave both the original and copy back to us, and bid us a nice trip. Of course, we saw not one single gringo during our entire border crossing. In fact, I donâ€™t think weâ€™ve seen a gringo since we took the Canadians in our RV to
***** End of Border Crossing info
We stopped at the gas station, which is right at the large intersection where you turn Left to head south on CA-2. They had some terrific prepared chicken there for $3 per meal. We bought a terrific lunch and tipped the gas guys Diet Cokes, which they appreciated (along with $1 for our guy). Gas here is only $2.29 or so, which is much less than in
By the way, the border people love to hear that we love their country, that their â€śpais es bonitoâ€ť, the personas are sympatico, that we traveled throughout it and didnâ€™t just rush through or transit it, etc. Just make sure you compliment the right country. I did not realize that
In fact, everyone at that border crossing was very nice. Iâ€™ll tell you, hiring a Guide makes the border crossings a cultural experience, not miserable. I so wish weâ€™d had/used/found one when we first entered Mexico- Iâ€™m sure I would have felt better about the whole thing.
Driving route: CA2 south is a little roundabout, but it avoids the traffic of San Miguel, which is very busy and you cannot bypass it. The southern route was TERRIFIC. The roads were like
There are no other RVâ€™s on the road, no gringos. We took a picture the other day of the one truck camper that was waving ecstatically at us. They were the first real RVâ€™ers that weâ€™ve seen on the road south of the border. They had location stickers all over that thing, so I think they get around.
Anyway, we had a terrific drive. Not a single time were we stopped by police past the border! HOORAY! That is the most scary, miserable part of driving- the fear that something could go terribly wrong when I wonâ€™t turn over my license, etc. But we were left at peace today.
There is one place that Nuvi told us to turn Left, but we didnâ€™t and ended up on a mountainous, circuitous route to
Last night I researched road advice from other travelers and have a great plan. Road info is boring until you really need it and then it is priceless, so I plan to include it for future travelers.
We will stay on CA-2 all the way through El Salv, Guatemala, and into Mexico to the isthmus, which is the skinny part of Mexico, where weâ€™ll head north on as many fast tollroads as we can hit.
We hit the small town of
Iâ€™m still doing all the driving, since Iâ€™ve become accustomed to the roads and have learned the rules (or lack thereof) of the roads. I do not find the drivers particularly unruly once youâ€™re used to the system.
So we made it to the beach near La Libertad. We saw a sign for a beach and restaurant 7 km down a dirt road. The entrance to the road looked paved, but quickly became gravel, but it was wide enough and not overly bumpy. Well that is apparently the tourist road that Gene and Lee described and there were many restaurants with people eager for us to go in. We stopped along the road to talk to a few of them (there was very little car traffic- we seemed to be the only foreign tourists, although the area is popular for San Salvadorans escaping the city nearby). They were very friendly and attempted to be helpful when we explained that we wanted a place to overnight on the beach. They came up with places along the street, across the street, etc, but we persisted and told them it was â€śpossibloâ€ť weâ€™d â€śreturnoâ€ť for the restaurante. It was all very friendly and helpful.
The biggest surprise help, though, were the boys on bicycles who were very cute and helpful, some hanging on the rig mirrors so that I had to ask them to please let go and be careful. Well they rode ahead and came up with several options for us, including 2 that had overhead concrete arches. I had to laugh and exclaim â€śmuy grande!â€ť pointing to the RV so they understood we had a height restriction.
Then the third place we found in probably 3 driveways was a wonderful place! It had concrete driveway that is level, within a gated house yard. We are here now. It is $15 and we filled with water (very quickly when the auxillary pump was turned on). We were already parked when the 16-year-old girl in charge while her parents were out then added $3 per person on the $15, which I flatly refused with â€śno masâ€™. But, I said, we will eat dinner here at your restaurant (which they had indicated). She was very happy with that. I also tipped each of her brothers, whoâ€™d found us their place, $1 each. The GPS location is:
We had a terrific afternoon! We showed the kids around the RV, tried out the hammock, ordered our pollo (chicken) dinners for $5 each. Then we blew up our raft, put on our suits, and ran for the gorgeous beach right at the back of the property (50 yards from the RV). The
We bought some things from the locals to support their hard work and broaden our experience. We got roasted cashews, some kind of green mango seed (that our hostess ran and got salt for us to dip it into- we ended up donating the extra pieces to her- they were very sour), and some kind of flat pink bread thing. We didnâ€™t mean to buy it, but we donâ€™t understand the prices very well and gave her too much money. Rather than taking the $2 and running, she made sure that we got all we paid for. Given weâ€™d never know the difference, that was really honest of her. Some ladies and a 9-year-old girl with necklaces and bracelets bedecking their arms (that must get heavy) were asked to come back in an hour since we had no money on the beach. So they waited and we enjoyed buying some gifts from them, as well as a parrot statue made of painted shells from a cute little boy.
Our hostess set a lovely rustic table by the ocean, under the palapa, where we watched the sun set over the Pacific while eating a delicious chicken, rice, tortilla, and salad dinner. The palms swayed over the white sand and it was magical being together. A man came by with a towel-covered basket with some sort of fried puffs in them. We thought it was $1 for 2 puffs, but it turned out to be $1 for 2 bags of 4 puffs each. We still donâ€™t know what they were- some were filled with a bean dip and some with plantano (large bananas) cream. They were not our favorites, but they were interesting and our every interaction with the El Salvadorans has been a true joy. They are not at all pushy or aggressive and every one of them made sure we got what we paid for. Their refreshing spirit helps my own.
We took a walk on the beach while the stars came out, saw the lights twinkling down the bay from a nearby town, and returned to the RV to head early to bed. Weâ€™ll try to cross into
But as Ned said, â€śPersonal safety is pretty high on the Maslowâ€™s Hierarchy of Needs.â€ť Yes indeed! And driving CA1 through
I am SO very grateful that Ned is with us! I feel like the opportunity to drive with him through those awful areas of CA-1 with the corrupt police was worth shortening the trip. While I did all the talking to the police, his presence gives me peace and knowing that if something happened to me or my Driverâ€™s License, that he could drive or help the kids, made me feel safer too.
Do I feel like Ned is rescuing us? Admittedly and Iâ€™m grateful that he can because I was dreading driving Panama and 7 border crossings alone to get back home, not to mention experiencing the fear that grips when you round the corner and thereâ€™s a police stop that could take hours or worse. It is not the people that are the real security scare, but the corrupt police on the street. They have way too much power and pick on gringos.
Do I feel like I got us a bit too deep into
It is ironic that my first Nicaraguan police incident in Masaya (followed by about 10 more incidences yesterday between Nic and
Anyway, I hope that Iâ€™m about done having to outsmart the police. Weâ€™ll likely have more opportunities in
I know one woman who would blow through police stops, particularly if they donâ€™t have a police car there. I need to be alert for the car and possibly act accordingly. If they radio ahead, I guess I could explain that I thought they were crooks. Wonder how that would go over? She never said what happened after she did that. I did have someone in
Anyway, one time this lady blew through the police check and it turned out they were stopping traffic because an aircraft needed to emergency land on the highway and she barely outran the landing plane!
We all summarize based on feelings during snapshots of touring:
My advice is to avoid at least southern
Weâ€™ve been extremely impressed with
But they seem very rich in spirit and friendship. They were all are out socializing, riding the Chicken Bus, and enjoying the markets this Saturday. We saw a large gathering in a small town and each of the townsfolk had on red Santa hats! It likely was a town Christmas party. In fact, the country seems like an energetic, rather happy place right now.
El Salvadorans are known for being industrious workers and savvy business people. I would predict good things to come for this country, based on the admittedly little that I know.