A shattered runner ran into El Salvador after only 27km with his pack.
Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua I have discovered have some kind of a visa cartel of their. When you get a visa in one it’s good for all of the four. 90 days, I will be long gone before then. Costa Rica and Panama which are slightly larger countries and will take about 2-3 weeks each to run through have their own partnership.
No maps anywhere to be bought I have to make do with my hastily printed out google map from the route page. God love Google Maps… It’s a great concept but needs some refining. Sometimes they give a list of villages that I never come across.. Especially at border towns. Perhaps one reason is that I don’t always know where I am as often there are no village or town signs. Just about every bridge all the way from Tecate in Northern Mexico has two signs proudly proclaiming it but for some reason some places remain nameless.
Anyway I decide to use Playa Mizata as my base for about 3 days. No reason, perhaps because it’s a nice 70km away and with a bit of luck and some very helpful people I manage to get an early evening bus, great that will save me valuable daytime tomorrow as I just have to find one bus back to the border to continue and not there and back and the finding of a place to stay.
With the change of bus this journey takes the best part of two hours. I move from the left side of the bus to the right side just to study the hard shoulder. It’s great here 2 meters wide all the way through the country (same in Honduras) I also want to jot down any potential rest places and decide there are many and no need to record the km numbers. If this was a minibus in a sparsely populated I could even toss a drinking bottle out a window at an obvious marker for the return. The first time I did this I got carried away and threw it too far off the road.. We live and learn…Or die of thirst
I get talking to the man behind me. His name is John-Henry.
He told me he lived in the States for seven years. He was an illegal and used the coyotes, or a band of shady organized people to get him over the border. 7,000 dollars is the current rate. how do you know they will get you across and not abandon you as many of these people have done in the past, I asked. Apparently you pay half before and your family pays the other half when you get there… Seems a bit risky to me.
John-Henry tells me I can get a cheap hotel for about 40 bucks as the place is crawling with gringos, they love to surf all along the beautiful coastline.
I nearly throw up! There is no mistaking it 40 American dollars, El Salvador’s currency is the American dollar.
John-Henry works a couple of days a week in a hotel as an entertainer. He is on his way to Playa Mizata also. He tells me he is going to sleep with his girlfriend, Christy and his future in-laws, Celio and Mabel. All of Latin America is strictly Catholic. I muse over what he has told me, I reckon something got lost in the translation.
A phone call is made and I am invited too.. To stay, I mean!
Celio drives his own mini bus as an airport shuttle. They also live at the back of their simple shop. They are warm hearted kind people who instantly give me an energy drink and give me some egg and beans on tortillas.
They are very religious and tell me how much joy they get from going to church every evening, everyday except Saturday, that’s their day of rest. Yes I am sure something did get lost in that translation even though John-Henry and Christy will be getting married in December.
Christy’s sister got married in the summer. A voluntary group built an affordable home for them and will do so for John-Henry and Christy. Cost 85 dollars a month for 13 years.
MY GREAT EL SALVADORAN FRIENDS, CELLIO, JOHN-HENRY, CHRISTY AND MABEL
So Celio fixes a bed for me in the small modest living room. He hands me a bottle of bug spray that his American friends gave him.
” For the mosquitoes. ” He says.
So I spray it on my shirt,
John-Henry laughs and tells me to spray it on my skin. I tell him that I always thought I should spray it on my clothes as it sweats off skin.
So before I could stop myself big mouth Mangan spurts out, to much laughter…
” So are you and Christy don’t sweat this off and…..and the mosquitoes…They don’t.. They don’t…
I am digging a big hole for myself now and getting confused… Eventually as everyone is waiting for me to finish I spurt out…
” What I mean is…Are you saying the mosquitoes don’t bother you and they go for the clothes at the end of your bed! ”
Tony, that’s the dumbest thing you have said on the entire run… I put it down to foot impact on my brain.
On I run out of one persons life, just as fast as I ran into it.. This is life on the road the hardest part… meeting great friends but I know I gotta travel on.. They have played their part in making the run a reality.
The last few days the mornings have been hot, then in the afternoon and just like a fan it cools down and rains around 4 pm. It would be a good idea to get started earlier and off the road, sometimes I can, sometimes not, sometimes it just rains all day long.
A man called Oscar and his family stop for a chat. He tells me when I get to San Salvador I can stay with him.. He is surprised when I say I am not going there, too dangerous and besides it’s not on my route.
My camera stops working, rain damage the 3rd of the run.
Everyone stares, even the cows, horses and dogs stare. I am only ignored by the chickens. Yesterday I ran thru a small town. They had a marching band playing as they sat in the garden of a bar. The whole band stop playing, it was the real gringo stuff of spaghetti westerns.. I haven’t shaved in a few days , I haven’t seen a mirror in two countries and I swear if someone lights a match off my stubble and says.. ” So you think you are tough gringo punk! Well you just keep on running outs town …” I will just faint. Kids stare right up into my face. People move from one chair to another for a better view. Out on the road I can hear the scooters slowing down and just like clockwork I count one,two three,four,five,six,seven, eight, nine ten, yes go do it now, they always look back after ten, and then again..
I am very worried about my Spot tracking device as I run thru these countries. What if someone whips it off my arm? An old man in a shop has his eye pressed against it, he asks me what it’s for. I lie and tell everyone it takes pictures of everything just like Google and if I have a problem the police will know who to come looking for as they have been notified.
Then there are the dogs, everywhere, all the way from Mexico I have been hounded, sorry didn’t mean that! by them.. I think even an animal lover would be fed up with the constant yak-yaking.. They are almost hoarse and barking for the sake of it. Almost starved, I think some of these countries should have dogs on their flags.
My dog deterrent is constantly in my hand, ho to keep it dry, yes even in a plastic bag this rain is penetrable.. If anyone makes a suspicious movement on the road I reach for the dog deterrent, they don’t know what it is and I would bluff it as a weapon if needed.
A lot of the dogs just go running from me when I let a roar out… ” Cerra la boca! ” They don’t know I misspell that when I tell them to shut their mouths!
With the big ones I have to be fast on the draw as I look for the first thing I pack every morning. I mind that and the Spot tracker more than my passport… And that’s true.
I never mentioned what happened in Baja as I was still in the territory. Now I am out so what the heck…
Well it was a hot afternoon and I stopped for a refreshment at a ‘ quiet restaurant ‘ Quiet because it was locked up. There was a little terrier on the doorstep. I look at it, nice dog I am thinking as he hasn’t even barked or growled. I go to turn the doorknob and the little bastard without warning jumps up and nips my left leg. Without warning, I never heard anything like that. I remember the article I got in my bag, I printed it off the internet. Ringing in my ears were the words.. A bite from a rabid dog is ALWAYS fatal, the treatment at least would mean the end of the run. A few people have since told me this is not entirely true but then I did not know, I still don’ know for sure but then I went into a rage. I wanted to kil the mutt and nearly did, I won’t tell you what I did, he was fast enough to get away and I am sure he will not bite again!
Later I discover much to my relief that Baja is Rabies free. Now I will not tolerate a dog in a rabid area anywhere near me, no matter how innocent they are.
At a town near Cuyultitan I lose my mind in a rare supermarket and eat a huge Sunday lunch of Chocolate, bananas, biscuits, yogurt, sweets, a liter of juice and other goodies. Not surprisingly I get stomach cramps on the road and later that night thank God for the miracle of Imodium. Like an idiot I don’t drink much water that night to properly rehydrate after my poor 23km today.. If I keep this up I will loose my job as a journey runner. So next day a touch of dehydration, the old Baja rusty nail water.. 33km today… Tony get your act together!
Next day as I ran towards Usulutan I improved the average with a 53. It rained like Ireland every step of the way as I ran ankle deep in puddles, waited an hour after the bus driver changed his mind about stopping for me. Eventually one did and I sat beside a broken window, frozen with my legs cramped as I was sitting over a wheel covering of sorts, what a ding place to sit I smiled as I was rattled back to my hotel in the stinking clothes I haven’t been able to dry out in about 3 days now. How am I going to try and dry them if I wash them tonight I wondered.. Last week I had the luxury of a portable fan in my grubby room, I stuck the chair on the end of my bed overnight, hoping not to knock it off the bed as I slept as I had my clothes I washed in the sink hanging on the chair legs hoping the fan would dry them overnight… It worked but hard to sleep with a noisy fan. living the dream, nobody knows how tough this is.
All the forums will tell you a run like this gets easier as the run progresses. Yes it does that’s the easy bit, recharge the batteries…
Then there are the cold showers, the biting ants that are always waiting for you there, the mossies and how I have to scratch and rub my skin bone dry to get rid of the itch before I massacre about 200 ants for the third time before I go to sleep with a chair and fan up against my bed.
This is a great dream, isn’t it Tony? The way you thought it would be? Sure is, that was an easy day, every day has a different challenge, love the dream, it’s part of you.
The next day has a different challenge. I look at the map that Celio gave me, a rare map, It shows a short cut from Usulutan to San Miguel via San Jorge. I would knock about 15km off this day.. You know when the guide books tell you to stick to the main roads? Well I now I will forever believe they are telling you not to go to San Jorge, El Salvador.
I got stared all the 8km there, kids ran inside called out for their friends to look at the loco gringo.. An eerie feeling. Then a man went inside for his two dogs. He appeared to bring them out to greet me, I just looked at me and smiled as the dogs sniffed and barked closer and closer to me. The dog deterrent suddenly in my moment of need decided not to work. Rained out I discovered later. I threw one of my water bottles at one of them and managed to get away.
I have been told many people have been deported from America. Everyone assumes every gringo is American. Someone made this comment to the blog a few weeks ago, I never replied because I knew it would come up in the blog. Some people here hate the Americans, back on the coast they love them. What a contrast. If you are white you are American. Nobody stops to wonder could you be from a different country. When they are in America, Americans assume they are Mexicans. I also remember a hot dog seller telling me it was not wise to be running here as so many people have been deported from the States. He was angry that he was deported and now sells hotdogs and earns $3 a day. Other than these people everyone I met in El Salvador were so nice and helpful.
I stop at a police station to ask for an escort as at the local shop I am told it’s very dangerous further on. There are not many houses and not much traffic.
The cops in the station are not enthused. I am assured that it muy tranquillo here!
I ask them how are they going to explain to their mayor if something happens to me after reporting the dog incident. The tell me they cant because of the rain! What about me and the rain.. I am not asking them to run, just drive behind me for a couple of hours.
They are more interested in their lunch, I can tell as they keep looking over at the cooker with a stew in the pot. I waste an hour and tell them to stop asking silly questions like my age and leave. I leave my website card on their table for them to digest. Ten minutes later three of them catch up with me on the road. I am assured they just had to go and change. I wondered if they changed into their bullet proof vests.
On I ran but like the morning it was all uphill, some shortcut, just as well I don’t have Nirvana. Flooded roads in the torrential rain as I ran on and on and eventually downhill. It was hard going as I had to constantly keep changing my stride and route through and around the puddles, pot holes, around downed cables, garbage and dead dogs and even a horse that stank as the vultures hacked away at it’s loose skin. They always start to hack at one presumable loose spot on the animals body and you can guess what leaks all over the road.
Then the missing man hole covers that some council worker thinks is ok to leave off if he marks the area in yellow paint! Well what about the rain!
About 4km before I get out of this dump my shoe lase opens. I know if I stop to tie it they will be gone but sure, it’s too dangerous to run with it open. Sure enough the 3 overworked officers make their way back to their stew.
I make it to San Miguel and next day to Honduras. I see on the television and read about the storm running through Central America. Selfishly I worry about my run and road closures, it’s only a run but these people have to live through it, they are rooted here, no escape.
There go I but for the roll of a die I think and thank my lucky stars I was born in Ireland and not here. Does Ireland have more rain or do we have better drainage I wonder