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"Needless to say many of
the locals whom I engaged in conversation were none too impressed by the
manner in which their country is described and many travellers avoid it on
the basis of this information alone."
- Ken Foreman
Spreading the good word about El Salvador
I am Australian and visited El Savador last year. As anyone who has visited will tell you the country is beautiful and there are no friendlier people but unhappily there is much misinformation about and the geography of Central America means that E.S. is easily avoided when travelling from Mexico to Panama or vice versa.
Many travellers are loathe to go to a country which still gets such bad press. The Lonely Planet's dissertation begins "El Salvador's name alone evokes images of the chaotic civil war...." and hardly has a positive word to say throughout the text. Nevertheless, this is the volume which I and almost all budget travellers use on their journey. Needless to say many of the locals whom I engaged in conversation were none too impressed by the manner in which their country is described and many travellers avoid it on the basis of this information alone.
I, like many hundreds of other backpackers, was completing a diving course on the island of Utila off the coast of Honduras. I had travelled from Mexico and it was always in my plans to visit El Salvador. I had even obtained my visa, only required by E.S., of all the C.A. countries, in Australia before my departure. I attempted to find other travellers who had visited or were to visit E.S. Of those same many hundreds diving on Utila, I could find not a soul in either category. All I heard were heresay stories of problems and dangers from messengers of doom who had no intention of ever visiting there. I began to believe the propaganda. Then on the day I was leaving Utila, I met an American named Alex on the wharf who said he was heading toward E.S. I had even decided to skip E.S. altogether and head instead to Costa Rica with two Dutch girls and a Canadian guy. They were heading to Tegucigalpa to catch the direct international bus to San Jose. I changed my mind again. I do that a lot when travelling but usually find that I should have gone with the initial plan. This, as you know was to be the case again. I was headed to E.S.!
My new found friend then decided he wanted to visit country Hounduras. Very nice indeed but not in my plans. Still, compromise is the name of the game, so I was compliant and did enjoy myself. Alex ran out of time and headed back to Guatemala and I was left to the delights of E.S on my own. I thanked him when we met again in his home town of San Francisco (Calif. not Gotera E.S.which beats the pants off it anyway)for without him I would never have made it.
I stayed in Ximena's guest house in San Salvador and heard no more horror stories there, than anywhere else that I travelled in C.A. In fact, far fewer than in what Americans consider to be safest and I consider to be the most dangerous of all the C.A capitals, San Jose Costa Rica. All I heard there were tales of bag snatching, mugging and tourist scams and in fact it was the only place on a world tour where I was ripped off. Too many easy tourists just waiting to be plucked, I think. Nevertheless, even normally hesitant Americans seemed to think that they were safe . How does Costa Rica receive its decidedly undeserved reputation? The same question should be asked of San Salvador's notoriety for danger.
During my whole tour I met only one other like minded traveller. He was a Greek backpacker and the first of that nationality I have seen anywhere in the world.
I had probably the richest cultural experience in El Salvador of anywhere on the entire trip. I was invited by Enoc, a native, to stay in his house in the village of Guatajagua(I hope the spelling is correct) near Morazan. I can only think with amusement at the possibility of the same thing occurring in my own country! He even supplied the transport from the Playa El Cuco on the Pacific coast. I met all his relatives and half the town besides. I really had an insight into the culture and people of El Salvador.
Everywhere I went people would stop what they were doing in order to help me with language, give me directions or in most cases lead me personally to the bus stop. They too warned me of the peril in which I was never to find myself. That has never happened to me consistently, as it did in El Salvador. The lack of travellers was also a virtue because you get the feeling that you have the country all to yourself. I had a wonderful time.
Sorry for raving on, as is my wont but the main thrust of this is to spread the "good word" about El Salvador far and wide.
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