On the buses: El Salvador style

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

We rose early on a clear Honduran morning with possibly an overly ambitious plan.

To travel from Gracias, Honduras, to a small town on the South-East coast of El Salvador called El Cuco in a single day.

This would potentially involve six different buses and one border crossing, however there was a catch. We needed to make it to San Miguel before 4pm, as this was when the last bus to El Cuco ran for the day.

It was a tall ask from the outset, but we resolved to give it a go.

Our first bus was set to leave at 6am, so nice and early we were at the Gracias bus depot, on board and ready to go (as the bus was already sitting there waiting when we arrived). Only 6am passed and we didn’t leave… as did 6:10, 6:20 and 6:30 with still no movement!

Finally, at twenty minutes to 7am, we hit the road for Santa Rosa. Obviously not the greatest start given our tight schedule.

Just over an hour later we were in Santa Rosa, our sights on a bus to Ocatapeque, from which we could get a shuttle to the Honduras/El Salvador border.

We were pointed to a nearby office to purchase our tickets, and it was at this time that we inquired as to when it would depart.

The 8:30am time was only half an hour away, although a quick glance at our tickets suggested 8:45am would be our actual departure time.

As you might have guessed, turns out neither time was correct!

It was probably closer to half past 9 when we were finally summonsed to board a coach headed towards the border, although both Sarah and I swear that we both spied several coaches with banners suggested they were headed where we needed to go, that passed us much earlier than this!

From Honduras into El Salvador. Those flags sure look similar…

From Honduras into El Salvador. Those flags sure look similar…

At least the connection to El Puy and the border was a pretty smooth transition, so midday saw us stamped out of Honduras, and walking our way across the border into El Salvador, or more specifically into the El Salvador immigration office.

This may have been a fairly quick process had there been more than one window for  departures and one for arrivals in operation.

It may have also been faster had not both of these windows been staffed by one solitary woman (who had to constantly move back and forth between the two).

Such a process may have also been faster had not a coach load of tourists arrived at the departures window minutes before we entered the office.

Sadly, this was not a quick process, and by the time we walked out nearly an hour later, our chances of getting to San Miguel for a 4pm bus, had long ago been left in an Honduran bus station.

There was little we could do, so after finding a local bus headed for San Salvador, our plans were quickly revised. We’d find somewhere near the bus station to stay for the night, and complete our journey the following morning.

This we did, at the perhaps unsuitably named ‘Princess Hotel’, although perhaps that is a premature judgement, as I’m sure many of its regular clients are considered ‘Princesses’, at least for the hour two that they hire the room.

A price list for the ‘Princess Hotel’. A real bargain for your $5.00 during the week, but an hour less on the weekends…

A price list for the ‘Princess Hotel’. A real bargain for your $5.00 during the week, but an hour less on the weekends…

Yes, this was a pay by the hour kind of joint, but our room was clean, and after getting over his initial shock that we would like a room for the whole night, the staff member even knocked it down to $12.00.

A bit of a bargain.

It was a Sunday afternoon, so it was always going to be an impression different to the norm that San Salvador would give us in this late afternoon (so many things are closed), nevertheless we sauntered into town hoping to catch a couple of sights and also grab some dinner.

Dinner probably should have been most pressing, given that we hadn’t really had a single meal for the whole day, but had subsisted on a few biscuits/cookies and a packet of crisps (potato chips).

Our options appeared few, and given that we had indulged in fried chicken the previous day back in Gracias, pizza it was, in that most American of pizza chains, Pizza Hut.

It was likely to be our most expensive meal during our whole time in El Salvador, but it was preceded by an evening amble and inspection of a pretty stunning church, the Catedral de Metropolitana de San Salvador.

Another stunningly decorated dome

Another stunningly decorated dome

More religious grandeur in a country where the people appear to have so little…

More religious grandeur in a country where the people appear to have so little…

With the onset of dusk, we thought it prudent to make our way back to our room, especially as San Salvador has an un-savoury reputation after the lights go out.

But enough scare mongering, the fact is, we saw and encountered no trouble, had a good nights sleep and woke a stones throw away from the bus terminal in the following morning (which meant no hot and sweaty walk with our packs to kick off our morning)!

 

Notes:

* The journey from Gracias to Santa Rosa cost us $50.00 Lempira (thankfully the same fare as the previous days’ trip).

* From Santa Rosa to Ocatapeque cost $90.00 Lempira, but this involved over an hours wait. I’d ask around a few different spruikers who stalk the coach arrivals and go with the earliest departure possible (which we didn’t do, but hey that office looked so official)!

* From the main road in Ocatapeque, we took a micro-bus to El Puy $20.00 Lempira. We simply waved down the first passing van which came along the highway.

* Local chicken buses run from the El Salvador side of the border to San Salvador for a measly $0.90 US per person (just follow the main road into El Salvador and the bus depot is on your right hand side).

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