One Tortuga, Two Tortuga, Three Tortuga, more!

Days: 138-140

Total distance travelled: 30,818.3 kilometres (19,141.8 miles)

Have I mentioned Lizzie and Nicky in any previous posts?

I can’t recall… anyway, they’re two young English girls we befriended way back in the Mexican town of Valladolid, and have since shared the odd drink, hostel or meal with over the ensuing months and across four countries (Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and now El Salvador).

We’d also introduced them to the Workaway program, and when we’d last parted company, they were headed to the El Salvador’s South-East coast to have their first stint as volunteers.

Their destination? The hostel and Turtle sanctuary known as La Tortuga Verde, situated a couple of kilometres shy of the seaside town of El Cuco.

It was here we’d hoped to reach in one manic day, that ultimately became a two day adventure. Eventually, after changing buses in San Miguel, we found ourselves on the quiet streets of El Cuco, ourselves and our bags dumped into the waiting arms of a local taxi driver.

A hot morning meant he was the man who would help us complete the journey, but in a nice twist, there are apparently a few local taxi drivers who have a friendly arrangement with La Tortuga Verde, and despite us having no booking, our fare was covered by the hostel!

We also quickly discovered that we were a couple of hours late… Lizzie and Nicky had left that very morning!

Still, as you can see, this was a pretty nice place on the Pacific coast for us to relax for a few days.

Welcome to La Tortuga Verde

Welcome to La Tortuga Verde

Sand underfoot, green palms, cold beers…

Sand underfoot, green palms, cold beers…

Although we’d missed our English friends, there were plenty of fellow travellers to rub shoulders with, a fellow Australian, a young guy from Switzerland and a handful of Canadians (but for two brothers, all travelling independently of one another).

It was amongst this company, after a quick lunch and a refreshing beer (with a little bit of time for relaxation thrown in for good measure) that we had our first experience of Ultimate Beach Frisbee.

Essentially a four a side scratch game similar to Gridiron (American Football) or Rugby, it got the lungs screaming for air very quickly (probably more an indictment on my fitness levels than anything else). It also drew a bit of pain after some unrealistic attempts at catching the Frisbee saw me with a bloodied knee, but was nevertheless a hell of a lot of fun, not to mention a good way to get to know a few new folks better.

We dined that evening at a nearby seafood restaurant, our company (which was the same crew from our Frisbee match) bolstered with the addition of an Austrian and a German (both girls).

The food was delicious, but took what seemed an age to be served. To be fair, it’s likely they’d rarely seen dining parties of such size and I have visions of a small kitchen with a solo pan working at full capacity.

It’s when the sun goes down (and at times even as the sun is going down) that the real magic happens at La Tortuga Verde.

A stunning La Tortuga Verde sunset over the Pacific

A stunning La Tortuga Verde sunset over the Pacific

Upon arrival we’d been advised, admittedly a little to our disappointment, that the previous night a whole batch of turtle eggs had hatched and been released into the ocean.

There were two or three stragglers who for whatever reason (likely because they were still a little weaker than the rest of the flock) had not been released, but instead now swam in a small holding pond.

As we were starting to wind down and mentally prepared for bed, one of our new Canadian friends came knocking upon our dormitory door (we were in a dorm, however had a semi private room equipped with two double beds) to bring us up to speed that another batch had hatched that very evening and were going to be released!

We were suddenly out of our stupor and racing down to check out this latest brood!

Collecting the new batch from one of the holding pools

Collecting the new batch from one of the holding pools

About to bid farewell to another little one

About to bid farewell to another little one

Hopefully with some sort of a fighting chance…

Hopefully with some sort of a fighting chance…

What an experience it was, and it is ultimately what this place is about, and what it was founded for.

The local populace have long dined on these Turtle eggs, so Tom, a former big wave surfer and owner of the hostel has made it his mission to buy as many eggs as possible from the local peoples, providing for them a safe place away from predators, to incubate and hatch, and hopefully have a chance at life.

The beaches of El Cuco, whilst home to the odd Stingray (there were a couple of victims over the course of the previous week), are also gifted with relatively even surf breaks and a nice sandy bottom (no hidden rocks or reef here) which make it a decent place for the beginner surfer.

To put things into perspective, despite growing up on a coastal, surf beach kind of town, my abilities were below that of beginner, never having even attempted it in my life!

Thirty five years of age felt like the perfect time to finally give it a try (I had said I would like to attempt it during this trip).

At 35 years and 89 days, my first efforts at surfing

At 35 years and 89 days, my first efforts at surfing

I’d hired a board for an hour which fairly flew by. It was a lot of fun indeed, but how does one measure success?

Well let’s just say there are 60 minutes in an hour x 60 seconds in a minute and for that whole hour, I probably spent about a dozen of those seconds actually standing upright, surfing on the waves.

With me on the waves, photography duties fell to Sarah

With me on the waves, photography duties fell to Sarah

Still, for a first attempt (yes, like a true man I baulked at lessons) I didn’t think it was all that bad.

By the following morning, which was coincidentally also time for our departure, I was one stiff and sore fellow, having used muscles I’d forgotten, or perhaps had never known existed…



* To reach El Cuco, it was necessary for us to take a coach from San Salvador to San Miguel (for $5.00 US per person) and then change onto a local bus where it cost us $0.30 US for the final hour to El Cuco.

* La Tortuga Verde has an arrangement with some of the Taxis in El Cuco, so it actually cost us nothing to get ferried from the bus stop to the hostel.

* A dorm bed cost us $10.00 per person per night, although there was a great initiative where you can purchase turtle eggs for the sanctuary (at $5.00 US per person) and in doing so qualify for a free nights accommodation.

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5 Responses to One Tortuga, Two Tortuga, Three Tortuga, more!

  1. Annie Martin says:

    This looks amazing! I’m so jealous that you guys got to help baby sea turtles! Congrats on the 12 seconds of surfing too! I tried once and it’s way more difficult than it looks.

  2. loveandroad says:

    What a great experience!!

    It is so nice when we have the opportunity to help the animals and places while visiting it!
    And congrats for your surf initiation! We are in the same board. In my 31 years old I tried stand up paddle for the first time this week, and LOVE it!!
    Happy travels, turtles and surf!


  3. LaVagabonde says:

    Releasing those baby turtles must have been a heart-warming experience.

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