El Salvador. The most dangerous, god-forsaken hell-hole in all of Christendom. What in Beelzebub’s name were we thinking coming to a place with such a bad reputation? Even in the badlands of Nicaragua people would lean in, speaking in hushed tones, as they told tales of hapless surf-travellers being accosted on the beach, a line being drawn in the sand over which they were forced to lie face down with their heads on one side of the line their bodies on the other as the prelude to an horrific, yet reassuringly accurate beheading.
The cheery old yank on Ometepe joyfully assured us our bus would be stopped and ransacked by gangsters with AK47s as soon as we crossed the border from Honduras, and you know he was right, damn him – travel is mind-numbingly slow as you negotiate one set of gangsters after another, each gang taking a little more of your stuff and a little more of your time until the A23/Croydon route into London, with its intricately mistimed traffic lights, seems like a breeze.
Arriving in the La Libertad area, the beginning of the Ruta del Surf, penniless, possesion-less, naked and late was disappointing beyond comprehension. The succession of famed, long, clean right hand point-break waves are a mere fabrication — give me ‘hotpipes’, the power station outlet pipe near Shoreham harbour, any day.
Sunzal point is an inconsistent, short right that’s hardly worth the three-mile paddle out and it doesn’t hold any size at all — I don’t remember witnessing a succession of double-overhead days in the space of a fortnight. Punta Roca, the jewel in Central America’s point breaks, is worse. A muddy dribble of an excuse. It wasn’t fast, shallow or remotely exhilarating and the chance of getting there and back with your board and shorts are pretty slim in this crime-ridden area. KM59? Don’t even bother. Ugly, dull and lifeless with locals who’ll stab you in the back as soon as look at you.
We stayed in a dreary, drab hotel on the El Tunco riverbank. With no swimming pool, no wifi and no kitchen, the $15 a night we paid was extortionate. We stayed for a month.
And the people! Don’t get me started on the people. There was never a good atmosphere in the water, the locals never smiled, never waved ‘Hola’ as you paddled out, they never gave you a wave or beamed ‘No problem’ if you accidently dropped in. The travelling surfers were worse, the Brazilians were mean and unsmiling, the Aussies and NZers their usual dour-faced misery-guts, the Canadians lived up to their billing of the most unpleasant, hostile people on Earth and the Americans, particularly those from Utah, were closed-minded, humourless people. We didn’t hang out with any of them and we certainly didn’t have a really good party one night with Vinny, Luis, Jay & Eric involving tequila and swimming pools.
Papusas? Poo-poo-sas more like. The 35¢ maize-flour patties filled with combinations of pollo, cheese, frijoles, an unidentified green vegetable and pork, made to order and griddled on road-side stoves, were only marginally better than the burritos we were forced to endure. Packed with ripe avocados, beans, rice and chicken, forcing one down was a real strength of will over wisdom.
So if you’re planning a surf trip to El Salvador, do yourself a favour, don’t do it.