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Dave and Jan's travels, day 255:

29th January

1 Dec 2002: Just received an "alternative view". I have to say I just re-read the following, and I'm mystified as to why this guy is quite so cross - but he certainly is.

We left you four days ago in Villahermosa, on the gulf coast of Mexico. A couple of days of pretty much nonstop driving took us right across Guatemala, and on into El Salvador. This was to be a two day and one night visit, mainly just so we could have a quick look and see if it really is as dangerous as we'd been warned.

As is always the way with these things, the short answer is no. We'd been warned that everone would be carrying guns: certainly moneychangers have them thrust into their jeans, and most public buildings have signs forbidding them on the premises, but the average gaucho on the street is certainly not packing. We spent our night in Santa Ana, the second city of the country after San Salvador, and could easily have been in Mexico or Guatemala. The usual colonial plaza, the usual men in white hats sitting around chewing the fat, and the usual sounds and smells from the street vendors. One novelty was a startlingly modern supermarket, the like of which we hadn't seen since New York, selling all manner of expensive and North American goods. Similar institutions on the outskirts of town indicate that there's a substantial El Salvadorian minority enjoying twenty or thirty times the income of their less fortunate neighbours.

Another first for Central America was several wheelie bins in the garden of the government building - must be a good sign as one thing that there is definitely too much of around here is litter. There was also a Japanese festival on in town. According to an ice-cream salesman we met, there are lots of links between Santa Ana and Japan including lots of Japanese administrators in the government.

Two things that El Salvador has that we haven't seen before are the pupusas and the terrible roads. The former are fat tortillas stuffed with beans, cheese and/or pig fat which form a large part of the diet here, and are recommended. The latter involve several hours driving through what seem like construction sites. Dust everywhere, rocks all over the so-called road and people wandering around digging or smoothing or whatever you do to turn a mass of rocks and dust into a smooth tarmac road. The worst bit was driving to the border with Honduras at Le Poy. If you ever want to know what it feels like to be a ball in a pin ball machine, drive along this road. Even the flora is totally gray and any asthmatics living in the area are doomed. Horrible.


   (click thumbnails for a larger picture)

Santa Ana