Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Sunday, July 31, 2011 18:33:37|
Rolls Alaska to Argentina & back: 36 La Union, El Salvador to Playa San Agustinillo, Mexico
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
*Miles for the day: 116 (187 km) Miles to date: 19,251 (30,982 km)*
We were very hopeful of smooth sailing now that the toughest borders were crossed, but it was not to be. Marilynn joined Jacob and I at the breakfast table to report that gas was all over the ground under the car, and the guard was very concerned. I thought the leak at the tank drain plug had reoccurred, but it was much more serious - there was a hole in the gas tank.
We checked out of the hotel at 7 AM after a good breakfast and followed directions from the guard to a mechanic shop on the other side of town. They were kind enough to give us top priority over a number of other vehicles. Once the gas tank was drained, removed and cleaned it was apparent that it was caused by the pothole we hit in Honduras - a hole had been punched into the tank beside the wheel where the hub cap was damaged. The tank was sent off to someone who could weld aluminum, which took a couple of hours.
It seems that there were other weak spots in the tank that showed up under pressure testing, so the welder reinforced them before returning the tank. It took another hour to reinstall the tank and pour the gas back in. The car was started and run up onto the hoist so they could ensure there were no further leaks. While going over the underside one of the mechanics noticed that the main bolt holding the left front suspension in place was loose and ready to fall out, so that was repaired as well. Once they were satisfied all was well they charged me $140 and we were on the road by 12:30 PM.
At a gas stop we found that El Salvador is very much a cash country - no credit cards accepted. This was not good news, but hopefully when we get to Guatemala this won't be a problem. The drive was through pretty country with lots of volcanoes, however traffic was heavy and slow, and a massive tropical rainstorm slowed things further, so when we finally reached La Libertad at 4:30 PM we decided to call it a day. The Hotel Pacific Sunrise had reasonable prices for a sea view room with three beds. After picking up a load of essentials at the nearby supermarket (prices are low in El Salvador) we walked along the beach to a surfside restaurant where we all enjoyed a superb lobster dinner. Both the hotel and restaurant wanted cash, but when we said we would go to another hotel, the hotel backed down and took a credit card. We appeared to be the only guests.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
*Miles for the day: 329 (529 km) Miles to date: 19,464 (31,324 km)*
It seemed a good idea to get an early start, as the hotel restaurant didn't open until 7 AM, so I was out at the car by 5 AM washing the car, adjusting a defective windshield wiper and tightening a rattling hub cap. I'd finally retreated into the hotel lobby to work on the internet when the others showed up at 6:30. It was a beautiful day and a pretty drive along the coast, but we didn't find a place for breakfast until about 10 AM. It was a tiny, humble roadside restaurant, but the food was great.
Cash remained the order of the day as we went from gas station to gas station searching for one that took credit cards, with no success. I finally broke down and put $20 of gas into the tank just before the border with Guatemala. Marilynn once again beat off the people insisting on guiding us through the process, and we actually got everything done with minor problems over the next hour.
We were warned that there was a strike underway on the Guatemala side of the border that shut it down, but we decided to carry on regardless. Once again migration was quick and easy, but the people who do permission for vehicles were refusing to process anyone. I went into the striking mob to ask how long they planned to block the border, and was referred to the leader who was making a speech at the time. When he finished I introduced myself and asked how we might get through the blockade. He explained that if I could get the car documents that there was a dirt road that bypassed the border and came out on the other side of the strike. He said it was fine with him if we took that route - there would be no problem from the strikers.
At the vehicle permission office I explained what he said, and they agreed to do my permissions, but it had to be very secret as increasingly angry truck drivers had their paperwork frozen until the strike ended. A policeman would gesture me into an alley between buildings to get papers signed and collect documents until the final paperwork was prepared. By this time I had befriended the most militant truckers and they were supporting my cause anyhow.
By the time I had the permits and was set to go three locals told Marilynn that the route was over terrible road and very dangerous. I went back to the truckers, one of whom lived in the area, and they agreed with the strike leader that there shouldn't be a problem. The final decision was made when a fellow who helped Vic and I at the boarder when we were headed south said there was no problem, walked me to the beginning of the road, and agreed to lead us through on his bicycle. I went back and told Marilynn & Jacob that we were going.
The road proved to be a rock strewn dirt track that had never seen a grader through a collection of very humble dwellings. We had to take it very slow, and when a truck load of police came the other way we thought we were done for. I pulled off the one vehicle wide track to let them pass, but the police were off to reinforce the lines where the strikers were and waved to us as they passed. We finally bounced back onto the main road well past the striker line and were on our way.
That was the beginning of a nightmarish day of driving. There were two detours, both on rutted dirt roads for about sever kilometres each, one place where half a bridge had been washed away and another where half the road fell into a river. In both cases the one way traffic caused a delay of about 2 hours - trucks were lined up for many miles in both directions. The roads were bad, so even when we could go it was slowly. Eventually we found a wonderful hotel with a huge pool and waterslides, a good restaurant and comfortable room for $78 per night and happily settled in. Not an easy day, but it certainly felt good to have it over with,
Friday, July 29, 2011
*Miles for the day: 82 (132 km) Miles to date: 19,526 (31,456 km)*
This morning it was a lazy start. Breakfast was not until 7 AM, and we didn't get underway until almost 9. The traffic was heavy on bad road, but progress was steady until the border with Mexico. Clearing Guatemala was a snap except the sole employee in customs was on the phone with a computer company walking him through steps to get his laptop going - that took about half an hour.
On the Mexican side passports were stamped, and the car fumigated with spray. We were told that to get car permits we would have to drive a long way to Viva Mexico. They said it was on the way to Tapachula, but we didn't see it, however we had no problem locating the Comfort Inn where Vic and I stayed. There they explained the complex route to get to where car permits could be arranged. It took us over half an hour there, another 30 minutes while the helpful official got the paperwork completed and half an hour back. The location was on the coast highway the other side of Tapachula - we have to go right through it tomorrow!
Once back at the hotel Marilynn & Jacob hit the pool while I caught up on the computer and used the afternoon rainstorm to wash the car in my bathing suit. Dinner at the hotel was not great.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
*Miles for the day: 391 (629 km) Miles to date: 19,937 (32,086 km)*
After the included breakfast we retraced our steps to the place we bought the car permit, where we were delayed while they went over papers purchased yesterday. Driving was on the best four lane expressway we have seen in a long time, and in spite of frequent military and police checks (which the Rolls got us through with little problem) we made good time. When we reached our planned destination just before Salinas Cruz we decided to keep going to the beach areas, as it was only 12:30 PM. A hot dog served for lunch, but it took half an hour to find our way out of the city. Once again the roads were great between towns and we made good time. The towns were the normal nightmare of bottom crunching speed bumps gradually destroying the second exhaust system I've had put on the car this trip.
We reached the resort area of Bahias de Huatulco about 5 PM. There are several bays with golden sand beaches, but each had side by side giant 5 star all inclusive hotels. Everything was super up scale, and accommodations were seldom near the beach. Marilynn inquired at Las Brisas, which had been recommended by a local as one of the less expensive, and was told it would be almost $400 per day for rooms not near the beach, so we decided to press on. We located one of the few gas stations in the area, but had to pay cash - no credit cards.
The next set of beaches was at Puerto Angel. This area is completely on the opposite end of the scale. The only two "good" hotels in the area were closed, the rest were small posadas or cabins. We drove around Puerto Angel and were mobbed by people trying to get us to their run down establishments - a pretty desperate area, so we drove past a couple of more beaches before coming to Playa San Agustinillo at about 7:30 PM, where we spotted some nice cabins right on the beach. As none had room for three beds, two cabins at $120 per night each would be needed. There was no one staying there, so I offered $180 per night for two nights, but when the girl in charged called the owner she was told to get the full price. We left the empty rooms, bar and restaurant thinking how stupid the owner must be! No one else would be renting at that time of night.
A short walk down the street we made arrangements for one room with the king bed and another adjoining with a double bed, also right on the beach, for $130 per night for both. The place is fine, however it turns out no credit cards are accepted in the area for anything, so everything was paid in cash. We used the remaining half hour of light to have a swim in the surprisingly warm ocean, then walked down the street to have a great meal in a restaurant owned by a French couple. We would stay another day, but decided to move on tomorrow as the cash resources are dwindling rapidly.