The Journal  

28 December 2005

San Miguel

Author: Jeremiah

Photographer: Holly


San Miguel , El Salvador

December 11-12

The next few days would hold a series of border crossings, the first of which would take us into El Salvador . On the way to the border, we passed three riders with Colorado plates, mounted on KLRs and a V-Strom, heading south. At the Guatemalan/El Salvadoran border we met our first border “pigs,” locals who offer their services to help foreigners make the crossing. We were mobbed by a group of a dozen, but because we haven't had any problems crossing into Mexico , Belize or Guatemala , we refused their help. One, a teenager named Byron, stuck with us, directing us where to go and offering the use of his pen and his services as a translator, despite my refusals. We tipped him $10 before leaving.

  The choice between iguanas or turkeys was tempting along the road in El Salvador , but Jeremiah said we didn't have anymore room on the bike.

On our itinerary El Salvador was only a country to be passed through. There are no such things as bypasses or beltways on Central American highways. The Pan-American drove right into San Salvador , morphing highway into a maze of city streets. Our GPS doesn't have street details and our guidebook's maps fail to show which directions streets go in. We struggled to find our way to the other side of the city, stopping to ask directions several times. A rider on a Honda CX-500 pointed us in the right direction, but two blocks later we were lost again. We finally managed to get on a street that turned back into the Pan-American heading east.

  Dotting the skyline in San Salvador was a KFC, a Wendy's and Pollo Campero, Central America 's equivalent to KFC.

  These guys were in the process of being searched in the median between traffic in San Salvador as we passed through.

The first 30 miles of the highway heading out of San Salvador was one of the best we had ridden on, four lanes with good pavement and shoulders. You could almost forget where you were if it wasn't for the emaciated horses grazing in the median and the little kids, playing by the pavements edge, who chase their balls when they roll onto the highway.

From San Salvador we drove to San Miguel, near the Honduran border. San Miguel is El Salvador 's third largest city, but most of its streets aren't paved. By Sunday evening almost everything was closed as we searched for a restaurant, but the streets were clogged with a religious parade. With nothing else to do and the hotel owner urging us to stay off of the streets after dark, we retired to a hot and dark room with a high, open window whose sill was ominously decorated with smudged hand prints.

  A parade down the center street in San Miguel on Sunday attracted attention all over town.

  More parade festivities.

  An open window with hand prints reaching in on the concrete walls of our hotel room had us slightly uneasy during the night.



All photographs © Holly Marcus / Page design by Robin Marcus