Forget Everything You Knew About Hitchhiking Through El Salvador At Night

Heading south after three days in the Antigua, Guatemala area, Juju and I crossed into El Salvador territory just as the sun was setting. Ok I thought, hitchhiking in the dark in El Salvador is probably one of those things they say you shouldn’t do. There was a border hotel and I was ready to book a room. Juju wasn’t, and soon there after an open framed flat deck truck rolled up. A husband and wife with their daughter riding in the back. They weren’t driving past any destination locations but a beach town no less. Well Juju made friends with the daughter along the ride, and I guess the folks had a good feeling about us…

We spent an evening with this Fisherman and his family. Juju did her charismatic song & dance that everyone loves. I laid back in the hammock and turned my brain off. Some day’s you just don’t feel like speaking Spanish, like taking a sick day from school. Thankfully Juju was there to return the gratitude with good company. They gave us two hammocks to sleep in, oceanside, on their front porch.

It was a perfect night, laying in the fine pacific ocean sand, staring up at the stars in a quiet little beach town, when I told Juju I was going to split ways with her in a few days. Queue up another badass Jolie Blue song about leaving. She was a touch overwhelmed with this information, and the language barrier was of no assistance. She understood I was just to up and leave one morning at any given time. Na, we’re in El Salvador, you don’t just bail on a travel partner in a place as obscure as this. The plan was to crash into a popular hostel somewhere, where we can both find our respective routes in comfortable time. But try explaining this to someone who has a limited english vocabulary.

Staying with the family of fisher-persons. First night in El Salvador.

There are no hard feelings or anything, however, while travelling with Juju I slowly began to envision my path back home. Up in Guatemala everyone I met was either going to Lake Atitlan, or had just come back with impressive reviews. Even before I left Canada I was told by friends to stop in. I guess my persona indicates to other travellers that Caroline (my guitar) and myself would enjoy said Lake. Meanwhile Juju plans to continue her way back to the Atlantic side of things. 3 more countries to go. Personally I wouldn’t mind checking out the lake, working my way back to Belize, buying some sort of vehicle and heading home, all in time for my Nephew’s 1st birthday at the very latest.

The next morning Neddy (The fisherman) gave us a ride down the road a little bit, and we continued hitchhiking from there, to a beach spot recommended by the family. It was tranquil. To this little town, there was 2 miles of dirt road from the highway, with a few hotels in a mainly fishing community. Another hidden gem I would have only found thanks to Juju’s charming broken spanish. We pitched a tent for $7US. El Salvador has been using American currency since 2000, and I love it. The math is so much easier to know just how good of a deal you’re getting. One less thing to think about while bartering for things in a foreign language.

We, and 2 other’s were the only patrons of the hostel on this Thursday night, so the hired man/security employee of the place became our friend pretty quickly. His name was Armando, and he was 20 years old, spoke no English. At one point we began discussing the proper enunciations, when he grabbed my notebook and began to write the verbs. Well good! Armando was educated, enthusiastic, and intuitive enough to use a smaller vocabulary around us, as not everyone is. Oh how we laughed through our conversations. Truly one of those moments where I sat back and thought Holy Jeeze, I’m speaking Spanish. At one point I was only trying to ask him what time he starts work in the morning, sifting through my minimal words, looking for the right combination. Armando could not comprehend what I was trying to ask, although Juju could, yet also didn’t know the proper way to ask in Spanish. I think in the end he was on call, 24 hours a day, though we could not figure out how to ask what time he wakes up to begin his regular schedule. All in good laughs. Sometimes, maybe with a few beers, Spanish lessons are some of the most fun down here.

Joel & Juju, on top of a mountain

From there, Juju and I split. She was heading to Santa Anna on the bus to see some mountains or something… I took off to the big El Salvadorian travellers landing, El Tunco. I kept hitchhiking because the buses were far and few. I definitely noticed the rides had slowed down with the lack of female accompaniment. Same as when I was hitchhiking across Canada with Taylor. A guy/girl ratio is the perfect combination for efficient & safe rides. But I eventually got a ride in my direction with two gentlemen. I was riding in the back of their truck. Now El Salvador is cheap, but when you’re riding with the locals to their preferred places to eat it gets even cheaper. Me and my two Amigo’s had shrimp, rice, salad, and juice for a grand total of $4. Which my driver paid for. Perfect. The next ride didn’t come before the next passing by bus so I hopped on. The cars were far and few, and the village drunk was my best friend, which is all fine except it looks like two of us are trying to hitchhike instead of one. As he stood beside me, slurring his language, drinking his beer. He was lovable.


His name wasn’t Mario, it had a few more syllable’s… But I could only hear Mario… and he was slurry.

The bus got me a little ways down the road, and the next ride I scored was a family vacation. Husband, Wife, and two boys, 6 & 3. As far as I understood they were coming home from a day at the beach when the car ran out of gas on the side of the road. There I was on an El Salvador family vacation on the side of the road with a stalled car. While Dad took care of business, I kept the boys company. A seven year old’s Spanish is a little more inline with mine. But exhausting none the less. One more bus and I made it to El Tunco, landed in a hostel with predominantly English speakers because my brain needed a rest. Chillin’ with the Gringos. And that’s where I am now. Juju came a day later. It’s just what I was hoping for, a place to reassess everyone’s plans. Great place to meet people who are heading places, and at the very least, relax and get one’s daily ocean swim in, with the perfect 7-8 foot swells to go for a good tumble in order to wake up in the morning.

The budget is dead, incase you’re wondering. It all happened the day we left Antigua, I straight up threw my sunglasses in the trash. They were big, bulky, never staying in place, and pushed against my ears so to be not so comfortable, I decided I’d just as rather go with out… That and Juju bought a pink Fedora. And I did not want to be hitchhiking around Central America accompanied by such headwear. I don’t care how Eastern European you are, a pink Fedora should never be in anyone’s budget. Seriously though, she’s great.

So Juju took off from here to meet up with some other friends heading Costa Rica way. I walked her up to the highway where we had a long drawn out goodbye, and flagged down her first ride. As she rode away, scarf blowing into the wind I called out “Estes Loco!”

Then it was straight back to my comfortable little El Tunco hostel, where I’ve been enjoying the company of two crazy Irish boys on a year long adventure to South America. As I keep polishing up this blog, the plans continue to evolve. It sounds like myself, the Irishmen, and a Chill American named Andy are off to find some sort of Brewery in Honduras… As planned by the Irishmen of course…

Peace Mi amigo’s