Tunco, El Salvador
We eventually learn that in this small bay there are many things that can be difficult to find. Internet it seems is one of them. There is a guy with a usb modem, but on days like this with a lot of wind it doesn’t work. There is also very little to offer at the tiny tienda behind Raul’s place and we assume people here dine on coke and potato chips only. Probably all the better as we only have a $20 to our name and there’s no certainly no ATM here. In fact, we struggle to pay Raul because no single establishment on the beach can make change for our twenty. We are in need of supplies and a bit behind on checking into Baileys travel plans, so we move on south to one of the larger bays. We can’t help but drive down a few roads to see each bay but eventually end up in Tunco, which we have heard is the most popular and largest of the bays above La Libertad.
Tunco has been described by almost everyone as the party location and we can easily see why as we drive past several bars, a few discos and many many parqeos as we wind our way closer towards the beach. We cant find public beach access and decide to camp at the only place we could find in town- the discoteca. Seems a bit like a conflict of interest, but it’s midweek and we decide to try our luck for one night.
We move the bus into the their parking lot and build a makeshift palapa to protect us from the sun. We didn’t realize before paying, but the spaces here have posts in between them that prevent us from opening our doors all the way, much less from rolling out our canopy. Palapa building 101 complete (and learning that we really needed a maestro’s instruction), we hit a local smoothy bar for internet. Online we learn several things, but among them that Bailey will be joining us in nicaragua rather than costa rica. Fantastic! Easy enough for us, and it means we can slow down a bit to a more danger-style speed as we continue south.
We make our way to the breakwall for happy hour to join seemingly everyone else in town lining up along the wall and watch the surfers on the 3 waves in front of the beach. No wonder this town draws a lot of people. You have three waves to choose from all within a stone’s throw of each other and all in view from the bars and the breakwall in front of them. Those feeling gutsy paddle out to Bocana, where we spent most of our evening watching surfers get eaten by wave after wave and a few awesome lines grabbed by what we can only assume are experienced locals. Next to us are a few european tourists who have been here for a while and are clutching their boards trying to find the confidence to go into the water. They confirm that indeed the swell is huge right now, explaining why everything seems so intimidating to us, even from the beach. Even the smaller wave, bocanita seems to be having its way with surfers, but provides great viewing to those on the breakwall as it breaks almost directly onshore where you feel like you can catch the surfer as the waves spits her out towards the sand. Further to our right, sunzal point has wave after beautiful wave seemingly in perfect succession.
We watch until we run out of light and make our way back to the bus. We think about making dinner but at the entryway of the lot is a pupuseria and we simply aren’t strong enough say no. I mentioned before the beauty that is the pupusa...but may not have mentioned they herald from el salvador. They were also my greatest excitement when crossing the border. The pupusa is like El Salvador's gift to the world. Imagine a ball of tortilla dough about to be pressed and grilled, but before doing so you stuff it full of whatever goodness you imagine (beans, cheese, meat, whatever the imagination can envision). It may be, truly, the worlds perfect food - like a quesadilla without one side open. Clean, tidy and delicious.
This place has only been open for about two weeks but had a steady flow of customers onto their rooftop deck. The menu is made up of specialty gourmet pupusas meaning you can get any number of creative fillings inside your delicious grilled doughball- all for the wallet breaking cost of about a buck. We talk with a few backpackers and travelers while eating and then finally retire to the bus where we fall asleep to the disco ramping up the evening with a poorly done gagnam style mix. Oddly, we sleep just fine.
In the morning we attempt to wrap up some things before heading back to the internet free zone at El Zonte. Now that we know we can slow down, there’s no way we aren’t going back to that picture perfect point for a few more days! We enjoy a another smoothy (or two) and are preparing to leave when a bit of a ruckus occurs. A large truck pulls up in front of the smoothy bar and the guy hops out to yell at the young smoothy-tender about her sign being in the street. Seems the 15 or so empty places he could have parked simply weren’t close enough. We had noticed his truck as we were leaving the disco lot as he had clearly pulled in after hours to avoid the hefty $4 camping fee and was now looking for another place. He folds up her sign and lean it on a tree while talking about “public space” and “community” and then gets back in to proceed with parking. The girl goes to replace the sign and he runs into and breaks the sandwichboard. By now, a crowd of local guys are gathering, awaiting his departure from the truck while others walk by asking what happened and calling him various profanities (all well deserved) before walking on.
Before he exits a policia arrives to deal with the situation. The guy was clearly frustrated that the policia was here, but we we’re thinking it might have been a better outcome than what awaited him from the locals. He shouts for at least twenty minutes at the policia and at the girl and we are in awe or how well the she stands her ground as the guy towers over her. Eventually the policia separates them and her adrenaline rush fades away and she breaks into tears. Back in the bar we go to pay our tab, jen throws some hugs to console her and we ask if she wants us to stick around until things are resolved. As we walk away the guy is still screaming at the policia, claiming an injustice was done to him and claiming he “didn’t understand” despite his ranting in perfect spanish.
We can only imagine how he will tell this story to his friends back home, and i’m certain one day future travelers preparing for their journey to central america will hear this story told as a friend of a friend who got taken advantage of by locals and the police as he was simply driving through town minding his own business. Often we can’t help but shake our heads while thinking of how americans get so little respect in the rest of the world. As we look down to his license plates we see, of course... California.