Why was it so nice there? It was the little things that made the difference - Comfy bed with nice sheets, nice soap, a shower that squirted the water where you wanted it and not all over the whole bathroom floor, nice towels... I could go on.... I think I will.... Lots of places to hang clothes (and said towels), a shaded room that didn't get too light as the 5.30 sun came up, no barking dogs, no roosters, a bed side light, clean nicely decorated room, nice healthy food, great atmosphere, OK, Ok, you get the picture I'm sure.
We basically did nothing for our whole time there. This photo'll give you the daily rundown
The only thing missing from the list was releasing baby turtles. Now this isn't a euphemism for anything and thankfully has nothing to do with 'dropping the kids off at the pool'.
The baby turtles come from egg sellers who dig up the eggs to then sell them to restaurants or in this case, the kind owner of the hostel. I'm sure his heart is in the right place but also sure that the whole thing is a marketing ploy....
It wasn't quite the emotional 'Attenboroughesque' experience you might wish for. Basically the little critters were carried to the beach in a big washing up bowl and then lifted out by excited backpackers who then giggled and "ahh'd & ooh'd" as 'their' one waddled its way towards to surf, only to get knocked back and washed back up the beach by the waves. One American girl was giving her one a serious motivational speech that was quite hilarious to listen to. We watched this on 2 days (told you there wasn't much else to do) and a total of about 40 turtles made it into the sea. Apparently in the end only about 1 in 100 make it to adulthood, I don't suppose the trawler fishing boats on the horizon helped with the breeding programme....
Another lasting memory of Tortuga Verde was Lewis, our Aussie yoga instructor. What a great guy! He brought yoga down to a really 'normal' and accessible level. Sometimes (although I am far From being an expert in the subject) yoga is either so 'out there' or so far up its arse that I just can't get into it. Maybe it was the sound of the waves or the swaying palm trees or maybe it was the ever smiling Lewis I'm not sure but I can definitely say that it was the closest thing to a 'shakra balancing' I've ever had. I also loved the way he said "Bueno" in his broad Aussie accent but I don't think they usually teach that bit at yoga school....
So why did we leave? I can hear you all asking, totally enthralled and on the edge of your seats. Well, we'd heard that at the weekend the place got pretty busy with locals doing day trips or a quick weekend away. The atmosphere had been so calm and nice and we knew that our experience was about to change so decided to move on. I'm not sure now it was the right thing to do but hey, it's done so there :-(. Here's a few photos of the place before we finally 'let it go'
Ice cream sellers on the beach
So, where next and how? There wasn't much left of eastern El Salvador to see, then there was another bit of Honduras to get through and then Nicaragua. It's ok, don't feel ashamed or confused, I also thought Nicaragua was an African country as well.... It's not, it's a Central American country and it was a 4 day, long, hot ride away on the busy Pan American highway. Or was it????? The tourist minivans drove back n forth crammed with sleeping backpackers but they wouldn't m take the bikes. Not all was lost though, apparently there was a boat....
The next morning at 7am after a sunrise snack
we were off and on our way in a pick up truck to the port of La Union. As we ate our second breakfast (in an hour) of Pupusas with our driver, a guy, apparently the captain of the boat turned up. He asked for our passports and wandered off with them, mumbling something about immigration. Ok, I guess he's legit we both thought secretly to ourselves but not actually saying anything. Our driver then promptly left, leaving us $170 down (we'd paid upfront of course) and passport less. We did still have some yummy Pupusas though... After a while, El Capitano thankfully reappeared and gestured our departure. He pointed for us to wheel the bikes to the end of the pier and he'd go and get the boat, or so we thought as he'd pointed down the street along the seafront and said something about "agua". The trusting souls that we are we pottered off, only slightly concerned about the whole 'looseness' of the proceedings. Have faith though thee naysayers out there for a few minutes later he reappeared carrying a load of drinking water and then helped us past a second immigration check on the pier itself.
After a few minutes and our last look at El Salvador, the boat turned up and we were off
Not such a backward country, you don't see many of these in UK do you?
The bikes languished on the poop deck as we bobbed our way across the bay. It was a pleasant 1.5 hour ride, well it's not everyday you get to travel between Central American counties past volcanic islands on a speedboat is it?
Now I have to say that I was expecting a little more of our landing point of Potosi - an international seaport it was not.
El Capitano beached the boat and I immediately got on with the arduous task of taking photos whilst the boat guys unloaded the bikes and bags!
Then after a surprisingly thorough immigration & customs check (no rubber gloves, just forms to fill in) we were off into the throb of the metropolis,
We hoped to catch a bus from here as we already knew there was no accommodation we could reach that day. It was approaching noon by now and hot. We gorged ourselves on plain bread rolls with crisps and a fresh tomato (living the dream) and waited for the local bus which was apparently less than an hour away.
As we ate, a fancy looking mini coach with blackout windows (all closed, that meant air conditioning as well) trundled into view. Guess what, it also had a roof rack. It turned out that a fancy tour group were going back on our boat and this bus was soon to be heading our way, empty. A little bit of negotiation here & there and we were off, the bikes and us riding in style, inside in aircon cool.
What a result! Ok we'd paid way more than if we'd waited for the local bus but when we saw it bumping it's way towards us on the rough dirt road leaving a huge cloud of dust in its wake, we felt fine with our deal. We've both worked long and hard enough to have 'earned' a little slice of comfort now and then....
We hadn't planned to go as far as Leon (we could have been dropped at the first big town if we wanted) but for an extra £1.50 each the driver offered to take us the extra 45km to Leon itself. We only would have had to ride it the next day and after seeing the busy, flat, hot road, we knew we'd made the right decision.
We've both wanted to come to Leon for a few years after Paddy Tyson, Editor of www.overlandmag.com put us onto it. The bus dropped us on the outskirts of town and we excitedly rode in the final few Km's for a look around...