Stephen the Surfing Star. Not.

22/2/17. The big news is that Stephen had a surfing lesson today – the first time. He was only mildly successful –  he managed to stand up once in about 50 attempts to catch a wave! (Don’t worry,  we’ll be back to the usual inane blog shortly.) However, he thoroughly enjoyed himself even though he is reconciled to not getting a role in Baywatch any time soon. And, at a cost of $10 for an hour, including the use of a board, it was a real bargain. He ended the hour totally shattered – who would have thought climbing on a board in the sea could be so tiring? We will try to upload a short video showing one of his minor successes – riding a wave lying down on the board without tipping himself off!

Anyway, when we left you last time we were in León, waiting for our shuttle bus to El Salvador. This was scheduled to leave at 8 pm but our hostel kindly allowed us to sit in the common area even though we had checked out hours earlier. We were a little nervous because the ticket did not show our pick up place so we were hoping that the name had got through from the agency where we booked the trip to the company running the shuttle.

It eventually turned up at 8.45 even though there were only two other passengers (Maureen and Ofer from San Francisco) on board. They told us it had called at two hotels before ours without picking anyone up, which suggested things were not entirely clear!

Anyway, we were off. The first part of the trip was 2.5-3 hours to the border between Nicaragua and Honduras and was pretty uneventful apart from Stephen managing to get some sleep in a quite uncomfortable position with the seat belt jabbing him in the ribs. Christine was too hyper to sleep.

We went through the ritual of paying to exit one country and then paying again to enter the next. The amounts were not large but the fact that we only had a $20 bill created problems entering Honduras as the immigration officials appeared not to have $14 in change. (We had a few Cordobas left to pay the Nicaraguan exit tax.)  Luckily Ofer had a $5 bill and Stephen found $1 so we were in!

We were just passing through a narrow stretch of Honduras but the road was awful for the whole way! It seemed as though it was intentional with deep “trenches” cut right across the road periodically which meant that the bus had to slow down to below walking pace. No chance of Stephen getting any more sleep even though he tried. Things were not helped by 2 or 3 police checkpoints where our passports were inspected.

Reaching the Honduras/El Salvador border just before 3 am again filled us with apprehension but it was straight forward, even if the El Salvadorian lady scrutinised all the stamps in our passports very closely. We were a little disappointed that, having done this, she didn’t feel the need to add a Salvadorian stamp to our collection.

Thankfully we were back on smooth roads so Stephen managed another hour of fitful sleep while Christine watched the darkness go by. We arrived at our destination, a small town on the coast called El Cuco at about 4.30.

The hotel had said they would arrange a taxi to meet the bus to take us the final 3 or 4 km but there was no sign of it. It was a little unnerving to wait in the “middle of nowhere” in a strange country about which we knew little other than the civil war of the 1980s and the reputation for gang violence, so we were all glad of the presence of the other couple – safety in numbers and all that. We were also grateful that the bus driver waited with us, although we  could not work out why he did not offer have to drive that little bit further so that he could be on his way again in about 15 minutes rather than hang around for well over an hour. Our collective Spanish was not up to asking him to do this and all he said (that we could understand) was that the taxi would be there by 5 o’clock.

It was more like 5.45 when it rocked up and Maureen thought that the driver said he had been waiting in the wrong place. By the time he arrived it was starting to get light and El Cuco was waking up, with even a group of school children riding into town, parking their bikes against a wall and then milling around outside a small shop that was just opening up.

The hotel was all quiet when we arrived. As the sun was rising off to our left (the beach faces due south and runs east-west for miles in eac direction) we had a very short walk to admire this before crashing in hammocks for an hour or two (as invited in an email from the hotel) to wait for reception to open and our rooms to be ready. We could see that we had ended up in an idyllic spot but all felt “wrecked” of course, even Stephen who had at least managed to get some shuteye, so enjoying it would have to wait.

Boy, oh boy, is this place lovely. It is not a “fancy” hotel but it is just right for its setting. Our room is small – the bed fills half the length and thereis about a foot gap on one side – but is $18 per night, with shared bathroom facilities right outside. Maureen and Ofer were originally booked into a much grander affair (2 double beds in the main room, plus a bed in another room, a small kitchenette, a verandah and private bathroom) although they downgraded to a more suitable one somewhere in the middle of the range. There is also a small house with 5 rooms and a private pool that costs about $200 a night. www.latortugaverde.com

The beach is a beautiful white sand that stretches for miles and slopes gently down to the warm ocean (the Pacific in case you were wondering) where the waves (at the moment at least) are not too large for incompetent novice surfers! There cannot be too many beaches where you can watch the sun rise out of the sea to one side and set into it on the other.

We have already said this place is idyllic. The potential is enormous if only the country’s reputation for violence could be overcome. It is not far from the only international airport (an hour or two perhaps – certainly not a bumpy overnight bus ride from Nicaragua!) and could be developed hugely (and of course changed and spoiled beyond recognition). It is a match for The Maldives (caveated by the fact that we haven’t been there) and considerably more affordable at the moment. Get yourselves here fast before it changes!

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