Friday, April 26, 2013

El Tunco, Sunzal, and the Bandito Boy

by Scott

Other surfing overlanders rave about El Tunco, El Salvador so we were looking forward to staying there and surfing the famous point at Sunzal. Things didn't work out so well. I spent an hour walking around in the oppressive heat, trying to find a decent place to park for the night. Then, I spent another hour walking around trying to find any place to park for the night. Most of the hotels/hostels said no. I finally found one that said yes for $2! It wasn't great, but it was cheap, so I went back out to the highway to get Heather and the truck.

I'd been walking around Tunco for 2 hours, so I thought I knew my way around pretty well. We drove down a narrow one-way street until we encountered a big Pepsi truck coming the opposite direction. The workers parked the truck, got out, and started chatting. When I asked if they were going to be long, they just shrugged. I moved some orange cones so that we could squeeze past them (we had only inches to spare on both sides of the truck). After replacing the cones, a local, someone I'd seen multiple times that morning, told us that we were the ones going the wrong way. This is after he'd walked over to check out our truck before we squeezed past the Pepsi truck, and he didn't say a word. Furthermore, the Pepsi truck was the first vehicle I'd seen in 2 hours going the "right" way on that street. Argghhh. 

We do a multi-point turn, move the cones, and squeeze past the Pepsi truck again. We go a different route to arrive at our $2 parking spot. However, when we get there, the security guard tells us that we can't park there unless we're staying at the hotel. I keep telling him, in passable Spanish, that I already got approval from the woman at the bar. Finally, I make him follow me to the bar. I ask her to confirm that she gave me permission, but she says sorry. She admits she said we could park there, but that she called the owner after I left and he said no. Arggghhh. 

By now, I am ready to bail on Tunco/Sunzal and head 4 hours to Las Flores. Heather, being more rationale, and not suffering from the onset of heat stroke, insists on going back across the river to the village of Sunzal. I reluctantly agree, but before we can escape El Tunco, we once again find ourselves stuck behind the same damn Pepsi truck. This time, both of us are going the "wrong" way down the meaningless one-way streets of El Tunco. Arggghhh.

After the Pepsi truck finished all of it's deliveries, we finally made it to Sunzal. We ended up spending the first night in the yard of a friendly Canadian transplant. The next day, we settled in at Sunzal Point Hostal for two weeks. Things were way more relaxed in Sunzal than in El Tunco. The Salvadoran manager convinced us that we should stay through the hyper-busy Easter week. It was probably a good choice. We met some cool people and things remained pretty quiet...until the night of the bandito boy.

Our camping spot at Sunzal Point Hostal

It was the hottest night we've ever spent in the truck. Neither of us was sleeping well. That was probably a good thing. At 2am, Heather heard the bear bell, and noticed our screen door slightly ajar (at night, we put a carabiner through the handle of our door, which is anchored to the sofa frame with a shoe lace, to which we attach a bear bell). Heather elbowed me awake and whispered that the door was open. I lifted my head slightly from the pillow, and could see a round-faced 12-year-old boy with wire-rimmed glasses, a backpack, and a flashlight trying to figure out how to open the door. Fudge! The Salvadoran version of Ralphie from A Christmas Story was trying to break into our truck!

Ralphie's hole that we patched with barbed wire and sticks

I had the mace and the air horn ready, but instead, in my deepest, most intimidating baritone, I shouted, "You better run!" Realizing he probably didn't understand English, I followed that up with, "corre, corre, corre!", which is the command form of "run, run, run!" in Spanish. I don't think he needed the translation. He ran. Not fast though. He was like Ralphie in his snow suit as he ran back through a hole in the fence not far from our truck. I could have easily caught him, but I'm glad I didn't bother. My Spanish isn't good enough to explain to the locals why a half naked gringo would be chasing a young boy down an alley at 2am. Plus, had I caught him, what would I have done with him? We would've been up all night with the police, and what would be the charge--opening a door without permission? As it was, the adrenaline wore off, we took a shower to cool off, and we were back asleep by 3am.


Anonymous said...

I so enjoy reading both of you write. Brings back lots of memories of our experiences driving across Mexico for 4 months about 5 years ago now. Man how time flies. Enjoy every minute and, as ever, be safe! amigo's Vikingo y Devor y Gypsy, tambien. "^)

Anonymous said...

That should have read: "I so enjoy reading what both of you write of your travels"
Amore amigo's Devora, Vikingo y Gypsy, tambien. "^)