El Salvador – Coffee & The Turn Of A Key

It used to be a place I worked.  A space for investigating, learning and solving problems.  Everything foreign, nothing comforting.  At each hurdle I questioned my decision to take on a job better suited for those with the necessary skills, but I was unemployed and this was the occupation I’d chosen.  It used to be a box of questions.  Four stilts balanced on cinder blocks, and smelling of wood, vinyl and…adventure.  Today she kinda smells of feet, and that’s OK.

Today, and every day for over a year gone by our Four Wheel Camper sitting on the back of a trusty, albeit weathered, Toyota Tundra has been our home.  The mess of wires I had to untangle is now an energy interstate feeding solar power to our batteries and into the fridge.  The resealed roof is our shelter when it rains too hard to hear the laptop cinema. The puzzle of cushions on a slide out of plywood is the best bed I’ve ever owned, likely due to our lack of alarm clocks.

What was once only a project sitting on Jenna’s parents’ lawn is now more to us than any possession we’ve owned.  This little adventure-mobile has carried us through countless memories while listening to us grow; the wanderlust of wide-eyed travelers slowly morphing into daily life in different places, and the realization that laundry, taxes and the need for a good teeth cleaning still exist along the road less traveled.  She, Tortuga that is, has been with us through it all.  I am literally unable to walk away from our rig without looking back once or twice.  I don’t really know what I’m checking, and it may seem weird, but I’d be willing to bet that other overlanders do the same.  These vehicles are our homes, everything we own, and our tickets to freedom.  “There are many like it, but this one is mine.”

Without Tortuga we’d be a dog without a bone, cheech without chong, koolaid without sugar, a Hi-Lift without a jack point.  🙂

Tortuga…wait…what’s a Tortuga?  It’s just occurred to me that we’ve been calling our little home on wheels Tortuga, or Turtle, since the beginning of our trip but we never wrote it in the blog.  She’s green, has a “shell” on her back, and we travel slow…Tortuga.  Consider yourself informed.

She’s the reason we’re able to make plans during morning coffee, and today, on cup number two, we’ve decided we’re going to El Salvador.  Whether we’re running from weather, meeting friends, seeking new scenery or it’s just a whim, we choose to stay or go.  Holidays, weekends and leave requests with proper notice have been replaced by caffeine induced decisions and the turn of a key.

Three hours later and we’re in a new country.  Gracias Tortuga y bienvenidos a El Salvador!

Priority numero uno, try out the local cervesas…”new country, new beer!”  Priority numero dos, get our hands on some pupusas.  Years ago I was lucky enough to work construction with a Salvadorian guy who showed me the what’s what with pupusas, and I couldn’t wait to try some whilst in country.  Cheesy, oily and hot with a sprinkle of shredded cabbage here and that signature salsa everywhere; and make the next round “revueltos” where they stuff chicharrón and beans in with the melty cheese.  Delicioso!

Several rounds of pupusas later, and only a couple bucks poorer, we were ready to explore.  Here’s some of what we did:

El Tunco

It took us all of 5 minutes to walk the town before finding a nice little hostel willing to let us camp in their lot.  We had access to two pools, wifi, a full kitchen and showers for a few bucks per person!  (Yep, they use the U.S. dollar)

Backpackers and surfers flock to this little beach town to catch some waves and enjoy the chill vibes.  We’ve said repeatedly that we’ll attempt surfing on this trip, but it just hasn’t happened (read: we’re lazy).  The bigger waves and rocky shores of El Tunco were definitely not for beginners so we stuck to the pools, pupusas and beer.  Yah, yah, we’re softies.

Volcán de Santa Ana

After a few days on the beach we were overheating and ready for cooler temperatures so we headed inland to Volcán de Santa Ana.  Based on a friend’s recommendation we found ourselves at Cabañas Campo Bello.  A beautiful family-owned property dotted with igloo shaped cabañas overlooking the nearby volcanoes.  We were warmly welcomed to camp on their property for the night before climbing Volcán de Santa Ana the next morning.

After asking the owner whether there was a restaurant nearby we ended up with a plate of pupusas and hot chocolate delivered to the door of our camper for less than $3!

The following morning we headed for Volcán de Santa Ana in hopes of joining the guided hike.  Due to recent theft on the trail it is recommended to go with an escorted group led by two police officers.  Unfortunately, we have really crappy luck with volcanoes.  As it turns out every kid in El Salvador was on a school field trip to climb a nearby volcano and would be using all of the police manpower for their hike.  There would be no police available for Santa Ana and thus no hike for us.

Obviously the group of 10-15 tourists hoping to hike the volcano were disappointed, but one schmuck decided it’s his job to tell the police how entitled he is to their services.  “I came all the way up here for this!”  “This is bull $hit!”  “I’m a privileged traveler who’s used to yelling and throwing money at things when they don’t go my way!”  At this point I’m annoyed.  I’m also embarrassed.  The guy’s rudeness, loud mouth and overall bro-ish-ness has me convinced he’s from the U.S. and I can’t have him out here representing this way.  Attempting to relate, I engage the man with “Dude” and gently follow it with “shut the fu$k up!”  Luckily this works and he walks off mumbling something about who his dad is.  After talking to a few of his hostel mates I find out the best part, he’s Canadian.  Never expected that!

Like every place we’ve visited, El Salvador was a pleasant surprise.  The roads were far better than Guatemala, the people were friendly and the landscapes were beautiful.  However, we only spent two weeks in the tiny country and are still unsure of how or why we left so soon.  All I know is that it started with morning coffee, a decision and the turn of a key.

Up next….Honduras!

By |2017-09-01T13:02:20-06:00March 13th, 2017|Central America, El Salvador, The Trip|4 Comments


  1. Eric March 14, 2017 at 7:50 am - Reply

    You picture game is on point, and Jenna’s shirt…LOL

    It useless battling the volcanoe’s–nature always wins. Maybe third time will be the charm?

    • Jenna March 15, 2017 at 7:42 am - Reply

      Thanks Eric! We got the shirts in Antigua, Guatemala and they seem to be a hit whenever worn… 🙂

  2. K Pawley March 14, 2017 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    I always look back and prefer to sit where I can see the rig. Not for security mind you, I just like the way she looks. 🙂

    • Jenna March 15, 2017 at 7:43 am - Reply

      They are awfully pretty, if I do say so myself… 🙂

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