La Tortuga Verde – our fave place in SLV
So Friday, we packed up and went into town to have the rear brake rotor installed that Doug brought back with him. That took about 30 minutes and cost us $8USD! Not worth even considering doing it ourselves!
We stocked up on groceries, got fuel, water and dumped our tanks and we are off to what is supposed to be the nicest beach in the country, Playa El Cuco. But before doing this we wanted to see about replacing our backup truck battery and after a few inquiries found a battery place and they had almost exactly what we needed so rather than continuing to look, we bought it and had them install it. Our second battery was also 8 years old (it was original coach battery) so we want to be able to have a good back up again to avoid the issue we’d had last week.
It rained off and on the whole day today but when we arrived in El Cuco in the late afternoon and got parked at the recommended Rio Mar camping spot, it was drying so we grabbed a couple of beers and went for a walk on the beach. This IS an amazing beach. We walked over to the main resort and noticed it was happy hour so we sat at the bar and for $7 we got three beers for Doug and two margaritas for Fran. She was a little leery about whether they’d be good or not but the young bartender did a great job. We met a young Kiwi man, William, on the beach who has been staying at our campground for a few weeks and does some surfing nearby. This beach is known as a good beginner surfer beach but the bigger waves are further north like El Tunco.
The place where we are staying is affiliated with a hotel/cabana resort, La Tortuga Verde (the green turtle) on Intipuca beach and is where many overlanders and backpackers stay. There is a parking/camping lot across from the resort but it is just a grassy field and has no sea view but does offer power. The resort has a pool, restaurant and bar supposedly with wifi and offers activities throughout the week. Many backpackers stay here a while as they can volunteer and stay for free over in the rooms at Rio Mar. Now on Saturday nights there is a large “fiesta” on the grounds of Rio Mar so we have opted to move to the parking lot for Saturday night and return on Sunday. Parked next to us was a colourful VW van owned by a man name Yuri who is El Salvadorian and has been travelling Latin America for several years now. At present he is selling his wares (mostly jewelry and painted items) at the resort on weekends and then began volunteering during the week for free accommodation.
La Tortuga Verde as viewed from the water at low tide:
The resort is also a kind of ocean animal sanctuary. During our stay there were two pelicans being cared for: one who’d lost a wing and one with a broken wing that will probably have to be amputated; a boobie bird that’d appeared to suffer a head trauma and a turtle. They also have turtle nesting grounds nearby from which they harvest the eggs and keep them secured in special beds. The owner is an American ex-surfer turned environmentalist who set this place up about 8 years ago. He owns several properties in the area included a piece of beach front on an island about an hour away. The resort has daily activities from yoga, to beach cleaning to trivia contests. It’s a fun place to hang out, meet lots of people and the beach is amazing; long, flat, wide and much of it is lined with palm trees which just add that something special in our opinion.
Doug needed to get a few work things done today so needed internet but unfortunately the reception for our hot spot was not cooperating (nor was the hotel wifi – turns out it only worked 3 of the 10 days we stayed there). So we packed up and drove into the nearest town (about 4km) and the Claro hotspot worked there. Doug worked in the rig, with the generating running so he could have power and run the AC and Fran walked the beach in town doing Spanish before getting too hot and joining him inside every once in a while.
We headed back to La Tortuga Verde and parked in their lot across the street to avoid the noise of tonight’s fiesta. It’s a grassy lot with a little building off to one side that you can plug into and there’s an outdoor sink. We’d read that it was not very nice so this was better than expected (although there is a long pile of building material type rubbish along one side of the lot). We figured, we’re only going to sleep here and spend the day over at the hotel property so not having an ocean view at night is not a big deal for us. The lot actually got quite full on the weekend so sitting by our rig would not have been very pleasant anyway.
We spent the afternoon at the beachfront under a palapa where we shared a table with an American from Phoenix, Chad, and a young woman from Mexico City, Nadia. They were very pleasant to chat with. We chatted, read, went into the surf and had a wonderful afternoon. After dinner we took a walk back towards Rio Mar to check out the “fiesta” but it was only 8:00 and things had not got started as yet.
Sunday morning, we did a few things around the “house” before going out to walk on the beach and do some Spanish lessons. We changed into our swimsuits, packed a lunch and went to sit back under a palapa for the afternoon again. Life is rough! Chad and Nadia were out sitting and we grabbed a table next to them as from their table we could not see the beach. We enjoyed another relaxing afternoon.
We met a threesome from New York, Sharon, Bonin and his father Martin who is 88 years old! They have been coming here for a while and hope to find a place here for Martin to stay longer if not permanently with some live in help, maybe right in a room here at the resort.
As mentioned, the hotel offers various activities throughout the week, weather permitting, and tonight their “sunset cruise” was an option. We’d learn of this yesterday but it was not offered that day. Turns out Chad and Nadia, thought of us and came over and said they’d sign us up with them for that evening. Chad’s buddy from North Carolina, Nick, was flying in today so we would be five of the seven they allow.
So around 4:45 we gathered on the beach and a boat picked us; now this was just a large wooden panga with an outboard motor. There was another couple with us, Luke & Carmella, from Britain. The owner, Tom approached us and told us that our trip out to the ocean was going to be filmed by a drone camera and asked us to wave at it. We headed out into the waves crashing down on the other side of them; loads of fun!
Sunset view from in the ocean:
Once past the waves we headed northwest towards the sun. About 15 minutes out where we should have been able to tube behind the boat, the black clouds began gathering to the southeast so we were told no tubing but we could jump out and go for a quick swim, so we did for about five minutes watching the sun set. We were given beer on board and headed towards the hotel and the storm, so we could land before it really hit. So the “cruise” was cut short a bit but it was great fun and only $2 each with $1 beer. We might try and do it again later in the week.
We went to have showers to get the salt off and wash our hair and walked back to Tigger while the rain let us somewhat.
Monday morning, Doug went for a run on the beach and came back to tell Fran they were releasing turtles so we both headed back to the beach with our camera; unfortunately, it was over but walking back thru the resort, we saw a bin with five baby turtles and Tom was there and he said we could release one. So Fran picked one up and we headed back to the beach. Our new friends followed us and as it was low tide had to walk out quite a ways but she placed the turtle into a few inches of water and we watched it bob and swim and finally make its way out fighting the waves. Good luck little fellow! We enjoyed the rest of the day chillin’ with our new friends on the beach.
We met another couple at happy hour: Ben & Emma from Australia – they began in Panama and are heading north backpacking.
We went back to Tigger for dinner and found a wet spot on the floor near the bathroom! Seems the new filter we’d put on our water pump was not screwed on tight enough and the carpet around it under the couch was drenched and beginning to seep out onto the floor. Doug tightened it up and we are drying it using towels and a fan; it could take a couple of days but at least we found the source and the fix was easy.
Tuesday we joined Chad, Nadia and Nick together with Doug, a British volunteer here, and Lea, a German volunteer who had just arrived on an “ocean adventure day”. We all got in the panga around 9 in the morning and headed out to sea to meet some fisherman to buy fresh fish and shrimp for lunch. We took this fresh catch to the island of Meangera in the bay south of La Tortuga and landed on a lovely beach in a former crater. It was a perfect half-moon shape with a lovely flat beach and palm trees.
Here a family lives on the beach and we took the fish to the woman and she cooked it up and made us lunch including tortillas and veggies. We enjoyed a lovely swim in the water first, had lunch and at one o’clock we got back in the boat to check out Bird Island – sadly there were few birds so we went to the other side of Meangera where there is a little town and we disembarked to enjoy some fresh lemonade on the patio of the waterfront hotel. We could see the birds returning to their island and we sailed over to see them for a bit – it was hundreds of frigate birds and pelicans. It appeared there was a storm brewing offshore so our captain, Herman, recommended that we head back a bit early so we headed back and landed well before the wind started but the storm never hit our area.
Doug and I took our boogie boards out to try the waves when we got back but other than getting one good ride in each, it was not perfect conditions it seemed. Others were learning to surf but they did not stay out long either. This afternoon took an unfortunate turn; Doug keeps money in his zippered bathing suit pocket but after tipping the boat captain, apparently he’d not zipped it back up and when we went out into the water, over $100 floated away! Was an expensive day! Also while out boogie boarding, his bandana came off and we never found it; it was a special one from the Utah national parks so we’ll have to get a new one for him one day.
After showering, we joined our many new friends for happy hour and had a late dinner in Tigger.
Wednesday was a chillin’ day. Thursday, Doug went to pay our nightly $10 camping fee and the front office had decided that since we were using our AC they needed to charge us an extra $5 (they charge $10 extra for their rooms with AC). We were not pleased with this so we did unhook and went to check out the few other possibilities in the nearby area but although we found one that would only charge $10 inclusive of AC use, it was too far from the beach. We figured the extra $5 was worth the facilities at our disposal at La Tortuga and it was only for the last four nights of our stay here.
Video Fran took of a crab circling to protect his territory:
The rest of the day was another chillin’ one until the late afternoon. Our daily “routine” here includes sitting at a table under a palapa with an ocean view. As we often have valuables with us (camera, kindles, phones) we tend to go into the ocean separately to cool off and then use the outdoor showers nearby to rinse off the salt. When Doug went out after Fran, he came back limping, bleeding and in pain; he thought he’d been bitten by a crab. His foot was also swelling and he could put no weight on it. A young Mexican/American man suggested it might have been a sting ray sting and offered us some antiseptic soap and suggested he soak it in the hottest water he could stand. We packed up and went to Tigger and Fran got the water ready. While we were googling treatments, Lea, the German volunteer knocked on our door and said that the hotel reception found out what happened and recommended that she take us to the pharmacy in the nearby village for a shot. She’d been to the town earlier today and knew where the licensed pharmacist was and that it was open until 7. We unhooked Tigger and off we went with Doug in the back soaking his foot and in pretty excruciating waves of pain. We got to the pharmacy and it was closed; a local pointed us in the direction of another and although that one was open, he had no licensed pharmacist in at that time and suggested a doctor down the block, but that office was closed too (it was now after five). He said he’d call a different one and it turned out he was in and was right across the street in an unmarked house.
From what we’d read, the excruciating pain from this type of sting, lasts about 90 minutes and can come in waves – that was true for Doug. It is highly recommended to get a shot of antibiotics and a pain killer.
The Dr. took a look and prepped Doug’s foot for the shot after numbing it. He wrapped it up after whipping up a cream and lathering the injured area (the inside ball of his foot). He gave us the rest of the cream to reapply the next morning and more medicine and a syringe to be injected into his backside the next morning – really? No instructions or nothing! He charged us $43 including the meds and said if we were uncomfortable giving the shot ourselves in the morning, we could come back and he’d do it free of charge – duh! Of course we’ll come back.
Within five minutes of the shot, the pain was subsiding and shortly after that Doug was pain free. We returned to La Tortuga Verde and thanked Lea for taking us there. She’d been having an issue with her eye anyway and had the doctor take a look and he gave her a script that day which she was able to fill on Friday when we went back for the backside needle; we also hit a bank with success and did some fruit and veggie shopping at the market in Intipuca as there is not much near the resort.
Thursday night was Trivia night at the bar so we participated and after a tie, we eventually won the tournament. There were three teams: us, the Mexican/American Edgar and his girlfriend, Kate and a three person young women’s team consisting of a American and two Canadians who’d been travelling together for a couple of weeks but did not start together. We and the women tied and it took about a dozen tie breaker questions to finally get the win; the prize was a free beer each. Despite Doug being on meds, he wasn’t missing out on that!
After our trip into town Friday morning we hung at the beach; Doug was not to go into the salt water for another day and his foot is gauze bound again. He had a work call/webex in the afternoon which he did sitting at our table on the beach under a palapa (photo above).
That evening we returned to the resort after dinner for the bonfire event but it began raining and did not last long. They did have a tall fire of palm leaves right on the beach and then a fire pit with logs and offered telescoping forks and giant marshmallows. We skipped that part as the fire was all flame and you need coal, not flames to cook a marshmallow properly in Fran’s opinion; especially those giant ones.
Saturday, Doug did some more work sitting at the beach and we went in and out of the water a few times in between reading and chatting. While sitting there, Yuri came over and said we could come and watch the turtle eggs being placed into the safe bins. They open one of the three “bins” and a young man dug a hole and placed in the new turtle eggs that had been laid the night before to keep them from predators. They apparently will hatch in about six weeks.
In the late morning, the British volunteer, Doug went out to go surfing and came back fifteen minutes later: he’d been stung by a ray as well! Turned out that now there was a guest who was a doctor and he went with Lea and Doug into a different village to a pharmacy for the shot which the doctor administered and he gave Doug oral antibiotics to take for a few days. Let’s hope there’s not another Doug at the resort who plans to go into the ocean!
While wandering the beach we also saw lots and lots of sand dollars. Here’s a short video of them trying to get back into the ocean:
Saturday evening we had dinner at the resort with Lea, Yuri and a newcomer, Clarissa from Australia. All but Fran went over to get pupusas from the lady down the road (Fran ordered from the bar – yeah, she’s not very good at new foods). Lightning began before dinner was over so we headed back around 7:30 and the storm hit shortly afterwards. Again, it rained hard for a while and had stopped by the time we went to bed.
Sunday we chilled again and Doug was able to go into the salt water again – we did wear water shoes this time although the rays can pretty much get through any footwear but we felt better as we did the “sting ray shuffle” into the surf.
Just about every day here has been beautiful weather wise until the early evening; blue sky, a few clouds and hot with a lovely breeze off the Pacific.
So Monday morning we unhooked and after picking up Doug and his friend Claudia, we all headed back up the coast to La Libertad where Doug and Claudia we going to catch a bus to San Salvador and we were heading back to El Tunco to camp and park while we’re in LA.
Hostal Sol y Mar let us park and hook up and we decided we’d go out for dinner tonight so we don’t have a lot of perishables while we’re gone. Tuesday, we after doing a few things around the rig including pulling out our roller board luggage and packing, we headed to La Bocanita to enjoy the pool for the afternoon.
Doug went to the airport early Wednesday morning and Fran spent the day in El Tunco before going to the airport for her flight. We when booked the flights, we had to do them individually and after the fact we noticed that Doug was flying in the morning and Fran’s flight was in the evening – would have cost over $300 to change it so we left it as it was. Doug picked up the rental car upon landing in LA and Fran took the Super Shuttle to the hotel upon landing.