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Day 23: Metamorphoses of the Nissan

March 2, 2006

So it's the second day of March … spring time for most of the countries, while we are in the country of eternal spring - that's how they call Guatemala. Who knows.… Alas, not us - just two more hours and we will be at the border of El Salvador.
Honestly, we felt very disappointed to part with Guatemala having not seen anything more than the Gallo beer and the impressive Esquintla security - not even a bandido for a change… The highway to the border (same CA-2) was fast and very picturesque, but somewhat isolated - no towns, no villages, no people, just a few cars passing by once in a while. Looked like one of the better places for the bandido activities, but we didn't see any of those either. :)

Leaving Guatemala takes less than 5 minutes: we quickly collect another dozen of stamps and are free to go. "Bienvenidos a El Salvador"… just not so fast and easy :) Salvadoran officials are famous for being the most scrutinizing in the region, and we quickly find out that this is not without a good reason. For the beginning, they give us a ton of papers to complete: tourist cards, an individual customs declaration form for each of us, a scrupulous declaration of vehicle cargo, a separate vehicle specification sheet for engine volume… and, believe it or not, the answer "V6, 3Liter" is not acceptable. You must rewrite the whole form and put down the exact number: 3,145 Milliliter engine, manual tranny, made in, sold in, 5 doors, 5 wheels…

Some knowledge of Spanish (the more the better for you) comes in very handy, as you must present a thorough list of cargo in Spanish (they actually go and inspect it). The customs officers do not speak any English at all.

Be prepared to have your patience tested numerous times. Even if you brought copies of all your travel documents to avoid run-arounds, you will be asked for a copy of something that may sound completely ridiculous, like the list of cargo you have just created (for some reason they cannot copy it themselves, although the photocopier stands right beside), or a copy of the Guatemalan exit stamps in your passport… There is some special copy-culture at the customs of El Salvador. Also, be very attentive which of the forms you must sign and which ones you are not allowed to. If you sign the one you were not supposed to, you will have to rewrite everything from the beginning :) Throughout the duration of this ordeal you will be periodically reminded that all the customs formalities in El Salvador are free of charge. So you should probably be thankful or something :) And you better be thankful - imagine what additional procedures and forms they would come up with to justify the fee, if there were one…

When yesterday we emphasized that you should check every number and letter in your car papers at every border, we did it with a reason. When entering Guatemala, the customs officer managed to make several mistakes in our car paperwork: left out one digit from the license plate number, misspelled Dovi's last name (can forgive this one… :)) and, to top it all off, put "Isuzu Rodeo" instead of Nissan Pathfinder! :) The most stupid thing of us was to notice the mistakes while we were just a few miles from the border and decide to let it be - "whatever happens, happens…" Surprisingly, we had no problem because of this when leaving Guatemala. Logically, this should be the happy end of the story… but not if you are traveling to El Salvador :)

At the time we thought we were finally through with all the forms and photocopies, the Salvadorian inspector noticed the mistake in the Guatemalan car papers and sent us back to Guatemala to get the mistakes corrected :) Our argument that the original title of the car and the corresponding VIN - the only number the Guatemalan managed to type in without mistakes :) - were more important than a copy of the no longer valid Guatemalan temporary importation form was rejected. If the paper says you left Guatemala in Isuzu, you must enter El Salvador in Isuzu! Therefore, take your car back to Guatemala, have them change it from Isuzu to Nissan, then come back and maybe we will believe you have been always driving this Nissan, maybe…

We thought the Salvadorian was unreasonable, until we went back to Guatemala and spoke to the border official who had signed our Nissan's exit papers. He looked at the papers and said: "Oh, since the mistake had been made at the Guatemala-Mexico border, this is where it has to be corrected! You will have to go back there…" :)) Whatever he had been smoking that morning (or maybe drinking the Goat beer…), luckily it took him just a moment to realize what a nonsense he had just said. Another 15 minutes and our Nissan is Nissan Pathfinder again :) We go back, get send to make several more photocopies of the corrected docs, and the Salvadorian officers set us free!! This time we decide to tease them a bit and deliberately stay in their office for another 10 minutes, carefully checking every single letter they typed in the pile of docs they've just issued for us. Wouldn't want to later find out we had been driving a Mercedes in El Salvador…

The first town we reach in El Salvador is called Cara Sucia (Dirty Face). We think it's a must to check out the town with the name like this :) To our disappointment, all the faces in town look clean and shaved. There is nothing else to do in Cara Sucia, but there is a muffler shop on our way, and it becomes our next stop. We had a high-flow muffler installed before the trip, but the American welding techniques failed on the Mexican road test... The resonator disconnected several days ago and our Nissan started roaring as a racecar :)

The owner of the muffler shop appears to be quite a businessman. He starts from shaking his head: "No good, no good…entire muffler needs to go". Then he tries to sell us at least a new and "better" resonator, and finally agrees to do what we want - simply weld back the old one. The whole thing takes 5 minutes and costs us USD 5 :)

El Salvador is a very small country (or it seems so after Mexico :)), and we quickly reach the next town, Nahuizalco. This one is famous for its unusual late night market illuminated by candles. Sounds interesting, but it is only 2 o'clock in the afternoon, and there is not much to see or do in this tiny town. The market looks exactly the same as all the other markets we have seen, only the withered fruit and veggies stand little chance to appear much more impressive in the candlelight… So we hit the road again and shortly arrive in Apaneca. Similar town, similar market… no idea why this one was also advertised in the travel book. Back on the road…

After we passed maybe five more identical towns and villages, we got too tired to go on with this village hopping. Will sleep in Juayua and continue tomorrow :). Juayua looks just like another Apaneca or Nahuizalco or another one of the five, but this one at least has a nice hotel called "El Mirador" and owned by a very friendly family. There is Internet downstairs (USD 1 for an hour), and laundry service can be arranged for a little fee. There is also a little restaurant where the whole family (including the parrot) gathers for breakfast, and you will invited to join them for a cup of excellent Salvadorian coffee, if you happen to be passing by :) Highly recommended!

Hotels in El Salvador are very cheap - USD 7-15 for a basic but nice room. But why are all the towns and villages of El Salvador so similar??

Guatemala-El Salvador Border Formalities and Practicalities: Departing from Guatemala is fast and painless. Entering El Salvador without a vehicle is not a big deal either - all you have to do is fill out a tourist card. Make sure to have an address of some hotel in El Salvador to list it as a place you will supposingly be staying at. Simply putting down "hotels" is not enough :) If you are bringing in a vehicle, you will be required to fill out a bunch of forms, all in Spanish, and then a bunch of copies of the forms you have filled out. Finally, the vehicle will get inspected and, providing they fill find no problem with the car and the documents, you will be allowed to enter El Salvador. None of the customs officials spoke any English. All the border procedures are free of charge, but just as soon as you leave the customs, there is a check point at which they charge you some municipal fee (whatever that is…), USD 5.

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Welcome to... whatever - will never remember the spelling or correct pronunciation of this place :)

vienvenidos a juayua

Sveiki atvyke i miesta, kurio pavadinimo dar ir dabar negalim normaliai istarti :)

In a town this size there's no place to hide...

panorama of juayua

Mazu miesteliu mazi nameliai

Juayua, Apaneca, Nahuizalco... take your pick.


Cia Juayua, bet, reikalui esant, galima sakyti, kad Apaneca arba Nahuizalco. Vis tiek jie beveik identiski.

El Salvador is a very safe country. Nearly everybody here carries a big gun :)

San Salvador streets

Salvadoras - labai saugi salis. Beveik kiekvienas zmogus cia nesiojasi didziuli sautuva :)

Nuvesk pelyte virs paveiksliuko, spustelk jos kaire ausele, ir paveiksliukas padides

23-oji diena: Nissano metamorfozes

2006 m. kovo 2

Kelyje nuo Eskintlos iki Salvadoro sienos nei gyvenvieciu, nei automobiliu beveik nebera. Tokiam tusciam kely jau ir banditams butu lengviau susirasti ramia vietele mus uzpulti (iki Eskintlos buvo toks masinu srautas, jog tikrai neatrode realu, kad kas vidury dienos imtu ir uztvertu toki judru kelia). Taciau kelias geras, vaizdai grazus - pasonej didziules kavos ir bananu plantacijos, o tolumoje - kalnu grandines… ir taip laikas iki pasienio neprailgsta.

Vel pasienio "tramites"… Gvatemalos puseje viska susitvarkom labai greitai - tik susirenkam antra pussimti antspaudeliu ilgam prisiminimui ir be nuotykiu atvaziuojam I Salvadora. Cia "be nuotykiu" ir baigaisi. Su pasais - jokiu problemu, o su masina prasideda cirkai. Pirmiausia, reikia uzpildyti visa kruva formu: asmeninio turto deklaracija, smulkmeniska masinos duomenu anketa, kurioje variklio turi privaloma pazymeti ne litru or mililitru tikslumu, masinos krovinio deklaracija ir dar, atrodo, pora kazokiu. Kai kurias formas pasirasyti privaloma, o kitu negalima. Netycia pasirasom, ir tenka perrasyti :) Kalba - tik ispanu (sunkoka isivaizduoti, kaip ispaniskai nekalbantys turistai suraso detalu daiktu sarasa…) Ne visu daiktu pavadinimus ispaniskai zinome ir mes, tuos tenka nesti rodyti muitininkui. Uzpildzius reikia nubegti padaryti po kopija. Kai griztam, paaiskeja, kad kai kuriu reikia po dvi :)

Po to seka praktine masinos inspekcija. Ilgai aiskinam inspektoriui, kas tai yra GPS ("palydovinis zemelapis"), ir kad sis prietaisas muzikos negroja… Jam sunkoka patiket :)

Kai panaseja, kad sitas marazmas pagaliau arteja prie pabaigos, inspektorius staiga pareiskia negalis musu ileisti I Salvadora, nes yra "nesutapimas". Del kazkokios priezasties, ivaziuojant I Salvadora labai svarbu vaidmeni vaidina isvaziavimo is Gvatemalos dokumentai. O juose kaip tik yra "smulki klaidele" - vietoj Nissan Pathfinder irasyta Isuzu Rodeo :) Ir nesvarbu, kad isvaziuojant is Gvatemalos si klaidele nesukele jokiu problemu; taip pat menko svarumo yra faktas, kad ivaziavimo I Salvadora forma ruosiama pagal originalius masinos dokumentus, o ne pagal Gvatemalos kopija - jei gvatemalieciai irase, kad jusu masina - Isuzu, privalote I Salvadora ivaziuoti su Isuzu!

Gauname nurodyma grizti I Gvatemalos pasienio punkta, kad istaisytu klaida. Labai knietejo vozteleti tam inspektoriui visomis jo formomis ir kopijomis - kantrybes su tokiu uzsispyreliu tikrai reikia neeilines…
Beje, mums su juo "besiderint", inspektorius taip itartinai daznai primindavo, jog Salvadoro pasienieciai uz jokias paslaugas pinigu neima, kad galiausiai beveik nebeliko abejoniu, jog desimt amerikonisku doleriu butu istaise visas smulkiasias klaideles… Spyga taukuota jis is musu gaus! Nepatingesim grizti atgal I Gvatemala :)

Griztam I Gvatemala, kur isgirstam viena is didesniu nesamoniu per visa kelione - kadangi klaida buvo padaryta Meksikos pasienyje, tai reikes I ta punkta grizti ja istaisyti :)) Nezinia, kokio alaus - gaidzio ar ozio - sitas pasienietis buvo uzgeres, bet, laimei, pats gana greitai susiprato, kokia nesamone pasake, ir nuejo taisyti klaidos. Uz 15 minuciu mes ir vel Salvadore, be klaidu :) Salvadoro inspektorius aiskiai nustemba, vel mus taip greitai isvydes, ir net gi uzklausia, kiek sumokejom uz klaidos istaisyma. Isgirdes, kad nieko, dar karta primena, kad ir Salvadore muitines paslaugos nieko nekainuoja :))
Kad nepasirodytu per paprasta, salvadorietis mus pasiuncia padaryti dar keliu kopiju ir, galiausiai, iskilmingai iteikia visa susni antspauduotos makulaturos. Atidziai perziurim kiekviena raide ir skaiciu, kad netycia I Salvadora nebutume ivaziave su Mersedesu :)

Pirmasis sustojimas Salvadore - miestelis Cara Sucia (Purvinas Veidas). Pavadinimas tiesiog ipareigoja uzsukti :) Purvinu veidu nepastebejom, bet, pries taip pavadinant miesta, vis tik reiktu kelis kartus pagalvoti. Antrasis sustojimas - duslintuvu taisymo dirbtuves :) Musu Nisanas jau kelinta diena kriokia kaip senas kolukio traktorius. Pries kelione originalu masinos duslintuva pakeitem I didelio pralaidumo Magnaflow, taciau amerikietiska suvirinimo kokybe neatlaike pasivazinejimu Meksikos keliukais - eme ir atsikabino rezonatorius. Draugiskas dirbtuviu savininkas pradzioje bando mums parduoti visa nauja duslintuva, po to bent rezonatoriu, kol galiausiai suderim, kad paprasciausiai privirins musiski - $5 ir 5 minutes darbo :)

Netrunkam pastebeti viena Slavadoro savybe - palyginti su Meksika, per zemelapi judame tiesiog zaibo greiciu. Salvadoras labai mazytis, bet tai mums patinka, nes jau labai atsibodo vien vaziuoti ir nieko idomaus nepamatyti. Beveik visi keliai labai geri, o vaizdai - nuostabus: sleniai; kalnai; mango, bananu ir kavos plantacijos… Taip privaziuojam Nahuizalco - miesteli, kuris garseja naktiniu turgumi zvakiu sviesoje. Apziurim miesta (Lietuvoj tokius "miestus" dazniau vadina baznytkaimiais…) ir turgu - paprastas miestelis, dar paprastesnis darzoviu turgelis… Buvo dar tik vos po vidurdienio, be to karsty apvytusios darzoves nedemonstravo didelio potencialo zvakiu sviesoje nusvisti neregetom spalvom, todel, be didelio gailescio, nutariam vakarini regini praleisti, ir vaziuojam toliau - I visose knygose labai isreklamuota Apaneca.

Apanekoje vyksta kazkokia miesto svente, centrineje aiksteje konstruojama scena - matyt, vakare bus koncertas…. Bet kokie visi tie Sanvadoro miestai-kaimai panasus! Toks ispudis, kad siandien jau matem bent penkias Apanekas… Vaziuojam I Juayua - nepatikesit, bet dar viena Apaneka…:) Sitoj nakvosim, nes malonus "El Mirador" viesbutuko seimininkai turi ir interneta, ir skalbykla (ir 5-ta ryto garsiai ciauskancia papuga!)

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