We are in San Salvador, a city surrounded by volcanos – el Salvador’s capital inhabiting 2 million people, and known for its sky high crime rates. A real wake up call to how safe Europe feels. It’s one of these places you are warned not to walk around after 6 pm in most of the neighbourhoods. Luckily, thanks to our host Rony we were located in one of the nicest parts of San Salvador.
We were given a complete tour of the city. At first glance you feel like you’ve arrived in America, blinded by colourful fast food advertisements and chains everywhere. Starting in the centre and the old town we found out that it’s not all so colourful. Here the busy streets were lined with the unregistered market stands, which are regularly taxed by the gang members in exchange for “protection”. Often closed by the police taking away already limited places of employment. Here you will find people selling everything from toothpaste through to stolen watches, clothes, handmade jewellery and foods. Straight away you can tell it’s a city with huge safety problems. Buildings bordered up and graffiti every. Never have we been anywhere where there’s been such a presence of police officers and the army on the streets, dressed and armed like they’re going into battle. That coupled with the huge fences and barbed wire that lines the tops of all the buildings, really puts you on edge. After finding out how hard it is to get a decent job, or any job at all, there’s a huge number of people with very little or no money. Of course this then had a knock on effect with the crime and gang related problems San Salvador has, especially with the locals fearing there own safety.
What we found unbelievable is that you can very clearly see how the city is divided into social classes. Everyone who can afford it chooses to live behind a giant fence with a guard and nowadays the living zone is shifting towards volcanos, far from the city centre.
We used San Salvador as a base to explore the local areas and for that it was perfect since El Salvador (the smallest country in Central America and most densely populated) is known as 45 minute country, where you can get anywhere within 45 minutes. That with the fact that our host, Rony has an amazing apartment and swimming pool gave us plenty of time to chill and indulge on bbq foods before we moved on to Nicaragua.
We all took a day trip to Santa Ana, el Salvadors famous volcano, just a 45 minute drive from El Salvador. Here you are able to drive up the mountain that looks straight onto two volcanoes. They are still very much live, but only releasing gasses now. From there we took the relatively easy walk to the top of Santa Ana. Lucky with the weather we had amazing views from the top at 2365 m high, we could see the coast, the lake and into the creator of the volcano. The pale blue smoking waters sat hundreds of meters below with cliff edge.
After taking in the amazing views and a picnic at the top, we headed back down the volcano. Only 20 minuets into our journey back we were met with a lady in agony. She had fallen and broken her ankle. It couldn’t have been in a worse place, with no painkillers and no medical help. Imagine there was no helicopter, mountain rescue or ambulance. This is when you realise the country your traveling in. Luckily, there were some handy people with her who strapped her leg up with belts and sticks. A call down to the entrance of the park and an hour later, brought up 6 guys and a stretcher. Here we swapped regularly as we scrambled down the mountain with her. At the closet available road a police car met us, and she was driven to her friends car. Here she took a very slow two hour drive to the private hospital. The realisation of how good European medical help is – here there is nothing. Just the hope you are surrounded by people with good knowledge and willingness to help. A really wake up call, on being careful while traveling.