Day 33 – La Palmas, El Salvador to San Salvador, El Salvador

Or, the day the Rough Guide led us horribly astray.

It all started well. A good breakfast at La Palmas, and a leisurely packing up since we had such a short ride to San Salvador after repacking. The land, we were told, where you could “buy anything”. We were going there for the mythical Latin American stash of Lithium AAA batteries. There was a little time spent grabbing the Cycle Pump and putting some air back in my rear tire, but it went quickly and our mood was good.

I didn’t know where exactly we were going in San Salvador, but the prior night we’d looked up the address of a couple of hotels that sounded decent in what sounded like the historical district.

Dear gods was it wrong. As is our modus operandi, we circled our way to the coordinates, checking the map until we finally found it. We were overheated, drenched in sweat, and hungry when we arrived. Dachary had been out of water for about half an hour at that point too.

Unfortunately, the promised hotel, was not there. There was, however, *a* hotel. A tiny tiled driveway between two buildings led to a locked gate. I made an executive decision to give it a try despite the fact that neither of us actually wanted to stay anywhere near this place. We pulled in. The bedrooms looked cheap… very cheap. The bathrooms were all varying degrees of nasty. Neither of us wanted it, and while we both had some vague notion that things got better somewhere west of here, all we knew for sure was that San Salvador was large and that we didn’t actually know where, west of here, any hotels were. And the prospect of spending the next hour, or two, trying to find something in this heat… we decided, unhappily, with much grumbling, to take it.

We then proceeded to spend as much time as possible as far away from the hotel as possible. And, following LoLita’s instructions we began our journey with a stop at a place that served Papusas, which happened to be on the corner. We’re still undecided about them. We like the idea, and the fillings were good, but the surrounding bread was very doughy. We’re not sure if that’s the norm or just how this place does it, but we think we’d like them a bit more thoroughly cooked.

The hotel bordered the market area, which was good as it was where we thought we’d have luck looking for batteries. We were wrong. But, if you need any clothes we know just where to look. DVDs too. I even saw Tron Legacy even though it isn’t even in the theaters in El Salvador yet.

While there we learned an important fact. Denizens of San Salvador are all mostly deaf. There’s no other way they could survive the sheer volume of the place day in, and day out.

Whilst walking through the market Dachary remembered that we had two tasks here. One was to find the mythical batteries. The other was to get me a new headlight for the bike since my low beam only technically emits light. If you look at it, you see light, but if you try and use it, you see none. It’s all Schrodingery like that. We’d set out from the hotel with such haste that I’d neglected to bring my Moleskine with the address of the BMW Dealership, and we needed to get there before they closed. So, back we went, grabbed it, and promptly hailed a cab from next to the Papusa place.

Seven dollars later (they use US currency here. So freaking weird) we were standing in the BMW Dealership being told by the security guard at the desk that no, there wasn’t actually ANYONE at work there and that no, there wouldn’t be tomorrow either. But if we were to come back on Monday we might have better luck.

It seems that Excel Automotriz isn’t particularly interested in selling any of the luxury vehicles and motorcycles it has on the floor. I’m not convinced they actually have a service area either. But, the security guard was happy to point us to the nearby ATM, which happened to be in the mallish thing that abutted the shiny glass BMW dealership. The ATM was next to a supermarket in which we discovered AA Lithium batteries! They had no AAA, but it at least made us believe that our quest was not entirely in vain. (And btw, if you have a first generation SPOT tracker and need just AA lithium batteries, you can get them at the Super-something grocery store in the mall-ish area next to Excel Automotriz BMW dealer here in San Salvador, El Salvador. And buy those motha-effers out because we haven’t seen them ANYWHERE else.)

We backtracked down the street to the nearby actual mall, and discovered that it contained a Radio Shack! I was positively vibrating with hope. But no, dear friends, it was not to be. Radio Shack in San Salvador sells only their own brand of batteries, which are all alkaline. Fuckers. They did, however have grounded three prong to ungrounded two prong adapters that we could use for our power strip, and a Y adapter for headphones, so that we can both watch Dr Who even with an air conditioner on, or hippie drummers outside the window. That at least made us a bit happier.

We stopped by the Apple store, just because we could (teeny), and wandered the mall looking for other places that might have batteries. This mall happened to have a theater, and I was convinced that seeing a movie was our best option for avoiding the hotel. Dachary agreed, but wasn’t willing to give up the quest. She pulled out the Rough Guide, and tracked down the names of the other malls in the area that she remembered seeing there. One of them was apparently the largest in Central America it claimed. So, we grabbed a cab, and five dollars US we were there.

It was big, sprawly, easy to get lost in, and possessed two food courts, two Wendy’s, a Sherwin Williams, a Payless Shoe Source, Two mister Donuts (they sell actual meals here and appear to be quite popular), and lots and lots of other stores.

We meandered, and meandered, and meandered, and then found a camera store, which we wandered into fully bereft of hope. But just when things seem their darkest… AAA Lithium batteries!!!! We squealed. We high-fived each other. We waited for the girl who worked there.

“tres A lithium batteries!” we said and pointed. “Qanto?” “DIez.” This confused her, but she pulled one off the rack. “Mas! Mas!” she pulled. “Mas! en todo!” I’m not sure if that means, all, or everything, or anything even close to ether but our frantic waving conveyed the desire. “Mas mas!” she pulled them all. We bounced. We laughed. She counted. “nueve?” “Si!” We’d miscounted. We didn’t care. We laughed more.

Five dollars, twenty cents for two batteries my friend, and we bought every single one they had. It should *just* be enough to keep the Spot running for the rest of the trip.

Lithium Baby... All Lithium

Food next. We went to Wendy’s. I forget why exactly, but I have to say that I was disgusted with the Anglo centric Bullshit from Wendy’s HQ that we found within. There were exactly two sentences in Spanish in the entire establishment, and one was in the bathroom telling employees to wash their hands. The entire menu was in English. Even the “choose a side”. It’s as if they didn’t give even the slightest thought to the people who work there or the people who eat there.

Afterwards we made our way to the Cinema in this mall and found that everything had just started, but the new animated Repunzel flick had started not too long ago and was probably only barely past the trailers. Fine, we’ll go for it. Go in and find out it’s been dubbed. Damn. Fuck that. I’m not going to go see a movie that I’ve probably missed the start of and definitely won’t catch most of. The The Tourist (El Tourista) was subtitled though….

Debate ensued. Kill almost two hours meandering around the mall in order to watch a film for the sole purpose of avoiding the hotel room, or go back to the hotel room. Ultimately, we decided that while the prospect of spending more time meandering anywhere wasn’t particularly what we wanted to do, it would probably be better to the hotel. So we meandered, and gradually got more worn out.

But finally it was time, and into the ticket line we got. “This ticket ordering process seems to take a very long time.” I mused, and then realized something… they were looking at the screens. They were… they were choosing seats! When it was out turn, we did too, right in the middle of the theatre. Row J, seats 5 and 6. It cost us $3.90 US dollars each. I shit you not. We started laughing in line when we saw the price. Last time we went to a movie it was probably $14 each.

We got a soda, a bottle of water, and a large popcorn (not the Fucking Gigantor one thank you) for about $6 and spent a very enjoyable hour and a half, or more, watching The Tourist. Neither of us had seen the original, but I was aware of its pedigree, so I had high hopes. I am happy to say, it met them. We both left with spirits lifted.

Until, that is, the taxi ($5) dropped us off at the hotel. Food needed to be acquired, and the area was even more nasty looking than in the daylight. This is definitely not a part of town that tourists should be meandering around at night. This way? no closed. That way? no, that’s not food. That way? No those stands all sell alcohol. Fuck… Back to the one place on the corner (across from the Papusa place) that had a bunch of people and meat on a grill. It was more Carne Asada, but there was ground churiso, some tasty salsa(ish) and some very tasty tortillas.

While we waited in the smoke filled tent (from the grill) we were assaulted by the “music” from the Las Vegas strip club around the corner from the Papusa place. We wondered if deaf patrons tipped strippers better, but declined to investigate. The food was tasty, but half way through it I suddenly felt like I’d come over with a fever. Dachary finished off hers and we headed back to the hotel… quickly, with a stop in the Papusa place (it’s the center of our world) for a couple sodas before they finished closing up shop.

“For here?” “No, to go” She smiles happliy and goes to get some bags. “Oh how nice, she’s getting us bags for our soda.” Not worth trying to explain that we don’t need bags, we let her continue. “Ah, yes, thank you for the straws. Oh, she’s… she’s opened one… both of them for us. Maybe she thinks we might not have bottle openers. Oh, now she’s… what’s she doing with the… Oh no…” She then proceeds to tip each bottle into a bag and hand us the bag. She wanted to keep the bottles for the return. This explains the people walking around with drinks in plastic baggies with straws we’d seen. It is also, we believe, the origin of the phrase “left holding the bag” because you can’t actually do anything until you’ve finished your drink.

I’m not sure how Dachary managed to pay her but… We walked past four homeless people bedded down for the night and into the hotel’s driveway thing. And, as we did, oh happy day, the assault from the strip club started to lessen. Yes! Around the corner into our hall. Even quieter. Yes! There’s some other music we can hear but it’s not bad…. Unlock the padlock. ( Some of the rooms have no locks. Some have locks that don’t work. This one had a lock that didn’t work but they gave us a padlock to put through the two eye-bolts they’d conveniently installed…) Open the door. Flick the switch. Wait. Flickr. Wait. Flickr. Wait….. The fluorescent blinks into life.

I think that light is making my headache worse… Dachary thinks that it’ll probably give her one. So, we get out our laptops and power cords, plug the headsets in to recharge, and are using our headlamps (on our heads) instead of the overhead whilst I type this to you, and she does some work for a client.

We suspect the worst from these beds, and will be very pleasantly surprised if we survive without bedbug bites, and actually obtaining sleep.

Also, while we can’t hear the strip club, there’s obviously some other club nearby because we can hear the bass from it’s music vibrating the walls.

We are not at all happy with San Salvador. And, with that, I’m going to hand the laptop to Dachary for review whilst I give myself a Baby-wipe bath, because I’m not going to touch the shower.

About Kay

An old-school geek, addicted to travel, with a love of programming, writing, Esperanto, and starting businesses. -- @masukomi on Twitter.

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