El Salvador 2: El Zonte to Alergría

While at the pit stop, the team took advantage of the pool as the surf was huge.  They ate at a local comedor which served cheap tasty food while playing surf movies all evening.  They marvelled at the lax planning laws that allowed construction right on the rocky beach, metres away from the surf.  The friendly, laid back Californian surf vibe was great and the team briefly considered using the rest period to learn how to surf.  But as this is a race and surfing was not one of the challenges, the team used the rest period to enjoy the vista and prepare for the next leg.

The next morning the team checked out of the pit stop and was provided with their next clue.  They were to make their way to the mountain town of Alegría where they would receive their next clue.  Out they went to the main road where they boarded another party chicken bus for the ride to El Tunco.  Once there they were deposited on the side of the road and soon were in the second bus of the day, an express mini bus to San Salvador.

The ride passed quickly and arriving at the bus station, they received the first challenge for this leg of the race.  Their task was to find the post office and send the handicrafts that had previously been purchased on the Guatemalan and Mexican legs of the race.

Setting off on foot through the hot streets of San Salvador, the team was edgy as this city does have a dangerous reputation, but aside from an individual who may or may not have been an undercover cop flashing a badge and asking if they would like a lift, the team was able to locate the post office without incident.  Ang and Simon both found that it was best to ask directions of the guys holding the shotguns or AK47, as these security staff seemed to have the best direction sense.

Posting of the package was straight forward (and much cheaper than Guatemala) and the team took a taxi for the short ride to the eastern bus station.  Once there they were ushered onto a long distance bus to San Miguel (bus X for the day) for $2.5 each, after a nice El Salvadorian lady challenged the bus assistant for the team, saving them being ripped off $0.50.  Ang disliked this bus as the passenger section was sealed behind a curtain, so that you were unable to see out of the front windscreen.

1.5 hours later, after the usual stops to allow people off and food vendors on, the team arrived at Valla El Triunfo.  There they boarded a mini bus and raced up into the hills to Santiago de Maria.  Once there a further change to a final chicken bus delivered them to their destination, Alegría.

Guy painting some walls More murals

The team secured nice accommodation at the Entre Piedras Hotel and set about walking around town.  Both Simon and Ang really enjoyed this beautiful town, with Simon in particular likening it to Montville, complete with friendly chatty locals, but unfortunately no fudge.

Hinterland cows and laptops

Originally planning to spend one night, they were given a challenge to complete a 5 hour hike of a nearby volcano.  That night, the team also discovered pupusas, a maize based savoury food that is kind of like a stuffed pancake.  They were also given the task of inventing a new national food for El Salvador.   Ang came up with the perfect dish, pupusas with bananas.  From this point on, the local Alegríans thought the team was crazy.

The next morning, the team along with their machete wielding guide walked up the hill behind town.  The going was fairly easy until they reached the quarter way mark.  At this point their speed slowed as their guide macheted a path through the thick scrub.  This process took some time and allowed the team a chance to admire the view.  After some hours, the team along with their guide, descended to the extinct volcano’s crater lake, La Laguna de Alegría.  The final task was for one team member to swim in this sulphur rich lake.  This was completed by Simon.

Crater lake Racers pause for a quick photo opportunity
Crater lake from above Guide makes the path
The lake from the shore
Completing the swim in the sulphur lake challenge Note the melting Billabong print

In order to receive the final clue for this leg of the race, the team first purchased a banana then went to the local pupusaria, where they were able to successfully convince the staff to cook a pupusas with banana.  Ang assisted in this moment of culinary history by helping pat the pupusas into shape.  After 20 minutes there were 4 plain banana and 3 banana and cheese (a last minute addition for the savoury El Salvadorian palate) pupusas.  The team ate their fill and shared most with everyone in the restaurant.  Ang and Simon both agreed, pupusas con banano were fantastic, equal or better than crepes.  The locals seemed to still think they were loco.

Pupusas are on their way Success!

With this challenge completed, the chef handed them their final clue for this leg and the team rapidly made their way back across the small town square to the Entre Piedras Hotel, the pit stop for this leg of the race.

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