Before leaving for El Salvador, I thought long and hard about what I’d like this daily journal to be. And I’ve always wanted it to be a hybrid between a timely account of the state of Bitcoin adoption in the first country in the world to declare it legal tender and a travel narrative.
Today I would like to focus on this second aspect. Because what we are visiting is a place that is not often visited by tourists from all over the world, but which has great potential. Of course, many in the past have kept away from it because of its reputation as a dangerous place, full of criminality. And it cannot be denied that it was. The numbers speak for themselves. Until a few years ago, it was infamous for having a record of homicides. It must also be admitted, however, that today it is a very different place and that the situation has, according to its own inhabitants, much improved. Traveling to developing countries is always a challenge.
We must not forget this. Poverty brings despair that generates violence. The experienced traveler knows this well. Prudence is essential. We are far from home, in a place we don’t know. We must always have our heads on our shoulders and never take unnecessary risks. The truth is, however, that, having some experience of similar trips, the situation we are finding is no different from that which can be encountered in some places in Mexico or Brazil. Destinations that, however, are systematically very popular with Italian tourists, despite the fact that there are also pockets of violence there.
After almost a month in El Salvador, we never had the feeling of being in danger, and the landscapes we were able to admire have nothing to envy to any of the more emblazoned neighboring nations.
Today we traveled a long way, for example, passing through scenery worthy of a movie. Starting very early from Santa Rosa, we traveled a few hundred kilometers, contemplating endless expanses of volcanoes, lush forests and passing through quaint and intriguing towns. The country is very small. And this is an advantage. Because in a matter of hours, a traveler here can go from the coolness of the forested heights to the scorching heat of the beaches and plains. Very convenient for those who prefer dynamic travel. The ocean is beautiful. There are miles and miles of perfectly equipped beaches. Do not imagine the expanses of white sand of Cuba. Here the coasts are dark, of volcanic origin. But the water slopes gently. You can walk for hundreds of meters pointing straight to the waves, which are fun to challenge. Inland instead there is an abundance of places for excursions. Caves, rivers, waterfalls. Even the lover of the most extreme trekking will find bread for his teeth.
It’s not a country where you keep the early hours. Where you admire the sunrise while sipping a cocktail and listening to a DJ set. Quite the contrary. At these latitudes, night falls quickly and at 18:00 it is already pitch black. The nightlife, except in the largest cities or in the most touristy places is rather scarce. But it has its charm. It forces you to wake up early and take full advantage of the sunlight. The offer of places to stop and eat or drink then, can reserve unexpected surprises.
Our journey, as you have been following us for days now, has little to do with organization. We are at the mercy of Satoshi and those who choose to accept his splendid creature. But fortune favours the bold.
Today, for example, back in the area of San Salvador around lunchtime, we decided to jump in the mountains surrounding the capital to find a place to make a pit stop and refresh ourselves. We ended up in a small town called San Marcos and we happened upon a biker joint that you would never expect to find in El Salvador. Beautifully decorated, with motorcycles hanging, posters and graffiti on the walls, a small stage for live music, great music and great burgers. It’s called The Bites Factory, if you’re passing through there pay them a visit. They accept bitcoin even though we were the first to give them any. We deflowered them and you will never have that privilege again.
Continuing our journey westward we finally arrived at our final destination, Lake Coatepeque, where we decided to spend Christmas. A breathtaking place. An enormous bowl of fresh water set right in the middle of a volcanic crater. A scene of rare beauty. Out of this world.
Even more fascinating is the hostel where we, totally unaware, booked a room. A series of buildings made of reclaimed wood, resting on stilts directly in the lake. A maze of bridges suspended over the shore, raised platforms, thatched roofs, odd furnishings, lights and torches. As close as we’ve ever seen to a pirate village. Once again El Salvador makes us feel like we are inside a movie set.
We say this for the benefit of all those who, perhaps just reading us, should decide to come and visit.
Ah, merry Christmas to all of you.