In the middle of the city of Suchitoto rested houses of every color. Teal, burnt orange and golden yellow flashed through my window as we drove through the cobblestone streets. We passed by the city park, filled with children playing and workers enjoying their lunch beside the fountain. Parking on the left side of the street, we hopped out of the pick-up and continued down the path.
Walking through the doors of Casa 1800, I found a hidden oasis in Suchitoto. Vines twisted along the wooden path leading to a platform overlooking the valley. On the left, a giant rocking chair was placed, gifting anyone who sat in it with the best view in the house. I sat down and looked at the Lempa River beneath. Thousands of trees lined its edge at all different elevations. It was as if someone had spilt a cocktail across a plate of peas, the way the river snaked along the green edges.
We chose a table right on the edge to have lunch. Sadly, they weren’t serving pupusas at this time for lunch, so we had some decisions to make. The waiter brought over two glasses of sauvignon blanc and we sat back.
“Excuse me,” the man sitting in front of us with his girlfriend turned around, as we looked up, “This might be a weird question, but were you at Neto’s Restaurante last night?”
“Yes…Wait, how’d you know that?” we asked, laughing, but a bit concerned.
“We were there, too! I wanted to talk to you guys because you looked fun, but my girlfriend told me to let you guys enjoy your dinner.”
We looked at her, as she shyly looked down at her pupusa pizza.
“She doesn’t speak any English, so she’s a bit shy,” he explained.
Our conversation continued on about what we had for dinner last night and where we’d be going next. It was wild that, with how empty the Neto’s Restaurante was, and how far we’d driven this morning, we still landed at the exact same restaurant again with the exact same couple.
After finishing our meal, we strolled through the garden beside the restaurant and found a wooden swing tied to a tree overlooking the valley. I nestled onto the board and kicked my legs back, swinging further and further above the Lempa River each time. A hawk soared next to me, spreading its colossal wings and riding the wind currents above the tree line. We were both so free.
Paying our dues, we left Casa 1800 with stomachs filled, joking to the other couple that we’d see them for dinner tonight. It was our last day in El Salvador, and what better place to spend in than on El Zonte Beach.
El Zonte Beach
Two hours later, we’d finally arrived at our treehouse master bedroom on the beach. I don’t think we waited a second longer before dropping our bags and heading down to the shore. We ditched our shoes, as we were close enough to not need them, and followed the dirt path alongside the house. Seeing the first opening to the water, we were….less than impressed.
“This sucks,” Joao said, coming up from wading in the water and revealing the cuts on his legs. The current was so strong that shells coming in with the waves thrashed against his feet, causing them to bleed.
I decided to get an aerial view to check out the surrounding area because it was absolutely breathtaking. I flew over the palm trees lining the shore and skidded over the top of rocks jutting out of the salty ocean. Stopping by an infinity pool, people in the water waved with beers in hand, smiling joyfully at the drone watching them. Going up further, I noticed that there was another side to El Zonte.
“Wait…I think if we cross this river we can get to a better beach,” I said, screenshotting the aerial map and packing up my equipment.
We tiptoed back through the dirt path to the other side of the property. Here, a small stream was trickling down, leading out to the ocean. Feeling across the rocks, I took it step by step. By having my drone in one hand and my phone in the other, I wasn’t exactly well-equipped to handle any mishaps with footing. We miraculously cleared the river and walked along the edge of the shore until we cleared the palm trees.
The Real El Zonte Beach
This must’ve been the real beach. We strolled past a woman reading a book and two children building a sandcastle. A pick-up soccer game had begun, as twenty or so people battled for their lives across the beach. We kept on going until it opened up a bit more. There were only two people on this entire section of the beach.
Running out into the waves, we were now splashing into the sunset. Everything was a golden pink–the sun, the sky and the waves. Diving under a wave, I popped back out of the ocean. A few lone birds swooped above us, calling out to one another and I swear we were on the edge of the world because time ceased to exist. I can’t tell you how long this memory lasted, just that it was one of the good ones.
That night, we had dinner on the deck with new hostel friends–the only native-English-speaking people we’d met our entire time in El Salvador. However, soon after dinner was when the fun began.
“Is it raining outside?” I asked, as the white noise in our room seemed to grow.
We stepped onto the deck just as lightning lit up the sky in the distance. No more than three seconds later, a giant rumble echoed across the ocean. It was hurricane season in El Salvador and Mother Nature was ready to prove it. Another bolt of lightning split the sky in half in front of us, as the outdoor lights flickered off and back on again. And when I say it began to pour, it began to POUR. If I had stuck an empty glass out in front of me, it would’ve refilled itself within 3 seconds.
A giant crash echoed against the wall behind us, as bottles behind the bar flew to the ground and shattered. As the palm trees in the parking light swayed side to side, dropping branches here and there, we prayed our rental car would survive this last night.
Though the strength of the storm could be seen as terrifying, it gave us more of a thrill than anything. Turning off the movie we were watching, we sat on the covered bench outside watching the sky’s fury being released onto El Zonte. After a while, the strobe lights became less frequent and we decided to call it a night. From inside, I could still hear the storm in the distance. Rain pattered on the window as I closed my eyes and fell into my last deep sleep of El Salvador.