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// MY NAME IS DANIELAnd after years of dreaming I've sold everything I own and set off on the open road. I've made this site as a sort of photo journal of my travels. The map shows where I've been (red), where I've stayed a month or more (yellow), and where I plan to go (white). And so, armed with little more than a backpack, a camera, and a dream, I now take the road less traveled by. So it goes.


SANTA ANA After spending two really wonderful months in Guatemala, it was time to leave. I would have stayed even longer, but much of Central America belongs to a single visa scheme (like the Schengen Visa Zone covering much of Europe) so I was allowed only 90 days in all of Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras combined. I didn't want to burn up all my time in Guatemala, even if it were one of the most amazing places I'd visited so far. So I crossed the Rio Paz which separates Guatemala and El Salvador (and which you can see in the bottom photo) and my first stop was Santa Ana, founded in 1569 and today El Salvador's second largest city. The safety situation in the country has been improving in the last few years, but it was clear this was a country that had suffered through decades of civil war and former military dictatorships. The history of Central and South America is a tragic one-- after gaining independence from Spain, nearly all of the countries in Latin America set up Republics with constitutions based on the same Enlightenment ideals that had guided the US Constitution decades before, they all had their Founding Father heroes and myths, and yet over the next two centuries nearly all of them fell to military coups, dictatorships, and civil wars. The reasons for this are varied (and a few involve the less-then-enlightened schemings of the United States) but history is not destiny and I have nothing but hope for these amazing countries.
SAN SALVADOR San Salvador is the nation's capital and largest city and rather impressively sits along a lake at the foot of a great volcano (you can see the volcano crater below). I didn't spend much time here, but did stay with a local family who gave me a tour of several places nearby.
PANCHIMALCO One of the places they took me was Panchimalco, a tiny town in the mountains and one of only two towns in the entire country with any indigenous people. Unlike Mexico and Guatemala, the indigenous tribes of El Salvador were nearly completely wiped out in various civil wars and genocides or culturally through simple inter-marriage (86% of El Salvadorians identify as mix-raced). The Pipil Indians had their capital at Cuzcatlan, but when the Spanish came in the 1500s, they abandoned Cuzcatlan (which the Spanish renamed San Salvador) and fled into the mountains, forming the settlement of Panchimalco (which in Pipil means 'Place of the Flags and Shields'). They still maintain some of their culture here, though sadly have mostly lost their language.
PUERTO DEL DIABLO Near Panchimalco is a viewpoint known as Puerto del Diablo (the Door of the Devil). I'll let the photos speak for themselves.
JOYA DE CEREN The last place I visited near San Salvador was Joya De Ceren, a tiny Mayan farming settlement that was preserved in 600 AD when a nearby volcano eruption buried it under 30 feet (10m) of cooled ash. The site was only discovered in 1976 and has offered great insights into the Classic Period of the Mayan Civilization.
EL TUNCO Leaving San Salvador I made my way to the coastal beach town of El Tunco (which in Spanish means 'the Pig'). I realized that for several months I'd been bouncing back and forth from the Pacific to the Atlantic quite a bit --- starting in New York (Atlantic) then driving to San Diego (Pacific) crossing Mexico to Playa Del Carmen (Atlantic) then crossing back across Central America to El Tunco (Pacific) and later I'd finish in Bocas Del Toro (Atlantic). That doesn't even include all the hopscotching I'd already done in South America.
SUCHITOTO When it comes to cute, charming Spanish Colonial towns, it's hard to beat Suchitoto. Hidden in the mountains, surrounded by green jungle valleys and a massive (man-made) lake, decorated with colorful buildings, cobblestone streets, and quiet outdoor cafes (not to mention the obligatory Catholic church)... this was a wonderful place to relax before heading on and leaving El Salvador.