We then headed west to Suchitoto, a colonial town that was practically abandoned during the war, the walls still laden with bullet holes. Stopped for lunch at the San Miguel Mall and Si happily (yes, he looks sad in this picture) munched on Central America’s version of KFC; Pollo Campero.
I know some people say it’s fun to see malls in other countries, but to me, they all look the same. Not same same but different. Just the same. Same chains, same clothes, same food, same people, same bland similarities. Sadly we didn’t get to Suchitoto until it was dark and rainy, as it looked like it would be a beautiful place to walk around. Still, we went to the main square, bought a pupsa, two key-rings and then headed back to our two storey suite in our French Boutique hotel.
I’d told Si we would probably be staying in a decent 3* hotel, and the log cabin came as a bit of a surprise. This, was something else. It had 2 flat screen TV’s, a Jacuzzi bath, an 8 headed all-body shower, quadruple bed, sofas and a balcony overlooking the pool. The last time I’ve ever felt so skanky turning up to a hotel was ten years ago in La Paz when after being ill in hospital for 4 days my friend Jon’s Dad said to use his credit card to treat us all to lunch at the most expensive hotel in town. Ahh, how the staff’s attitudes towards us changed when they realised the smelly sandled people had money to spend! Here however, the owner Pascal came to personally greet us with a genuine warm welcome, and spoke to us throughout our (13 hour) stay. Had a few glasses of Kir Royale whilst chatting to the bartender (Si on his Whiskey) followed by a divine dinner in the French Restaurant.
A few more drinks and then time to check out the Jacuzzi bath. I tried to turn on the jets but couldn’t get them to work. Of course, as I shouted to Si that the Jacuzzi is broken they started working full blast and with the bath being only half full they spurted out of the water, hit me in the face and sent me flying backwards. Then… due to the power of the jets the bubbles I’d put in started multiplying like crazy… a little like the bubble machine in Willy Wonka. I think I was under a least of foot of bubbles. It was an awesome bath.
Next day after a fairly dull bird tour (sorry Suchitoto – already seen so many and think we would have preferred to indulge in our luxurious room) we headed off for a horse ride around Volcan Guazapa, another guerrilla stronghold. Jorge had left us in the capable, very shy (I thought) hands of Juan, who was scared of horses! We trotted past foxholes dug for four civilians maximum, in case of a direct hit, a bombed church, trenches, a school, encampment, houses and many mass graves that were all underneath a plant nicknamed ‘the poor’s umbrella’. On the way back it started to piss down, helping us imagine a bit more the conditions that they had to face, considering how often it rains in Central America.
Then we headed on to Copan, Honduras, via Guatemala! Sadly, instead of lunching in the pretty ex-colonial town of Santa Ana, it was another stop for Pollo Campero in a mall on the outskirts of town. Still, it made Si a very happy man. During the trip I asked Juan about why there was so much support for the Government/National Guard during the war, and though he’d been very quiet around me until then, he opened up for the next two hours. I’d started to get used to the difference in how Si & I were treated. It was not in a disrespectful or patronising way, unlike how I’ve felt in Egypt, but perhaps in a macho culture it makes some uncomfortable or unsure having normal conversations with women, that are not family, or close friends, that does not involve flirting?
Anyway, it was fascinating to hear his opinions and life story, especially as most of what I had heard was pro-FLMN, or from a guerrilla perspective. Growing up in the capital he was subjected to the media propaganda of the government, and only later has been able to piece the truth together. I guess because he hadn’t lost a close friend or family member, or was not in the direct way of the combat he probably hadn’t felt the need to talk about it, in some therapeutic sense, but you could tell he really had so much to tell; that he wanted to tell. At first he was more reserved, but kept going back to earlier things, delving deeper with more difficult stories, that you could see still provoked emotion that he kept close to his heart.