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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

El Salvador: Love at First Sight

The Casa Verde Hostel is a lovely home from home in Santa Ana
The Casa Verde Hostel is a lovely home from home in Santa Ana

We fell for El Salvador within about five minutes of arriving. We'd booked tickets on the luxury bus from Guatemala City to San Salvador, but because we didn't fancy going from one urban sprawl straight to another, we asked them to drop us off in Santa Ana, El Salvador's second-largest city. Here we thought we might try to climb a few volcanoes or visit a few country towns, as we'd heard good things about the western half of the country.

And he's peeling off those dollar bills
Slapping them down
One hundred!
Two hundred!
And I can see those fighter planes...

he's talking about Ronald Reagan, while The Edge's guitar channels the sound of a brutal civil war through distorted slide guitar that sounds for all the world like bombs smashing into the women and children of rural El Salvador. And even though the war ended more than 20 years ago, El Salvador still has the second-highest murder rate in the world, and its gang culture is among the most feared on the planet.

Lovely El Salvador

I needn't have worried. We soon spotted a road sign that said 'Santa Ana Centro' and set off down the road, and when we stopped after a few minutes because it didn't look as if this road was leading anywhere useful, a middle-aged lady came out of a nearby building and said, in perfect English, 'Can I help you at all?'