Waves and Turtles in El Salvador
It’s night time, the rain is lashing against the walls of our mobile home and the wind is ferociously swaying the nearby palm trees, resulting in a torrent of falling coconuts. Thankfully we’ve parked far enough from the trees to avoid these “bombs”, but we can hear them crashing on the metal roof of a nearby shed, pummeling it with the weight of a few kilos per hit. The noise from that is enough to keep me awake until the wee hours. I’m listening out for a potential storm, hurricanes are common at the Pacific around this time of the year, but it doesn’t look like it this time. By the morning the wind has died down a little and I manage to snooze for a bit before the cockerels wake us up to greet the sunrise.
The day turns out to be lovely and sunny so we set off to explore the surrounding area on foot. We’re near the village of Cuco, in El Salvador and make our way to the white sands of Intipuca beach, where we see several surfers balancing on their boards, each of them attempting to ride the waves for as long as possible. With our reed mats spread on the warm sand, we immerse ourselves in the plot twists of our respective novels, while rustling around in our bag of snacks until all the nuts and biscuits have somehow disappeared. We take it in turns to cool off in the sea and Pekka really seems to love floating and swimming in the waves. When it’s my turn, I walk quite far out first, and then dive under a couple of waves. Once I turn towards the beach again, I notice that I’ve drifted pretty far sideways from our mats, so I try to swim back but the current seems to be sucking me further out still. I have to really fight for it to get close enough to the beach for my feet to touch the ground again. Panting, with my pulse beating fast like a lambs tale, I walk back the width that I had drifted, feeling too exhausted to swim.
In the afternoon I spot a group of people gathered close to our spot, crouching down in a circle and taking photos with their phones. I’m curious to see what’s going on so I make my way over there. A mother-turtle has worked hard to dig a deep pit in the sand and is now lying there with her eyes closed, laying dozens of soft-shelled eggs in the sand. But what on earth? Before the new mother has had a chance to bury her eggs, a young woman takes off her summer dress, picks up the eggs and wraps them in the fabric, immediately setting off to the Tortuga Verde turtle sanctuary with her precious cargo. I get told that the eggs will be placed in a guarded “ hatching nest”, safe from local poachers, stray dogs, birds and the like. Approximately 45 days later the eggs should hatch and the babies will get released back into the ocean. I’m a bit sceptic though, is disturbing a natural nesting process really the best way to help the environment? Perhaps picking up rubbish off the beach isn’t quite glamorous enough, judging by the level of it’ s current state of cleanliness…
Unlike on most evenings, tonight we’re eating at the restaurant, since we’re celebrating our 500th day of travel. As we’re sat there enjoying our meal, we’re told that some turtle babies have hatched tonight, so we could go and watch them be released if we wanted to. So, at sunset we stand on the beach, watching these babies’ determined shuffle towards the sea, and I’ve got to admit that it’s definitely a unique and magical moment.