If you’ve attended one of our presentations, you’ve probably heard this story but it’s worth repeating for those who have not.
Virginia retired from UCSB in June 2010 as Registrar. The Registrar’s Office is responsible for all the student documentation including graduation credits and transcripts. This prefacing information is essential to the substance of this story.
We departed for faraway lands in January 2011. Our route took us due south along the west coast of Mexico and Central America. We met several other fellow cruisers along this route but were concerned to find nearly everyone we met was going north to put their boat up for the coming summer months of the hurricane season. Were we making a grave mistake our first year out? Fortunately, when we arrived at an estuary named Bahia del Sol in El Salvador we discovered the group of cruisers that were headed in our direction. We learned that Bahia del Sol was a popular place to hang for a while in preparation for further travels south or across the Pacific. We decided to stay a while as well and rent a car for a quick El Salvador excursion (it was easy to make it quick as El Salvador is about the size of Massachusetts). Our route was marked by stops at several waterfalls in the El Salvadoran jungles (I like waterfalls).
We parked in the small, empty parking lot for visitors to the waterfall and were soon met by two El Salvadoran soldiers fully decked out with flak vests and automatic weapons. They inquired what we planned to do by stopping there which seemed a bit intimidating since we just wanted to see the waterfall. Once we advised them of our plans they proceeded to try to talk us out of it by indicating that there was very little water and it would not be worth it. We said we’d been driving for a while and we’d just like the walk anyway and started down the path. To our surprise and concern the soldiers followed in behind us and accompanied us all the way to the waterfall and on our return to the parking lot. We later learned that earlier that year a female tourist had been accosted on the waterfall trail by some banditos and these soldiers were assigned to protect any tourists who decided to visit the waterfall. It was a hot day and we then understood why they had tried to talk us out of the trip.
Upon arrival at the waterfall we discovered that there was indeed plenty of water flowing. There were several locals there enjoying the cool pool at the base of the falls but there were also four twenty-something gringos enjoying a dip. Curious as to how these four came to be here with us at the same time, Dennis approached them and asked them what was their story. They explained that they had just graduated from UCSB and were on a vacation touring the El Salvadoran jungles. Needless to say we were shocked to have come upon former UCSB students in the middle of a jungle and to top it off to have them meet the person (Virginia) who must have recently approved their application for graduation.
This is only one of many small world encounters we had the pleasure to experience which we soon learned was a common occurrence among cruising sailors.
As we left El Salvador, we were required to use a pilot to guide us over the sandbar at the harbor entrance – quite exciting!