Saturday, April 11, 2015

That Rally in That Country

One of the goals of The Rally in That Country is to increase tourism there, and in some respects it's working because they got at least twenty new boats to visit during the four weeks of the rally. However, once one has experienced the conditions within the country, I don't know why anyone would ever go back.
The biggest problem (in our eyes) was the pollution. Not only are the roads filthy, but the air and water are filthy too. The natives throw everything and anything onto the roadside or into the estuary. Trash flies out of the bus windows as they race down the road. The daily burning of sugar cane fields drops black embers onto the boats and causes everyone to have sore throats and raspy voices. Nearly every cruiser in the marina had nagging cold-like symptoms during their time there.
Crime is a serious problem in That Country and you see security guards everywhere: at the market, at the gas station, at the bank, on the soda delivery truck, and in towers at the mall parking lot. And these guards don't just have nice uniforms and walkie talkies; they are wearing body armor and have AR-15s slung across their chests! The guns are not just for looks either; in March 2015, 481 murders were committed in That Country.
Although the marina is nice enough, we can't spend all our time on the boat. We need groceries and we want to see the sights so we have to get out now and then, but every excursion is like mounting a major expedition because the marina is so isolated. One can either walk a half mile along a narrow road with no sidewalk to a tiny tienda, drive a dinghy a half hour to the village of La Herradura where there is a "grocery store", or take a 45 minute bus ride to Zacatecoluca. The first option requires good shoes, sunscreen, umbrella, shopping bag, and 30 minutes. The second option requires sunscreen, hats, fuel in the outboard motor, shopping bags, and at least two hours. The third option requires good shoes, toilet paper, shopping bags, a good sense of humor, and at least four hours, during which your produce is wilting, and your meat is growing bacteria. And then you still have to schlep it all down to the boat from the road which is 2000 feet away. So forget reprovisioning here; it's just too difficult.
We had an easy crossing in both directions, but that is not always the case. One boat broached coming in and got knocked down almost 90 degrees. Water came in, things were thrown about, and the crew received minor injuries. You will notice they don't post those photos on the website.
And once you get in over the bar you are trapped there. You can't go out for a day sail or run out to a quiet island for a couple of days because getting back over the bar is a once-a-day thing, and there simply are no islands or bays to anchor at anyway.
The organizers of That Rally are doing their best I'm sure, but I think from their land based lives they have lost sight of what cruisers really need. We received our information packet with maps and courtesy flag a week AFTER we had arrived. That was after we had already gotten our own map and purchased our own flag. We were told 5 minutes before the wine tasting event that WE had to bring the wine for the tasting. We often attended events with no idea what it would cost.
We don't really regret attending That Rally, but we do regret staying so long in such a difficult place. We can only hope that the money we spent there will somehow help the local economy and school.

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