After waking up and preparing ourselves for the day by feasting on the largest breakfast buffet we had ever seen, we rendezvoused at the university to pick up the car and our escort, comprising of police, university students and professors. The plan today was to drive the 160 miles into San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador. This of course entailed another border crossing, but given the smoothness of the last 2, we were not particularly phased.
The drive to the border was short and uneventful, with the road both excellent and terrible in equal measure. It was raining very hard for much of the journey through Guatemala, but by now we had become confident in the SRZero’s ability to cope with the water, and so we were all very lighthearted as we were, for once, making very good time.
After a few hours of solid driving through the jungle, we saw a break in the trees as a wide valley crossed perpendicular to the road. The river gushing along the base of the valley formed the border between Guatemala and El Salvador, and the bridge we could see arching over the river was our way across. It was really quite dramatic what with the river, the clouds, the jungle, and the mountains of both countries looming overhead. There was just one last challenge for us before leaving Guatemalan soil, and that was a large and deep pool of water just at the beginning of the bridge…
As discussed in previous blogs and video posts, the SRZero and large pools of standing water are not the best of friends. Nonetheless, if we wanted to get across today, the car was going to have to man up and take it. Toby reversed the car a little to give it a bit of a run up, and then full steam ahead it ploughed through the water! The car whipped past the rest of the team waiting on the bridge, and water could be seen streaming out of every orifice. But, the SRZero still worked, and nobody was electrocuted!
The next challenge to face us was getting all 3 vehicles into El Salvador. With our passports quickly stamped, we began the long and extremely annoying process of filling in documents, taking them to another building, then taking something else to somebody else, and then finally ending up in an office where someone takes, and I’m not joking, over an hour to put what you have written on the form, into the computer. A handicapped snail could have entered in the data faster, and a process which could easily have been completed in 10 minutes ended up taking 2 hours! Nonetheless, they were only formalities to contend with, and we didn’t have any problems with getting ourselves and the vehicles through.
Throughout this whole process, the UMG staff patiently waited to ensure we got across the border and into the safe hands of our police escort. After saying goodbye to our hosts, the police, with sirens blaring, lead us full steam ahead until we reached a petrol station. Here we met with 2 cars that had been sent from KPMG, each equipped with their own flashing lights. And so, with the police car kneading the way, and the 2 KPMG cars blocking both lanes behind us, the convoy moved with rapid pace. On occasion, another car did manage to sneak into the convoy, and when they did, they were muscled off the road by the chase cars who then sped up and resumed their positions! We must have done someone good in our previous lives because this was super 5* treatment!
Another relief was the road conditions…they were flawless! And by flawless, I mean absolutely and completely smooth all the was into San Salvador. We had never seen anything like it, and it was an absolute pleasure to drive upon. After a few hours driving, we reached the city of San Salvador where upon, if we saw a red light, we were led straight through! It was like a police chase except we were chasing the police!
After a few more minutes, we were led into the secure office compound of KPMG El Salvador where, even though it was a Sunday night, there were loads of people waiting for us. It was a tremendous welcome, and we spent a while telling them about the project and how the trip had gone so far. It was a very family-orientated atmosphere, with the employees’ children running around, and we were made to genuinely feel at home.
After dinner and putting the car on charge, another thing KPMG had kindly organised for us, we were led to a small but very tasteful hotel where we were to stay for the next 2 nights. As it was still quite early, we were looking forward to our first night of sleep longer than 4 hours for quite a while, and before long, blissful sleep engulfed us all!