Our El Salvador savior, Miguel Huezo from Suchitoto Tours, tipped us off to a fledgling rural tourism project in the town of Piedras Iman in the mountains about an hour from Metapan along a back route to La Palma. Little did we know our visit there would end in a heap on the ground.
A local family has up-fitted a string of traditional buildings to create three cabañas with multiple bedrooms, bathrooms, electricity, and kitchens in Piedras Iman. There’s also a gorgeous wooded camping area complete with tents on raised platforms, tables, running water, and shared toilets and showers.
Toss in a babbling brook, gorgeous vistas, and complete country peace and it looked like a beautiful place to celebrate Eric’s birthday with a tour of the place, a bit of horseback riding to a waterfall on the property, then a home cooked lunch featuring Sopa de Gallina India, a traditional chicken soup that is beloved in El Salvador.
Anxious to get to the lunch part of the program we mounted up for a sight-seeing ride. The horses were clearly borrowed from a neighboring farm and more used to working with their owner than accommodating strangers.
We hadn’t gone more than a quarter of a mile when Eric’s knees started cramping up in the short stirrups and tiny saddle he was using. He took his feet out of the stirrups to stretch out the kinks and his horse got a glimpse of Eric’s foot in its peripheral vision.
Spooked, the horse started spinning and bucking at the same time. It wasn’t exactly the Calgary Stampede, but it was a powerful performance with no sign of stopping and Eric ended up on the ground landing more or less full-force on his left shoulder and side. The horse, now even more worked up, ran off and Eric tried to get up, gasping for breath.
At first we thought the fall had simply knocked the wind out of him but 10 minutes later he still couldn’t inhale without severe pain and we knew he had at least fractured his ribs and we had no way of knowing if something more serious had also happened. Our hosts were horrified and somehow managed to organize a relay from town to get ice up to us. The pain eased a tiny bit (or Eric just got somewhat used to it) and we managed to get through lunch, which was delicious.
Then we were faced with a decision: Should we spend the night in one of the very enticing cabañas and see how Eric felt in the morning or should we drive out the rest of the dirt road to the town of La Palma.
Since we had no idea how seriously hurt Eric was we decided it was best to be in a town with access to a doctor if we needed one. Eric clearly couldn’t drive (hell, he could barely breathe) so Karen drove extremely slowly and carefully over the very rough road.
Every bump was excruciating for both of us (okay, maybe more for Eric)
We reached La Palma well after dark and spent a terrible, sleepless, painful night there. The next morning we drove into San Salvador and Miguel, our savior as always, took us to a radiology clinic where are fears were confirmed: two badly cracked ribs.
Next, Miguel took us to an orthopedist who gave Eric a naturopathic injection and a cream, a prescription for a pain killer, plus a series of electrotherapy treatments to speed healing. By the way, full x-rays cost US$35, the doctor’s consultation, injection, and cream was US$40 and the electrotherapy sessions were US$15 each.
It took six weeks for the pain to eventually disappear, making this the worst birthday ever.
PS: the rural tourism project in Piedras Iman really was lovely as are the owners and, despite the horseback mishap, we were thoroughly charmed by the rustic, ranchy vibe. We highly recommend a visit to Piedras Iman. Just don’t go horseback riding.
Here’s more about travel in El Salvador