So what do you do when you are seen wild camping in a not-so-stealthy spot? Where three teenagers, a cocky lad and two girls, walk past with a bottle of rum to be drunk down by the river, just 30km outside San Salvador near the main road?
Well, we said hello as they went by and stayed where we were.
But half an hour later the three return, inebriated.
The lad was staggering and slurring his words. Barely understandable. But he is asking for a phone. We don’t have one (so we say), but soon he gets aggressive and starts demanding our phone. And the girls are peering through the tents looking to see what they can take. Time to get serious. Take a stand. Make clear there’ll be no messing with us. How exactly they thought they could steal from us in their intoxicated state I don’t know. I suppose they weren’t really thinking at all!
But as they leave, we immediately start packing up. Time to find another place. We don’t know if they will come back, or bring others, or if someone else will see us.
And that’s how, at 8pm, in darkness, we push our bikes back to the main road and hesitantly cycle on. But being on the road after dark in these areas is not safe either. So we ask if we can camp in the yard of the first home we see.
Although it is difficult to understand all that the father is saying, he eventually tells us go follow him across the road to another house.
The gate is locked, but it’s only wood and barbed wire, so it is bent and we carry our bikes over. And up to the front door of this simple single room, corrugated roof house. The door is locked, the curtains drawn. The father and son knock on the door. No reply.
The son raises up one of the glass slats on the window, pulls back the curtain and calls inside. No reply.
I peer through too. The TV is on and a man is sat in an armchair with his back to us, watching it. The son calls again. No reply.
Maybe he is sleeping.
I feel guilty for not only disturbing one family, but now waking up another stranger having broken through his gate and pulled apart his window.
I say that perhaps it is better if we carry on and look for somewhere else to camp. But the father will have none of it.
I think the man must be drunkenly unconscious not to hear our racket outside. But his left hand is up in the air.
Now the father has a 3metre long stick from the garden and is starting to poke it through the window. I hope the man inside isn’t startled and have a shotgun close to hand. Seriously, how can he not have heard us? We have been here a good fifteen minutes trying to raise the dead…
Actually, it turns out we’ve been trying to raise the deaf.
So there we are, calling to a deaf man in the darkness and waving a long pole through the window to get his attention.
Finally he sees us.
He opens the door, wide lop-sided grin on his face, pleased to see his neighbour, even if it is nighttime and there are two strange gringos with bikes there too.
Now we know we are in a safe place. He wants us to stay in his home, but we insist on camping in the garden. We have intruded enough already.
The father and son leave us to put up our tents. The happy deaf man offers us fruit and gives us a bottle of ice cold water. With a few hand gestures he shows us the toilet and explains what time he must go to work in the morning. Not only is he deaf, but he doesn’t speak either. Surprisingly though, it is easier to communicate with him than with some locals who speak Spanish very fast and no English at all.
What a night and we haven’t even cooked dinner yet! But at least we are safe it. And so I sleep well… until the roosters start calling at 5.30am, which apparently is enough to raise even the deaf, because our man is already sweeping the yard when I emerge from the tent.