Famous castaway arrives in El Salvador
Wednesday, February 12, 2014, 7:08 PM -
After more than a year adrift in the Pacific Ocean, and after eight years away from his hometown, Jose Salvador Alvarenga is home.
Around 8:30 p.m. (9:30 p.m. ET), after arriving on a flight from Los Angeles, Alvarenga was wheeled before a swarm of reporters in the airport terminal in El Salvador's capital of San Salvador. Looking tired and weak, he appeared unable to muster any words after being handed a microphone. Alvarenga waved meekly -- eliciting applause from travelers and airport employees who'd lined up to see him -- and sat quietly in his wheelchair as people shouted out and cameras flashed. Then, he put his hand on his head as he was wheeled away.
His next stop was to be a hospital, where Violeta Menjivar, El Salvador's vice minister of health, said Alvarenga's health will be monitored. If and when everything checks out, presumably, Alvarenga will be free to roam his native El Salvador. But it's understandable if, when that happens, it will seem like a strange place.
His miraculous -- some say unbelievable -- story has captured the attention of so many.
Even where he was found -- in an atoll in the Marshall Islands that is as secluded a locale as they come, set deep in the Pacific Ocean some 3200 kilometres from Papua New Guinea and 3,800 kilometres from Hawaii -- Alvarenga's rescue and recovery attracted a crush of media.my faith."
RELATED: Read more of Alvarenga's story here
It got so intense he moved to an undisclosed location to avoid the hubbub, sources familiar with his care told CNN on Saturday.
Irene Sanchez, a spokeswoman for El Salvador's foreign ministry, said Alvarenga "felt harassed" over the last two weeks, after having spent so many weeks alone. Now that he's going home, she said Tuesday that he's looking forward to spending time with his parents and daughter, as well as eating pupusas, a traditional Salvadoran dish.
As to all the attention from everyone else, Sanchez said, "He doesn't know what awaits him."
NEXT PAGE: ALVARENGA'S FIRST CONTACT
His odyssey began in late 2012 when, he said, he left Mexico on what was supposed to be a one-day fishing expedition. But Alvarenga said he and a 23-year-old companion
were blown off course by northerly winds and then caught in a storm. Eventually, the pair lost use of their engines and, according to Alvarenga, had no radio signal to report their plight. Four weeks into their drift, his companion died of starvation because he refused to eat raw birds and turtles, Alvarenga said. Eventually, he threw the body overboard. Alvarenga's next interaction with humans came on January 30, thirteen months later.
It was then that islanders on Ebon, a remote atoll on the already remote Marshall Islands, spotted the mysterious visitor. As he inhaled pancake after pancake, Alvarenga recounted what he'd gone through.
Soon after, images of the bearded, bedraggled castaway began circulating worldwide.
As she awaited his return this week, his mother, Julia Alvarenga, said she'd been praying for him since his last visit eight years ago. "That was the only hope I had all this time," she said. "I would pray to God, and I won't lie to you, I was crying; but I never lost hope."