Homecoming for 'Celebrity Castaway'
After 13 months 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 finally reunited with El Salvador's capital of San Salvador. Looking tired and weak in a wheelchair, he was unable to gather any words after being handed a microphone by reporters that swarmed the scene. Alvarenga waved meekly.
His next stop was to be a hospital where his health would be monitored. If and when everything checks out, presumably, Alvarenga will be free to roam his native El Salvador.
Read our initial coverage here.
After word of his miraculous - some say unbelievable - captured the world’s attention of so many, he moved to an undisclosed location in the already secluded island he was found on to avoid the chaos. A spokeswoman for El Salvador's foreign ministry said Alvarenga "felt harassed" over the last two weeks, after having spent so many weeks alone – according to CNN.
Now that he's going home, he's looking forward to spending time with his parents and daughter. However, he is unaware of what else awaits him, or how to respond to all this newfound attention.
His journey 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 friend 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 dilemma. 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.
On January 30, 2014, local islanders on Ebon, a remote atoll on the already faraway Marshall Islands, spotted Alvarenga.
After “inhaling numerous pancakes”, Alvarenga recounted what he'd gone through. The story and images of the castaway began circulating worldwide. His claims about his time stranded at sea garnered widespread skepticism about how he could survive the more than 6,000-mile trek across the open ocean. But officials in the Marshall Islands have said repeatedly that they have no reason to doubt the story.
His story is resonating in his hometown, the coastal Salvadoran village of Garita Palmera. Now clean-shaven and gaining strength, Alvarenga is expected to end up back in Garita Palmera for his homecoming.