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Marshall Islands Castaway

Castaway Crosses Pacific Ocean Again on Way to Homeland

Image:  Jose Salvador Alvarenga

Jose Salvador Alvarenga walks with the help of a Majuro Hospital nurse in Majuro after a 22-hour boat ride from isolated Ebon Atoll. AFP - Getty Images, file

Castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga crossed the Pacific Ocean again Monday — this time in a plane instead of a fishing boat — on his way home to El Salvador.

In the small town of Garita Palmera, a hero's welcome awaits the long-lost shark fisherman who says he spent more than a year lost at sea before washing up on the Marshall Islands.

"I thank God for watching over him and returning him to us," said his mother, Maria Julia Alvarenga, who has not seen her son in eight years.

The family was preparing pupusas for a homecoming meal and fixing up his boyhood bedroom for him. His teenage daughter, Fatima, who barely knows him, said she planned to give him a big hug.

It was unclear when the world-famous sea survivor would arrive. Earlier Monday, flew from the Marshall Islands to Honolulu for the first leg of his journey home.

Alvarenga, 37, left El Salvador some 15 years ago to work as a fisherman in Mexico and last visited in 2006. He and a friend left Chiapas on a fishing trip in November 2012 and were swept out to sea.

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The other man, Ezequiel Cordoba, 24, died on the 24-foot fiberglass boat, but Alvarenga said he survived on raw fish and other sea creatures he caught by hand, drinking his own urine when he ran out of rainwater.

His boat drifted to Ebon Atoll on Jan. 30, and islanders were shocked to find a shaggy-haired, bearded man in tattered underwear with a wild tale of being adrift on the ocean.

Though there has been plenty of skepticism about Alvarenga's account, fellow fisherman in Mexico and Cordoba's family have backed up his timeline.

Telemundo's Angie Sandoval contributed to this report.

Image:
Jose Salvador Alvarenga makes a brief public appearance in Majuro, Marshall Islands, on Feb. 6, 2014. Campbell Live via AP