One thing I found interesting about El Salvador was the many sellers who boarded the bus at stops to sell their items / share – ranging from chips, drinks, fruits, sandwiches, to gadgets like iPhone cables, and even bible preachings.
More interestingly, some would stand at the front of the bus to present to all the passengers on their products for minutes, their advertorials complete with demonstrations on how to use them. They would then get off a (few) stop(s) later.
I was beginning to feel at ease in El Salvador, a country that just last year I had some preconceptions about. One of the highest homicide rates in the world – that was a scary thought. But on the bus here everyone was another ordinary person, going about their ordinary lives. Smooching on the bus, playing with their babies, texting heart shape emojis to their loved ones.
It was a long ride from Antigua to Chalchuapa. We took a tourist shuttle at 8am from Antigua to El Tunco, which was very comfortable and which I would recommend for tourists (RooneyShuttle – 18usd after a firm deal with a tourist agency who was a father with a sweet child and her bear), and from there we took a bus to San Salvador and then Chalchuapa. By the time we reached Chalchuapa it was past 7pm. I started worrying from 5.30pm, when the sun had set and the chicken bus was full, my sense of safety not much aided by the glowing red lights at the side and back of the bus. But all was well – people were very helpful, a man offered to walk us to the park, another delivering food waited till we had rung the doorbell of Yuca Mix hostel and Alexis had opened the door.
Santa Ana volcano was the highlight. And the delicious food, of course.
The hike costs $8 for the parking?, $1 for the guide, and $6 for the park fees. It only started at 11am, and the park ranger explained the rules of the hike – the three different sections (forest, volcanic ash and a rock path to the summit) and shared that we should refrain from too much noise or play our music loudly, but listen to the ambiental sounds.
- why are milkshakes hot in El Salvador?
- Back of vehicles as a way to sell food
- Taking pills 2x a year to clean their stomach – water
- Land of hammocks
Couldn’t have missed hiking a volcano in El Salvador – aka ‘land of volcanoes’ with more than 20 surrounding ones. Muchas gracias por la buena comida y los recuerdos!
Santa Ana was a lovely start to El Salvador. As usual, I felt the flurry of excitement when crossing the border. I was in El Salvador!
It was a long, long journey to reach Chalchuapa (Santa Ana). We caught the Rooney Shuttle from our hostel (villa estrella) at 8am, to move towards El Tunco. By the time we had reached El Tunco it was almost 2pm; by the time we ate lunch and the bus came it was almost 315pm. Another hour or more to San Salvador, and then many hours to Chalchuapa as we were caught in traffic. By the time we had reached the hostel, it was 7pm. That’s almost 12 hours of daylight travel. And what did I do during all these time? Let my thought drift – luxurious.
I had a few conversations. The conversation with the man at the bus stop who was a primary school teacher and who loved it. The man who was recovering from depression – he shared that his mother had passed away from a sickness in her intestines, and his brother had passed away, and his sister was a traveller in her motorbike and had travelled to so many countries, including Egypt. In Latin America, or rather in this part of Latin America, it pleased me greatly that they almost had no choice but to converse with me in my mediocre Spanish, because my mediocre Spanish was in fact better than their basic English. It also pleased me greatly that I was in fact able to converse – to express my thoughts about their opinions, and my own. It made the hike down from Santa Ana volcano shorter. Ilamatepec, it’s called, the volcano in Cerro Verde, Santa Ana.
I loved how there were so many signs promoting the benefits and importance of the forest. It made me feel like the person who conceptualised these signs, he or she must have felt passionate about the environment and the things it had to offer. Listen to the environment, it had suggested. Take nothing as everything goes back to the ground where it belongs, he said. Nothing leaves – it only transforms and takes different forms along the way.
In the evening, Alexis took us to eat some delicious food around Chalchuapa. The cheese sticks were amazing, so were the pizzas and the typical Salvadoran breakfast the next morning.