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Many travelers along the PanAmerican Highway suggest that you can cross El Salvador and Honduras in one day in order to reach Nicaragua. Some travelers will mention spending a few nights along the beaches of El Salvador before they zip on through to Nicaragua. But we have learned that they are missing a truly terrific experience!
We spent our first few nights at Los Alicante Hot Springs. This place has lovely gardens, eleven different pools and a small restaurant. We were thrilled to learn that Dana and Eric and their wonderful dogs would be joining us! We had chatted with @end2puravida bunches of times, but never met in person! Together we explored the nearby town for coffee and groceries. We also visited Los Asuelos Geothermal Field. This is a unique area of bubbling hot mud and steaming rocks. Similar to what you might see at Yellowstone NP, but without the safety rails, paths and park rangers. In fact we paid a lovely grandma fifty cents each and she let us through the gate to her worthless cow pasture. As you can see, you could not let cows graze safely here. So at least she makes a little money offering tourists a glimpse at this geothermal oddity!
In the background you can see a geothermal electrical plant. This is operated by the El Salvadoran government and reportedly produces over 75% of their energy needs through a clean, natural source!
We said goodbye to our friends, who are headed north, and went out in search of the largest excavated and partially restored Mayan archeological site in El Salvador. Tazumal was a major trading hub for the Mayan villages in this region. Tazumal is located inside a large facility, with beautiful structures. The restoration has been well-done, but no excavation or work has taken place for quite some time. The grounds are beautiful, with gardens, shade trees and grassy areas. However, we learned that it is not in a nice part of town so we needed to seek elsewhere to park for the night. With plenty of time before dark, we decided to locate a hot river that we saw marked on our favorite resource, iOverlander
This also turned out to be on someones pasture, just like the geothermal field! This time the grazing animals were goats. We pulled through the open gate and negotiated with the neighbor about where to park the camper. He was thrilled to have us visiting, and we ended up camped in the middle of his dirt road, just a short distance from his house. We were happy to be able to be parked and settled in before nightfall.
It was quiet for the night, and we awoke surrounded by chickens. They were great entertainment while we had our morning coffee. Then we dressed for a swim and hiked the dusty trail down to the hot river. And it did not disappoint. The water was flowing FAST through the stone channels. It came together and then gushed over a beautiful stone waterfall. And all of the water was warm, almost hot. It was clean, clear and felt very refreshing to settle into for a soak. Even Zeb enjoyed a swim! If it hadn’t been in the desert, on a hot day, this might have been a perfect place to spend some time. But the dusty hike to the water meant that we would be even hotter by the time we got back to the truck. And we had a couple of hours to drive for our next destination. So after a dip, we walked back and packed up for the next location.
The next campsite would hold our attention for a few days! The weather was cool, the elevation was high, the pupusas (national food of El Salvador) were delicious and there was plenty of exploring to be done. We were parked at Cerro Verde National Park which is composed of three volcanoes. We were parked on the dormant one. We could see the one nearby. And Mike hiked to the one that is active.
The first day there we took the short hike which lead us to a very, very old tree and a beautiful overlook to Lago Coatopeque. We were even allowed to take Zeb on this hike.
That evening some other travelers pulled in and they shared tips for South America. They have been traveling there for five years! And are just now headed north. We were the only people camped in the parking lot at night, and it was cold and quiet! But each day it was warm and sunny. This meant that Mike would dust off the solar panels and we would have plenty of sun-juice stored up in our batteries.
The next day Mike joined a hike to Volcano Santa Ana. The hikers took about 2.5 hours to reach the top edge of the crater. It was cold and windy up there. But when the clouds parted, he could look down inside the crater and see the sulphuric water inside the volcano. Then the wind blew again and the crater was filled with clouds.
While Mike was being wind-blown, Geneva hung out inside the camper in the crowded parking lot. From the camper window, she captured this funny image of someone taking a picture in front of the camper. The camper got a lot of attention from the families visiting the National Park during those days. The views from the top of this dormant volcano were amazing. The sunsets each night were incredible. We treasure the beauty that we were able to witness while parked at Cerro Verde National Park.
Up to this point we have only explored the Western side of El Salvador and we LOVE IT!! Such nice people, great food, reasonable prices and beautiful scenery. I am sure there is much more wonder and beauty ahead in this little country. Keep reading as we share more stories!
And remember you can also follow us on Facebook (It’s not a slow car, it’s a fast house) and Instagram (@itsnotaslowcaritsafasthouse). Sometimes we post other photos there which never show up in the blog! Watch for surprises (did you see the big sweaty guy that Geneva was hugging?)