It has been a while since I wrote about home. This next place, was one of my favorites and one place where I have to go again, and again…and again.
I was so lucky that my childhood friend, Eva and her family took me out to the country side for a day trip…to a place called Cerro Verde. I still cannot thank Eva and her family enough – they took me in like a daughter and put up with me for so long. Gracias Eva otra vez por todo – por tu cariño y amor y amistad!
Cerro means something similar to ‘hill’ in English – Verde means ‘green’. So literally, we went to the green hill. However! This hill used to be a volcano – and now it is a very old dormant volcano, turned national park. The beautiful thing is, around Cerro Verde are I think 2 other volcanoes. One is the Izalco, and the other the Santa Ana. Both are dormant, but I think Izalco stopped puffing smoke in the late 90’s (last eruption was 1966 I think). It had the nickname of El Faro del Pacifico – The Lighthouse of the Pacific. One funny fact that I should mention, a private developer or the government (can’t remember who it was???) but somebody built a resort in Cerro Verde, with a beautiful view of Izalco. The funny thing is, the day of the opening of this resort, was the day that it stopped puffing. Ironic no?
Anyway, back to the trip. The drive was a little bumpy at times, since the regional communities usually don’t have the money to maintain them – and the government doesn’t always help – but it was fun! On the way there we drove past sugar cane plantations, beans plantations, coffee plantations…some of the main exports. We did drive past the corn plantations (which are planted with the beans, they each provide support for each other from my understanding), but the shoots were just coming out. There were many farmers working on their land, kids walking to school (it was around 9am when we drove past the villages). There were also many people on the side of the street selling fruit or food for drivers, tourists etc. I did buy jocotes a few times (not on this trip though). I die for jocotes – it’s a small fruit part of the cashew family. It is sweet and delicious – you might as well look it up because I won’t be able to describe it. Just look it up.
We got there relatively early in the day, but still not early enough if you wanted to hike Izalco. It’s a 6hour trip there and back. If I had known that this was possible, I would have left at 4am to be the first up there – but not to worry, next time!
We did the usual walking trails, checked out the deserted resort, took some photos and had a snack. We waited until the guides were available to do the tour of the Cerro. The tours are done by the local guides, usually teenagers working to help their families get through. Most of them are currently completing some sort of Botanical or Agricultural study, and the money that they get from tips, is what they keep (I gave my tour guide 7USD – which over there is a lot. I felt horrible if I had put him in some danger, as some people are desperate enough to steal for that amount). He was pretty good – even asked the audience questions about the type of habitat etc. in the surroundings. He was a smart kid!
As part of the tour, you went around the Cerro obviously, but you reach a lookout where you can see the Santa Ana volcano. This one is a little ‘flatter’ and people go hiking on this one too. There were a few people up there when we were at the lookout.
After the hour tour, we went back and had some lunch. There is a little kiosk that apparently is run by a woman and her daughter (and now her granddaughters), who cook all kinds of traditional foods. Because I cannot resist pupusas (look it up people), I had a couple of them. We also bought some beef soup, home made potato chips, empanadas de plantano (plantano = cooking banana, the large banana…look it up), tortillas with salt and lemon and I think we had coke for a drink. Absolutely delicious. The food is cheap, but totally worth it. And you know that the money goes back to running the place and keeping these wonderful ladies in business. I couldn’t move after we finished eating.
Now, just to mention something important. The place is protected all day by national guards. Unfortunately, because of the gang problem in ESA, a lot of the area has been vandalized by gangs or just random people who have no respect for their environment. I am not kidding when I say that there were 3 armed guards standing by the main park entrance with assault rifles in their hands. The locals and the nationals are used to it. For me, haven’t been home in 17 years, it was a bit surprising, but not shocking. Good on them for looking out for their people and their home.
Anyway, on the drive home, we decided to stop by another Mirador – or look-out. From a certain spot on Cerro Verde, you can see the lake of Coatepeque. I loved this lake – it’s just so clear, huge and beautiful. So at the mirador we could see it clearly. I hope you see what I mean…
On the way down from the mountains, I was even allowed to ride in the back of the pick-up (that’s an ute for the Australians). It’s legal over there – no big deal. Although it was for me because I hadn’t been in the back of a truck in a long time! I was so excited, but I admit I ended up with a sore bum from the bumpy road. Totally worth it though.
Hopefully sometime soon I get to do it all over again 😉