Crater Views Are Hard To Come By @ Volcán Santa Ana, Cerró Verde
We arrived in Santa Ana and as instructed by our amazing new host Louis’ messages, we jumped off the bus at McDonald’s, jumped on the 55B and twenty minutes later arrived at the door of Casa Vieja Guesthouse. Louis greeted us at the door by name, introduced us to his family and showed us our room. Oh.my.god. A double king bed, by this point we had been sharing a single, at best a double single. Heaven was what this bed was. Louis told us a bit about the house and reinforced a hundred times that it was now also our house. His granddaughter Emma who had down syndrome came out to meet us and she was the sweetest 6 year old we had met.
We headed straight out for a bit of lunch, despite it being 3pm, and ended up at a recommendation from Louis.
We sat in a little courtyard and became hot property; every worker in the cafe came to serve us, everyone working in the different businesses in the courtyard came to sit and talk with us about who we were and our travels, and then the staff introduced us to an El Salvadorian game which was basically bingo with the countries speciality food dishes. At least the coffee was good, food was alright, company was very friendly.
Iglesia El Carmen @ Santa Ana
It was late afternoon so of course it started to rain heavily. This country’s rainy season seems to turn on the water works only in the afternoons, which was ok by us obviously. We popped on some cool raincoats and headed out to grab some groceries, for the first time in months we had access to a kitchen so we wanted to take full advantage to cook for ourselves. Santa Ana seemed like a cosy little place, the main square a bit grubby but full of character. We were back in a country where we were getting kissed at and men of all ages would try speak to us, very immaturely, and only a sentence or two that they knew in English, before giggling like school boys. It wasn’t intimidating, scary or malicious, just men being childish, which annoyed me more. It was mainly older men. Having patience and not reacting to these types of situations is very hard when you wouldn’t take a second of it back home, let alone from men double your age. We grabbed some vegetables and pasta, and ran home in the pouring rain.
That night we briefly met Azeez and Becky, two doctors from the UK. They had both been living in NZ and Azeez had also lived in Australia prior to that so we all had lots in common. They were off to Ruta De Flores the next day and we had decided to check out the city of Santa Ana and do some boring errands.
The following day we decided to offload some things we had been hauling around and headed to a post office. We had a couple of countries worth of postcards to get into the mail and a few presents that we had been carrying for two months, after we discovered that Guatemala had no postal services. It was as blissful and efficient as any other post office encounter we have had so far. Two hours of running up and down the same damn street, finding something to send the package in as no post office sells any boxes or anything to send post in, getting cash out because they didn’t accept card (and of course the machine that worked for our card was far away!) and lots of other what we now see as normal post office faffing about. We also sent 22 postcards, we hope the receivers bloody enjoy them! and we hope they arrive!!
Catedral Santa Ana @ Santa Ana
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Sant Ana. It was really nice to not be rushed and to actually have time to explore the cities, instead of just heading to the surrounding activities. Santa Ana has four churches that, when drawn on a map, form a cross. We went into a couple of the churches and through some of the backstreets. Santa Ana is beautiful in some ways, but not really what we had thought it would be. That night we stayed up chinwagging with Azeez and Becky who were Costa Rica bound the next day.
Teatro Nacional De Santa Ana @ Santa Ana
The next morning we got up ridiculously early, walked 25 minutes to a little bus station to catch the only bus at 7.30am that went to Cerro Verde, the National Park that is host to Santa Ana volcano. After an hour and a half on the bus, we arrived at the entrance road where we paid $3 for entrance into Cerro Verde. The bus did not wait for us but did continue up the same hill we then walked up. We then waited for 2 hours at a comedor until 11am when we would be able to get a guide and trek up the volcano. Here we met Stark and Chelle, a couple of British ladies who have been travelling for some time and living/working in Australia and Canada. They had left the UK in 2011 and had only been back for holidays. It’s nice meeting people that do similar things to you. We got chatting to them for some time and then before we knew it we were trekking back down to the entrance gate where we had been two hours earlier. We now had a police escort and a guide. You were not allowed to hike the volcano without a guide and a police escort. We didn’t pay for the police officer, and the guide was only $1 each so we weren’t complaining. We had heard the guides were more a formality and that they would practically run up the volcano leaving the group behind so we weren’t expecting much.
The Crater @ Volcán Santa Ana, Cerro Verde
At the entrance gate, we picked up another 6/8 people to join our group who had gotten private transport through their hostel ($10 per person, we paid 90cents each on the bus) but the upside is that they didn’t have to spend nearly two hours on a public bus and hang about for another hour and a half and they therefore didn’t have to get up as early. Again this didn’t bother us in the slightest, we would rather keep the extra $18.00.
We were told the hike would be about two hours and about half hour in, we stopped to pay another $6 for a park fee. We at this point have no idea what the original $3 was for, but we weren’t the only ones to pay it so surely it was for something important, like the police officer’s lunch or something.
Finally after being awake and ready for 6am we set off on our hike! After two enormous volcanoes in Guatemala we practically ran up this one whilst chatting away to Stark and Chelle the whole way up. The guide’s pace was pretty fast, but no where near the running pace we had expected. Although I was panting quite a bit at one point, we made it up to the top first along with Chelle and Stark.
It was a really cloudy day and thus far, every afternoon in Santa Ana it had pissed down with heavy rain. We couldn’t see anything view wise at the top but we could see the enormous crater and green sulphuric steaming pool. It was really impressive at the top and the different coloured sediments along with the bright colour of the water was amazing.
Made It To The Top! @ Volcán Santa Ana, Cerro Verde
Santa Ana volcano is El Salvador’s third highest peak at 2310m. It’s last eruption was in 2005 and it was a fatal one for a couple of coffee farmers and also caused a mass of landslides.
We basically ran down and after a quick drink with Chelle and Stark we headed back into Santa Ana on the 4pm bus.
The next day, after saying goodbye to all the lovely people running Casa Vieja Guesthouse including some very sweet hugs and kisses from Emma, we unfortunately jumped on a bus that wasn’t the highly efficient transportation that we had started to love about El Salvador. We were faced with literally a conveyor belt of vendors selling absolutely everything from medication and marijuana to fizzy drinks and toothpaste (same vendor, o be fair- great business plan), who even while the bus was moving (at snail pace) entered through the front door, walking the length of the bus and exiting out of the back door. It felt like this was might’ve been the reason we left over 45 minutes late but who knows, it’s hard to say.
Colourful Sediments @ Volcán Santa Ana, Cerro Verde
A quick bus ride and several hundred vendors to go until we reached the tiny villages on the Ruta De Flores. Coffee farms and village life, come at us!