Mission El Imposible

Jess and Rex @ Tacuba

After a short 40 minute crammed bus from Ahuachapán, we arrived in Tacuba. A couple of blocks walk and we were nervous as we had headed for a hostel we had only read about in lonely planet, and hadn’t responded to our emails. Normally this means either it’s terrible or moe often than not- no longer exists. “Did we read it in the 2014 paper copy of Lonely P that we are carrying around or was it the updated kindle version?! Please be the latter!”.

Luckily for us, unlike the other few times we had been stung, Hostel Mama y Papa was open for business, along with their 5 turtles, 2 parrots, 8 month old puppy Rex, old dog Ringo, 2 cats, 2 one month old kittens and 2 gangsta ducks that tried to attack Jess every time she walked past.

Baby Hostel Tortoise @ Tacuba

We quickly settled in to this little paradise and laid some love on the puppy, Rex before heading out for some food. That afternoon we spent planning our trip into Parque Nacional El Imposible for the next day. El Imposible is the largest national park in El Salvador at just over 38 square kms. It was named the Impossible because there didn’t used to be a proper road through enormous perilous gorge which was used as a route to transport coffee to the Pacific coast. It claimed the lives of many farmers and mules.

There is such little information online about how to get into the park, how to find a guide, transport etc that we were glad that William the guide was able to give us some suggestions. Not being too up for waterfall rappelling we opted for a three hour ish exploratory hike to see some birds of course!

Under My Mushroombrella @ Parque Nacional El Imposible

We went for a brief stroll down the street to grab some drinks and groceries. This town had not seen a lot of tourists which was special but also having a whole village stare at you (not in a mean way, just in a “what are you doing here?” Kind of way). We have barely seen any other tourists during our time in El Salvador which has been pretty amazing and the locals are so friendly and always more than happy to help you out if you are lost or need something but we do get stared at a lot. Unfortunately this place was a bit more starry than helpy. Instead of getting annoyed we just say some sort of greeting in Spanish which usually clicks them out of their zombie staring and they seem shocked but normally greet us back and smile. We grabbed a bite to eat, picked up some groceries and headed back for a relaxing evening which mainly revolved around playing with Rex.

We set off the next morning with William in his ute. We drove for about 45 minutes along a narrow winding country road, there is absolutely no way we would have been able to get here without a guide unless we had a 4×4 and years of experience navigating the complicated roads. We picked up loads of people just to help them out on their very long walks, as there seemed to be no public transport and not many people are rich enough to own cars. William talked a lot about the way El Salvadorians are- friendly and hospitable to each other which was nice. We stopped at a lookout/some woman’s front garden but it was so cloudy we couldn’t see much but we did get glimpses of surrounding volcanoes and beautiful green rainforest.

Hiking @ Parque Nacional El Imposible

We arrived at a small house made mainly or corrugated iron and concrete. We were greeted by a friendly old man with very few teeth, a very sweet, shy and absolutely filthy young boy and a small family of dogs. They ran/looked after the surrounding coffee plantation. I couldn’t really gather whether they lived there permanently or whether it was more daytime position when they were working. Either way they were extremely poor. William gave the nearly toothless man some food goods for which the man paid him.

We set off on foot out through the back of this house through a coffee farm and hiked down the steep side of a mountain into a canyon. The views on the way down were breathtaking, vast, dense and green, every shade of green you can imagine. Bird song filled the air and bright blue butterflies the size of your face floated past as we essentially scaled down the edge of rainforest dense valley and climbed through huge rock formations to reach a river and a series of small waterfalls. After about three hours we realised William our guide had gone a bit rogue and we were definitely not doing a three hour total hike that we had planned and were in fact exploring territory he had only taken two small groups of tourists to. It’s really common to do the waterfall rappelling and jumping but this off the beaten track Bear Grylls exploration was much more fun!

Not Even The Bottom Parque Nacional El Imposible

We wobbled our way across slippery rocks and boulders, crossed the small river and sat atop an enormous boulder overlooking yet more deep valley below while we ate our lunch. We were in the middle of nowhere, sat in the middle of a The jungle looking up at the sheer cliff edge, and looking down to the cascading waterfalls.

Lunch Boulder @ Parque Nacional El Imposible

We didn’t actually see much wildlife, lots of birds flying, a few frogs but we heard a lot more. We heard some toucans but they don’t count unless you actually see them. We did however on the way down come across a Tamagas Negro or a Slender Hognosed Pit Viper. I was really excited because I had just been daydreaming about whether there were any snakes in this park- what if I stood on one and it bit me? How long would it take to get back up the side of the valley if I couldn’t walk? How long would it take to get to a hospital? Where was the nearest hospital because it certainly is not in Tacuba? Would they have the anti venom? The usual daydreams I have whilst hiking. Plus it’s always exciting finding something that makes your guide get excited or freak out. Jess was a lot less excited. As soon as we saw this huge snake across our path, William froze, raised his hand and told us to not move in Spanish (he only spoke Spanish to us so luckily we were paying attention). He stood dead still for at least a minute then very slowly reached for his machete. The snake flinched and looked agitated so he froze again. We didn’t move for another 30 seconds at least. I edged backwards very slowly not to get away but to move closer to Jess as my camera was in her backpack…

Tamagas Negro @ Parque Nacional El Imposible

William was a really interesting guide and during our three/eight hour hike he really indulged in some in depth and personal conversation. We talked about politics, gangs, his personal life and everything in between. Our Spanish understanding is certainly improving whether we can speak correctly or not.

The way back up was literally a climb. Jess had to give me a leg up to pretty much everything and on a couple of occasions we were pulled up by our back packs. It was a very strenuous but adventurous day of hiking. An awesome day all round.

Stopping For A Split Second @ Parque Nacional El Imposible

Back at the casa that night, two more travellers had checked in and were booking a trip for the next day with our William (he just works everyday it’s insane!). The girl (from Latvia) got talking to us (nonstop) and soon told us how she was held up at a set of waterfalls the day before near Juayúa by a guy with two machetes. We had read an warning poster at our hostel about these waterfalls and how there had been reported robberies this month and they strongly advised to go with a guide or police escort. As like most walks in El Salvador. We felt extremely sorry for her until it turned out that she not only held onto her bag, even when the guy with two machetes was on top of her trying to pull it off her, but the reason for her not handing her bag over was because her phone “takes amazing photos and cost me a lot of money”, oh and she didn’t have insurance. Don’t get me wrong, no one deserves to be robbed but the clincher was really when she harped on about how she couldn’t believe how she reacted and even called herself brave! She had decided that she was so brave in fact that now she believed she would be able to use the pepper spray she carries around. What an absolute fuck knuckle. We had absolutely zero time for this girl, I get that everyone travels differently but in El Salvador, police provide free escorts for all walking tracks to eliminate this risk, it was carelessness and over confidence that caused her to be alone with only one other traveller that she had only met that day. Then she put her life and his at risk by her actions. Unbelievably stupid.

We stayed clear of her chat for the rest of the night and the next day woke up, packed up, said a sad goodbye to Rex and headed for the Pacific coast! It’s time for a relaxed day or two before flying to Costa Rica (with a six hour layover in Panama as that was the only flight in our price range).

The Sad Farewell @ Tacuba

We’ve chosen to fly to Costa Rica and skip Nicaragua due to the recent unrest that is going on within the country. The government has kindly decided to slash their pensions so there are protests both peaceful and violent (mainly from the Police), road blocks and there have been many fatalities.

We will come back and see your wonderful country another time Nicaragua.

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