Me at the crater lake of the volcano Santa Ana
the first volcanic ascent of my life with escort of the police ended at a wonderful turquoise-green crater lake - and machete men in the bus
Trip to Santa Ana National Park
For the first time in my life I wanted to climb an active volcano in Santa Ana, the volcano near the city and of the same name.
In Guatemala my planned volcano ascent failed because of the bad weather. Here, however, there were excellent conditions. In the hostel an Austrian talked about his excursion to the volcano Santa Anta, which he had completed the previous day. He also told me how other travellers there have recently been robbed by locals with machetes. The incidents happened on the way there in the car or when ascending the volcano.
Therefore it is not possible to climb the volcano without a police escort! A hike accompanied by the police was also a new experience for me.
Shortly after 6 o'clock the alarm clock rang. Because the only bus from Santa Ana that arrives on time starts early in the morning. There are almost no tourist infrastructures in El Salvador. Once again an old American school bus brought me to my destination. After about 2 hours my Bulgarian buddy and I reached the entrance to climb the volcano, the Cerro Verde National Park.
The hike starts daily at 11 am. We arrived there an hour earlier and the tour guide told us immediately:
"There's only you two here so far, not enough people to do the tour. Go back home!".
We were pretty pissed off. Did we drive here for two hours for nothing? Thankfully, some more Dutch and Malaysians came and the tour could start.
Ascending the volcano accompanied by the police
The ascent cost us about 10 $ and about 2 hours time. The difficulty of the hike is moderate. It is advisable to wear good shoes and watch out for snakes during the hike (however, this is quite unlikely). My Bulgarian buddy got holes in his shoes through the many sharp stones.
The guide led us, the tourists in between and behind the policeman watched that the machete men didn't get too close.
The ascent leads through a dense sea of fog and partly loose rock at the top. We mastered it without any problems. For the first time in my life I had climbed an active volcano! At the summit of the volcano one of the most beautiful sights of my entire journey awaited me. In the crater of the volcano shimmered a turquoise-green lake and from the edge of the crater I looked at the valley and another much larger crater lake there.
As beautiful as this looks, it's not a good idea to approach the green lake. The green liquid consists of 90% sulphur and 10% other minerals. On closer inspection you can also see it simmering slightly in the crater of the volcano.
Descent, long wait and return to Santa Ana
After 30 minutes at the top of the volcano, the guide gave the sign to return. The descent was much faster than the ascent. The leader and the policeman didn't really care if everyone would follow. Many stopped in between to take pictures. The Bulgarian and I followed the pace of the leader and had therefore arrived back down much too early.
In addition, the exit of the path was a few kilometres away from the entrance of the park, where our bus was due to leave, but not until a few hours later. Both of us were too exhausted to walk the distance and cars came by very rarely. The guide just left us and took off in his private car. He could have taken us with him, because a short time later we saw him again at the entrance of the park. But he didn't really want to do the tour anyway. It was the only bad experience I had with a Salvadoran.
The police felt pity for us and took us a short time later on the back of their pickup truck to the entrance of the park. But we had to wait until everyone else arrived.
Our bus arrived a few hours later. The journey led through beautiful landscapes. The view includes the Lago de Coatepeque ("Snake Hill"), a 24.5 km² large crater lake. You can't really swim in it, though, because almost all of the adjacent properties are privately owned.
Machete men on the bus!!!!
Suddenly the bus stopped and our mood changed abruptly! Several men with razor-sharp machetes entered the bus. So now the time had come! All the evil reports were true! We were already getting ready to hand over all our belongings.
But instead of robbing us, the men just sat down quietly. What would cause horror in other countries, or alarm the highest anti-terrorist unit, is completely normal in El Salvador. Later I watched many times how people with machetes get on the buses. For the local field workers, the machete is an everyday object.
One reason why I like this country so much: nothing seems impossible. You never know what's gonna happen next.
I reached my hostel, bought some tasty Pupusas and prepared my excursion to the Ruta de las Flores for the next day.