El Salvador

Colonial Suchitoto & Laguna de Alegria

Colonial Suchitoto & Laguna de Alegria

May 2023

We left the coast of the Pacific  and headed for the city of Suchitoto. We stopped briefly at the harbour town of La Libertad where we watched the fishermen sell their today’s catch at the pier. 

Our trip then went through the capital city of San Salvador and the drive was quite annoying. The roads around the capital were packed with cars and there was almost no getting through and after we took a wrong turn ourselves we both had to count to 10 to calm down.

The problem in these countries is that they don’t have “ring roads” around cities. All traffic from east to west and from north to south has to go through the center of the city, causing traffic to be jammed constantly. San Salvador also shared this dubious honor. For more than three hours we rolled through the city, covering less than 30 kilometers. We arrived at our destination only after dark. After eating a few pupusas in a restaurant near a small park we fell asleep tired.

Capital San Salvador
Mural under a brigde
Locals selling bananas out of their truck
Delicious pupusas in Suchitoto

Contrary to our expectations, it was a very quiet night in the middle of the city and there was no hustle and bustle around our car the next morning either. After breakfast, we walked towards the church and there was already a lot going on. Many stalls were set up on the plaza in front of the church and there were also a lot of hawkers in the streets around it.

Church of Santa Lucia
Plaza in front of the church
Locals selling and buying in the streets

Suchitoto has had an eventful history. Founded 1000 years ago, it was briefly the capital of El Salvador in the 16th century. After the civil war raged in the area in the 1980s, the town was almost completely deserted in 1990. 90% of the population having left Suchitoto and fled to safety. Today though, the city is considered the cultural capital of the country, with lots of art and several festivals.

We marveled at the many colorful colonial buildings, strolled through the small alleyways with their bumpy cobblestones and took a quick look at the market hall where fruit and vegetables were sold. Then we tried a chocoplatano, a frozen banana dipped in hot chocolate, with toppings of choice. Quite high in calories, but a tasty snack.

After lunch, we made our way to the next volcano and the crater lake of Alegria. After leaving the mountains on winding roads, we were once again able to enjoy the pretty good main roads in El Salvador. We covered the 120 kilometers in less than 3 hours and after a final steep climb we reached the Laguna de Alegria in the afternoon. It is officially allowed to camp on the shore here and we looked for a spot by the lake. We particularly liked the temperatures, it was really cool and there was a light breeze.

Campsite at the shore of Laguna Alegria

The next morning, we started the hike to the crater rim. The path led steeply uphill on a dusty goat path. The lagoon lay below us on the right and the slope fell steeply to the left. Every now and then we had to scramble over some rocks. It got pretty hot pretty quickly, but it was a very beautiful hiking trail with great views. When we had almost reached the highest point, hordes of small black flies suddenly descended on us as soon as we stopped for even a moment. They didn’t bite or sting, but it was still pretty unpleasant.

We had to climb up the steep path
Wildlife on the way
View from the hiking path down into the crater with our car parked there
Wildlife on the way
Almost at the crater rim

After just over an hour, we reached the viewpoint and set off on the long descent to the village of Alegria. The path now led us through coffee plantations, but unlike those on the Santa Ana volcano, the plants were not full of blossoms. We reached the village square in time for lunch. We treated ourselves to carne asada – grilled meat with rice, salad and pupusas – in one of the comedores on the plaza. We bought another packet of coffee and then set off to hike back into the crater to our car.

The Laguna del Jocotal nature reserve is a big wetland. The area is home to hundreds of animal species, including 252 bird species alone. Among the animal species present are endangered species such as the Central American spider monkey, the yellow-naped parrot and the American crocodile. The area is one of the best examples of freshwater floodplain ecosystems in the Central America.

However, the whole area looked more like a large fairground when we arrived. That’s how it is on Sundays in Latin America, even in a nature reserve. Young and old, big and small, with their hammocks, barbecues, lots of Coca-Cola and loud music, all gather in a piece of nature. When the last people have gone home at sunset, the piece of nature is richer by a large amount of garbage. The polystyrene containers floated among the water lilies in the lagoon, but the comorants and other birds didn’t seem to mind as much as we did. We just cannot get used to it.

We were the only ones left and silence returned after dark. Only the dogs had to bark all night again and the cormorants also made grunting noises.

A nature reserve serving as fun fair
Locals bathing in Laguna del Jocotal

Early the next morning, it turned out that a number of Salvadorians did feel inclined to clear the main field of trash, at least at first glance. Not that it will help much, but of course the intention is a good start. Now it was our turn to try out the waters of the lagoon. We made coffee and tea and tried to figure out the temperature of the water with our big toe. This water was really very warm! With coffee in hand, it was great to start the day in the water. 

Chickens scurried through the grass looking for anything edible between the blades, cows grazed a bit and contented themselves with the grass and dozens of waterfowl were standing in shallow water. Small fish were also treated to breakfast. We don’t know what they liked about our skin, but there was hearty nibbling. When the coffee was finished, it was time to start thinking about serious things. A border crossing was on our program for today.

Honduras should be the next country, although we would only stay there for one night. Fortunately, the border formalities went smoothly. Occasionally a smile could be seen on the faces of the usually stern customs officials, and after going through all the counters and saying goodbye to El Salvador, we drove into our eighth country.

Entering Honduras
Customs checking our car

We visited Honduras only for one reason – there is no way around it on the way south. Theoretically we could have done two border crossings in one day and driven across the country but we didn’t want to stress ourselves. We spent the night in the parking lot at Termas Ribot where we also immediately took advantage of both the hot and also the colder pools. Again we checked the temperature of the water with our big toe, but the hot pool seemed a little too hot for our liking. So we cooled off in the “normal” pool. Only later we still tried the thermal pools anyway.

People, animals and cars sharing the road
It's great that Germany is saving the world's climate

Honduras in one day suited us quite well. Next on the program was Nicaragua.

Goodbye Honduras

Eddy and Romy van Es © 2020, infected.nl. All Rights Reserved.

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