El Salvador

Laguna de Alegria

Tuesday, 16 October 2007, León, Nicaragua
"There'd be a really good view from here if it wasn't so cloudy/foggy/rainy!" This oft repeated phrase sums up our visit to El Salvador in some ways. Just after entering El Salvador we drove up a very narrow, steep and winding road to visit Miramundo - from here, according to our guide book, it is possible to view all of El Salvador on a clear day. It is near the top of the highest peak in El Salvador, El Pital, at a height of 2730m. The day we drove this amazing road it rained on and off and the cloud was mostly below us, shifting slightly at times to show us a peek of what might have been... However, we did get some pretty good views on the drive down, but always around or through the clouds.
Towards the end of our journey through this country, as we were following the Panamerican Highway towards the east, we took a detour to a town named Berlin. It was more because of the name than anything else that we decided to turn off the highway. But it is also part of one of the tourist routes in El Salvador, this one named 'Ruta de las Cumbres' or the Route of the Summits, most of which are volcanoes. And we are almost sure there were some summits around because the road climbed and climbed, up and up until there should really have been a fantastic view of something, had there been no cloud or fog in the way. I confess we did get some peeks once again of what might have been! We discovered an interesting thing on this route. At first we noticed huge plumes of what looked like steam coming out of the side of the mountain. It turns out that the Salvadorians are tapping the energy of the volcanos in Geothermic plants and, according to a sign we spotted in Berlin, are putting at least some of the profits back into the local communities. This development was initiated to make the country independent from imported oil for generating power.
Continuing on from Berlin, on a more winding, mountainous road, that should also have had incredible views, we arrived in the very attractive little town of Alegria. We had come there seeking 'an amazing attraction' (as the tourist map describes it) - the Alegria volcanic lagoon. After several attempts we eventually found the road to take us there. On the first attempt we drove out of the town looking for the road to the lagoon and expecting a sign - there obviously wasn't one because we found ourselves going downhill rapidly, and continued to do so for at least 4 km until we found a place that was almost safe to turn around. Back in Alegria Juergen got instructions again - 'take the road to the right on the edge of town that goes uphill' - so we took the road to the right that seemed to be on the edge of town and definitely went uphill. Unfortunately it wasn't quite on the edge of town and we found ourselves driving along a 'suburban' street which was strewn with power lines that barely skimmed the top of the camper - some of them didn't! I had to walk in front of the truck to get us through, and in one spot a line got caught on the air conditioner. A couple of guys were working in the street and came over with brooms to lift the line clear. Just before they reached a point where they could help, a man poked his head out of the front door of the house and shouted something at them and then grinned at me. They rushed back to work. We assumed he was employing them and decided they couldn't take time off to help us. This problem with low power lines is a result of the people connecting themselves illegally to the power line that runs along their street - the line caught on our air conditioner seemed to belong to the not so friendly employer. A friendlier woman from across the road gave me a broom to lift a line - had we realised before we drove off that the line belonged to that particular fellow we may have just driven on without using the proffered broom!
After asking for directions for a third time, and checking along the way that we were on the right track, we found the right road. It is very steep and cobbled, and seems to be used so infrequently by vehicles that there is moss growing between the rocks. There should have been more amazing views to be had along this road, but for the fog! We arrived at the crater lake and pronounced it worth the trouble - the fog/cloud rolls in and out over the lake, creating the most awesome scene. The water is green and slightly sulphurous, and surrounded by the crater covered in lush vegetation. It would be such a nice place to spend some time on a hot, clear day. We met a Salvadorian there, who now lives in New York, and he gave us directions to a Vivero (nursery) in Alegria that is also a restaurant and has a large level parking lot. We drove back there and checked it out and got permission to spend the night. It is perched right on the side of a mountain and should also have amazing views, if...

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