Sunday 11th November – Juayua (Ruta de las Flores)
Today we took a self-guided trip of two of the towns in the Ruta de las Flores. We started by taking the short trip on the bus to Apaneca where we first visited an amazing and detailed Labyrinth grown from tightly grown hedges. I tried to make my way through using the principle of the right-hand rule, where you always keep your right hand on the edge of the maze until you reach the centre. Turns out that this principle doesn´t work in a Labyrith which only has one entry and exit point and only one solution. Eventually I gave this method up and found my way to the centre where I got to ring the victory bell from the platform and take in the views of the surrounding coffee plantations and the ever present volcanoes. Right beside the labyrinth there was a fabulous swing – where for just $4 you were strapped in and put on a platform which fell away and then you were swinging over the valley below – it was awesome!
Next we took a walk through the town proper Apeneca, there was a massive church and strangely a pumped up car festival happening that day! So many cars from what seemed like all around the world proudly on display for the crowds wandering the town that day. Not my cup of tea but still pretty interesting. Next we headed out on a walk out to Laguna Verde – the green lake. It was a long way out in the sun, mostly uphill but there were some great views from the road and the lake was a nice place to have a snack and a fresh young coconut. By the time we walked back into town it was getting to be mid afternoon so it was time to head to the second, and what turned out to be the final town for the day – Ataco. This town is known for its colourful murals – and they were really beautiful, all over the walls of the town. We had a great time exploring the streets of the town and trying to translate the different inspirational messages like – make your life your dream and your dreams your life – and – No good fishermen is made in calm seas. Some of the murals were political and some were solely artistic. There was also a smaller food festival in this town and I ate some platanos with milk inside them deep fried and covered with sugar. They were delicious! After this late lunch we walked up the small hill beside the town to the cross at the top of the hill – there were some great views from up there as the sun was going down. Then it was time to catch the bus back to Juayua – we had the craziest bus driver ever! He was flying around the tight corners and passing three cars at a time up the hill! Surprisingly we made it back to the town in one piece and feeling lucky to be alive!
Monday 12th November - Juayua
This morning it was up early as we had organised to take the 7 waterfalls tour. We left at 8am with our guide Douglas – a strange name for an El Salvadorean! He was lovely and chatted with us about the surroundings as we walked back to his place to collect the ropes and helmets for the trek. On the trek as we walked I learned about the coffee making process in El Salvador and that the local people work long days to earn as little as $7 picking coffee. Douglas explained that there is a constant struggle between the owners of the plantations and the workers not to pick the beans too early – as the red beans make the premium coffee and beans picked when they are green are not as valuable an export. But the workers get paid by weight of coffee they pick and it´s faster to pick all of the coffee on one tree rather that pick the best quality beans off every tree.
After about an hour of walking we arrived at our first waterfalls. The water seemed to rush out of the rocks from an underground stream and the waterfalls continued as we walked along the path beside them for about 100 metres. Eventually we reached a waterfall that we had to abseil down. It wasn´t really abseiling though – just holding on to a rope and lowering ourselves down it! It was super fun and not too scary at all. I was just a little bit worried about my feet slipping on the moss but everything worked out awesomely! The waterfall was 40m high and wasn´t a sheer drop but more like a series of steps. Still, it was super adventurous! Next we hiked past an impossible number of waterfalls and then up through the jungle and some more coffee plantations with more amazing views before we reached the waterfalls called los Churros de la Calera the famous waterfalls in the area. Because it was a Monday afternoon, there were no other people at the waterfalls and we could enjoy our lunch at the shady falls and have a swim at the sunny falls. It was the perfect end to our long hike and the water was cool and clear. The water from these waterfalls is collected and used to generate thermal electricity for El Salvador which is so impressive! Once we got back to the hotel, I spent the afternoon relaxing and writing this journal and swimming in the pool. A super fun day all round.