Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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A twist in the fabric of space San Salvador Volcano, El Salvador, Sunday, 25 April 2010 9:48pm

I had the bright idea of leaving the city for a quick trip to the local volcano. Little did I know...

We set out after breakfast, and had a fairly easy time following signs to El Boquerón, but then the signs just stopped. They'd pointed us to a pair of onramps for opposite directions on a road leading back into San Salvador or out to Santa Ana. Neither of those was what we really wanted, but we followed the route toward Santa Ana, hoping for more useful signs.

The volcano has a bunch of names: San Salvador, Quetzaltepec, Picacho (the highest peak), and El Boquerón (the crater that we were hoping to visit). So when we saw a sign for Colonia Quetzaltepec, we thought we were in luck. We were further encouraged by lots of route 101A buses, which our guidebook listed as the right bus for the first part of the trip. Unfortunately, Colonia Quetzaltepec turned out to be a dead end. Or rather, a series of dead ends. We followed nearly every street in the town to its end, looking for the outlet that would lead us to the volcano.

Eventually, we exhausted the possibilities in the town, backtracked to a roundabout, and took the next option: CA-1 towards Santa Ana. There were some cops at a cone-roadblock (they seem to use these to limit speeds and occasionally to pull someone over), so we pulled over and asked them for directions. They started out by saying it was complicated, but then gave us an easy set of directions: turn around at the next retorno (finding yourself going the wrong way on the highway is apparently a very common occurrence here), go to the third stoplight, and turn left.

Sure enough, as soon as we'd made a left at the third stoplight, we saw a sign for El Boquerón. And when we made the described turn, we saw another... unfortunately, we'd seen that one before. We were essentially back where we started.

Having exhausted the other possibilities, we took the route towards San Salvador... for one exit. The highway was crudely closed with rubble and a sign saying that there was no way through. Maybe it was a local problem? We got off the highway and tried getting back on it going the same direction beyond the exit. Nope. More rubble and cars driving back the way they came.

At this point we gave up on trying to find the route from San Salvador. Instead of driving north along the road to the volcano, we decided to find it from the other side. We got on CA-1 towards Santa Ana, passed our friends at the roadblock, and drove northeast. Eventually, we found an offramp for Quetzaltepeque (the city, not the Colonia or the Volcano), and then finally saw a sign for El Boquerón.

We had lunch at a restaurant/zipline launching point at a converted coffee plantation along a twisty road on a lush mountainside, and then continued up the mountain.

After about 20km of winding, we finally saw a sign that pointed off to the right saying that Parque El Boquerón was just 2.6km away.

One fun thing about El Salvador is that people park by the side of the road. Even on two lane mountain roads with no shoulder. So actually getting the last 500m into the park involved multiple sections of pulling off into a driveway or backing out to let a car coming the other way pass. Eventually we did make it to the parking lot, though.

The crater was large, lush, and filled with clouds. We did get glimpses of the entire rim from the viewpoints, but we were never able to see all the way to Picacho.

After visiting the park at the crater rim, we returned to town, following the road the rest of the way. It turned out to end just beyond the rubble-blocked section of highway, but at the end of a series of turns that I'm pretty sure we would never have figured out.

Here's a map of the route we took. This quick trip covered 67 mi over 6 hours (though we weren't moving for all of that time).