Where in the world are we?

Where in the World are We?

12 August 2008

La Palma to The Top of The World

La Palma is a small town nestled amongst the mountains in Northern El Salvador. It lies about 3 hours north of the capitol and is home to about 12,000 people.

A special guest appearance by the Oso de Paz enroute to La Palma

In 1972 artist Fernando Llort moved to La Palma from San Salvador and soon thereafter developed an artistic style that continues to represent El Salvador around the world today. Images of animals, mountains, Christ, trees, and villages are painted in bright vivid colors on everything from seeds to rocks to doors. While a resident, Llort taught many locals about his methods and styles which eventually led to a cooperative that functions today as the main source of income for many artisans in the community.

Some of the many pieces of art painted around La Palma by various artists inspired by Llort. These two pieces were on the ceiling and outside walls of the Hotel La Palma

La Palma is a popular place for people to stop on their way to Honduras due to its close proximity to the border the town of El Poy. While in La Palma we spent time viewing art in some of the galleries and shopping through local markets for some things to bring home with us.

(l) One of the many walls around town that are painted with different figures, birds, insects and other animals. (r) Even the dragonflies in La Palma were colorful

We finally found a sorpresa - a tiny, detailed scene/figure in an oval shell about the size of a walnut, which may be found in the shape of a walnut, egg, apple, orange, or anything round with a little scene of daily life set around a village inside.

La Palma also serves as the gateway to El Pital, the highest peak in all of El Salvador (over 2700M). On our second day in town we decided to head to the nearby town of San Ignacio and attempt to catch a next bus up the mountain to the village of Rio Chiquito to commence our long and grueling hike to the summit of El Pital. Well, after a bit of confusion on all of our parts, various conversations with men, women, and children, we were eventually pointed in the direction of the bus stop. We traveled through portable video arcades, concession stands selling cotton candy and other sweets, peanut stands, slushy stands, and just about everything else you could possibly think of that may be present at a carnival...oh, did I mention there was a carnival going on? It was 9:00 in the morning on a Thursday and school was in full session...Ahhhh, life in Central America. So, we boarded the bus, paid a dollar, and headed up a long and winding road for about 45 minutes. The views were breathtaking and passengers scrambled and climbed on top of one another to catch a glimpse through each dip, twist, and turn. When we arrived at Rio Chiquito, we were pointed in the direction of an old and faded wooden sign that said "El Pital -->" and after failing to wake the young girl at the little shop, we opted to head up the mountain with granola bars, water, a camera, and some hope of success. We climbed, and climbed, and climbed...and climbed. The guide book says its roughly a 90 minute hike...true, but it's pretty much straight up on an uneven, rocky road. Throughout the walk we passed many cows, a number of breathtaking overlooks, and a few Salvadoran farmers tending their corn and tomatoes.

Some quick shots we took on our way to the top of El Pital. As you can see there is a lot of lush farmland, much of which is covered with corn crops

As we approached the top, the clouds began shifting from the left to the right, and before we knew it, we were literally walking through them as we were just shy of El Pital not too far off in the distance. We finally reached the top and to our great dismay, there were a lot of clouds sitting themselves all around. This was kind of a bummer because the view would have probably been even more spectacular, but on the bright side, we didn't have to pay the $3.00 entry fee :)

The view from the top. Not too bad, but could have done without the clouds

Another view as the clouds were drifting in and out

Each of us expressed our excitement as we reached the top. The hike was only 90 minutes, but after the first 30, these old folks talked about throwing in the towel. Not people to quit anything, we kept on going and finally felt the thrill of victory

We snapped some pictures, took a food and water break, and then headed back to the bottom. As we trekked back to base camp the clouds began enveloping the trees and road around us to the point that it became difficult to see more than a few feet in front of us (check out the picture).

As we headed back to the village the clouds completely covered the surrounding trails

So needless to say, all said and done, we had hiked to the highest point in El Salvador and lived to talk about it. We reached back to Rio Chiquito village around 12:40 and proceeded to wait for the 2:00 bus which oddly enough turned into a supposed 2:30 bus, which after waiting and freezing our butts off for two hours, fwe inally gave in and headed to the tourist police station...well, turns out there was no bus coming, at least not until the next morning or maybe 4:30pm, still lots of discrepancies. Thankfully Anthony's quick wit and impeccable Spanish earned us a private escort back to town (well, private if you don't count the five other police officers who each were carrying shotguns and other automatic weapons...I assume these were to be used in the case of a rougue snake or jaguar attempting to overcome tourists, not sure though). We arrived back to town in 15 minutes, mind you it took 45 to get to the top. I think the officer driving was going for some new land speed record, or perhaps he was trying to impress a few out-of-towners, either way, it wasn't the safest way down through winding roads that hugged the cliffs edge which happened to be completely bare of any guardrail. We made it back alive, and spent the rest of the day in town eating and shopping for some art to bring back to Belize. The next day we were off to Copan Ruinas in Honduras via the border town of El Poy.

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