Thursday, June 21, 2007

El Parque Imposible (Impossible Park)

Parque Imposible...our final outdoor adventure of the trip. It is the largest protected park in El Salvador, green like you wouldn't believe, and a botanist and birdwatcher's haven from what I hear. The road to get up there is basically one strip of winding, steep, rocky, mountain road flanked by some occupied mountain shacks and overrun with dogs and chickens. Some of the countryside kids run out and wave to you as you drive by. But again, it's bumpy as hell so be sure your car is equipped for the trek up. If you really, really want to be prepared, then maybe learn how to change a flat tire on a slope too...

Once there we were assigned a guide volunteer named Andres (pictured above) who gave us some hiking route choices. It was $6 for me (gringo) and $3 for Viki (salvadorian resident). We opted for the hike down into the valley to a river junction which was an overall 7km hike down and back uphill. It is said this park is the best example of a mesoamerican rainforest and the guia Andres was well educated about the ecosystem. No armed policia this time...he said in this park it wasn't necessary. I believe they assign guides here because 1) they want to make sure you don't pass out in the middle of nowhere unnoticed and 2) they want to make sure you're respecting nature. He was super nice though.

The terrain here is rugged; even the simple routes would be a little tricky for a noob hiker. The fun thing about hiking to a water source is hearing it as you're nearing it...motivating you to keep going. When we finally reached the river, we were shocked at how crisp it was. Andres said that the park tests it frequently for contaniments, which it is completely free of. The fish looked like they were flying, the water was so clear. Being in the water was therapeutic; I actually felt cleaner having swam in it, which is odd for a river these days. This was the way water was supposed to be, the way that nature intended it to be. Andres even filled his water bottle up in the river in preparation for our ascent.

Normally, the hike back up would have been challenging but after Cerro Verde and Izalco last week, this was muy facil. You constantly have to look down at your feet to watch your footing of course but don't forget to look up every once in a while. You'll see some crazy exotic trees, gigantic empire-like antills, and of course local wildlife. The rainforest canopy is beautiful.

On the drive back down, seeing a chicken on the side of the road indicated to me that we were back in civilization (and no, I'm not being sarcastic.) As we neared the capital San Salvador, I spotted this pickup which for me wins the award for being my personal favorite of the entire trip. I mean, I've seen some precarious pickups these last two weeks, but this one takes the pupusa. All the junk being hauled seems to be methodically secured using only a few ropes. Look closely too because you'll see a kitchen sink at the top. What I don't understand is how one goes about unloading this truck? Once you cut one rope the entire thing is going to come crumbling down, right? I'm sure there's some ancient Mayan secret I don't know about...

Last night in El Salvador. Tagged along with Viki's family for dinner at a friend's house/restaurant. Time to start packing...

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