“Where are they?” I think concerned while guarding the bags containing our camera gear. A few guys with machetes keep an eye on me from a distance, so I cannot leave the spot. The half of best regards from far has disappeared in a low, narrow and dark tunnel filled with water, dug into the rocks. Its entrance is barely visible as it is hidden behind a curtain of water. It has been almost 30 minutes and the water is cold. Taking a jovial guide, we met the night before in our hotel was maybe not such a good idea, or maybe they,…”YES!”, I scream when I see two people appearing through the waterfall. I see the smile on my friend’s face and I am reassured.
We are at Chorros de la Calera, a waterfall near Juayúa along the Ruta de las Flores, El Salvador. We have just completed a short walk to the cascade which literally appears out of the rocky slope. A system of tunnels is dug through the mountain to provide drinking water to the surrounding villages.
After enjoying a swim, we help our guide picking up two full garbage bags of trash: sadly enough, littering seems to be the national sport… Dumping them in the small city of Juayúa, we take this opportunity to stop for one of the best coffees in the area. With most of the beans sold to be exported, it has been very frustrating for us to see coffee plants around and drink almost only instant coffee since we arrived in Central America! The region around Ruta de las Flores is a reputed coffee plantation area, as shown on many of the murals of Ataco and the beans we are tasting come from the nearby fincas (farms).
Grabbing some fried and very crunchy yuccas, topped with cabbage and drenched in a spicy salsa sauce at a food stall, we make our way to Apaneca. There, we walk up a winding road until we reach the tranquil Laguna Verde (green lake), a crater lake surrounded by grass and trees. With the pine trees behind the lake, it feels like being in Scandinavia for a split second; although this scenery would have been clean there, here in El Salvador we pick up another full bag of trash while completing a loop around the lake.
Contrary to what many travelers do, skipping El Salvador because of its bad and unsafe reputation, we enjoyed a relaxing day, meeting helpful and friendly locals while discovering one of the county’s best scenery and delicious food with the most dangerous thing, swimming through the unknown tunnels of Chorros de la Calera.