Sometimes I regret not taking enough pictures. The day I hitched a ride in the back of the pick up truck of the El Salvadorian police, accompanied by ten other backpackers and speeding past incredible views of lush forest and mountains, was one of those.
I found myself in El Tunco, El Salvador. Doubting wether to visit San Salvador by myself or checking out ‘the place to be’ for surfing gods, I picked the latter option. Since low season started the moment I was in Santa Ana, hostels where running empty and it was hard to find another living backpacker soul. The only possible place to find some company, was El Tunco. That’s what I thought. Apparently, even the surfers had the idea of leaving El Salvador and moving on to Guatemala or Nicaragua. Bummer for me. And I don’t even surf. – the perks of being a solo traveler I suppose – How to spend my day in El Tunco then? I wasn’t really keen on just walking around and wasting my time doing nothing. Luckily, diversion and refreshment were nearby in the form of splashing waterfalls – and boy, did I need refreshment in the humid Central-American heat -, the trick was just to find them. Gathering some people from the hostel ,– yes, I wasn’t alone! hurray! – a fivesome people and me decided to go on a quest to the hidden Tamanique waterfalls.
On our way to the busstop – yes, we found out where the bus would stop, after waiting at the wrong stop for about half an hour and missing the first bus – we stumbled into a bunch of other people, also heading for the waterfalls. A group of six became a group of eleven. Once on the chicken bus, the usual way of finding the waterfalls is to ask around if there’s a local person willing to guide you. Easy as that. For a price of course. – which is one dollar per person, 11 dollars in total, big money for the guide and two times nothing for us. Needless to say we were very happy to give our guide one dollar each and share a beer with him – After about 5 seconds on the bus a guy offered to be our guide. Found one. So far, so good. One little thing we kind of forgot is the fact we had no clue how to get to the waterfalls. While the bus past by stunning views in the mountains, fields of corn and glimpses of a glistening ocean, I came to realize I was wearing a dress and flip flops. Hmm. Maybe not the best choice to go on a little walk through the jungle. Especially not since it started to rain heavily after we hopped off the bus.
Imagine, heaving no clue where you’re going. You wear flip flops while you have to climb rocks. You have to walk down on a path covered in ankle deep mud. The only things to hold onto are branches of trees around you. Oh, and you wear a skirt. Half of the group was Australian, so wearing flip flops and doing a jungle descent in a humid heat that leaves you soaking in your own sweat was child’s play. For me, a little bit more difficult. But, our guide was a gentleman, helping me over the rocks while holding my hand and guiding us down into the forest at the same time.
And then you reach an open space. A stream has worn its way through the rock. You follow it, but you stop. Because it’s falling down into a larger pool. And another one. Waterfall follows after waterfall, accompanied by magnificent mountains in the background. Lots of locals, having a jump into the pools. Doing salto’s. Jumping of marked branches, so you don’t hit a hidden rock. Having the time of their lives. Beautiful, dangerous and refreshing. – I spend most of my time filming the Aussies and Americans doing their thing. Not so fond of jumping off things, having had my fair share of jumping in Mexico and Guatemala –
To all things comes an end, we had to leave again. Climbing up through rows and rows of corn fields – we asked a guide for an alternative route, so we didn’t have to do the rock climbing on flip flops anymore –, drained because of the humidity, we finally reached the road. About an hour before our last bus would arrive. After paying the guide, we decided to try and hitchhike. Splitting up in two groups – eleven people in one ride might be a bit too much – we did our best to find a ride before the bus would arrive. The first couple of pickup trucks weren’t headed our way, but then the police stopped. We thought ‘oh shit’, the police thought ‘let’s bring them home’. That moment is now known as the day I hitched a ride in the back of the pick up truck of the El Salvadorian police. Literally speeding past incredible views of lush forests and gorgeous mountains in the background. Wind in my hair and huge smile on the face. And a bit crammed, not being able to move much. What do you want, with ten other backpackers in the back?