El Boquerón is the nickname of the crater of San Salvador’s volcano.
Before we left for El Salvador I told Carlos I wanted to climb to the top of a volcano. He didn’t look enthusiastic. He told me he had gone with his classmates years ago and it was difficult. So I started walking each day, even running at times, trying to build up my endurance. If you know me, you know I’m not a runner. I’m a writer. I like to sit. And write. This just goes to show how much I wanted to climb the volcano.
Despite Carlos’s initial hesitance, I finally did convince him that we should go. As it turns out, he had no reason to worry. The Tourism Department of El Salvador has done a beautiful job making the volcano safe and accessible to tourists. You drive most of the way in your car on a paved road to a parking lot. Near the parking lot, there’s a small visitor center/museum with some information. (And there is even a public bathroom which is modest, but clean.) You pay a small fee to enter the path up to view the crater which was less than a 20 minute walk and not treacherous at all. Carlos said things were very different from the way he remembered them.
On the way up to the parking lot we saw a lot of school children in uniforms walking down the road. One teenager played with a capirucho as he talked with a friend. We stopped part of the way up at a scenic view and got out of the car. Apparently a family lives there and runs a restaurant on the same land. We climbed the steps to an elevated deck to take photos and the man told us, (not unkindly), that if we didn’t intend to buy anything, it was a dollar to take photos. I thought that was more than fair.
Back in the car, we drove up to the parking lot. There were a few chuchos aguacateros (street dogs), running around. The aguacateros at the San Salvador volcano probably hang around people a lot because they were much friendlier than their city cousins.
Everywhere we went vendors were calling out “Frambuesas!” [Raspberries!] I ended up buying some but we looked like crazy people, gathered around the bag, eating them with so much enthusiasm. “Oh my gosh!” my youngest son said in English with his mouth full of plump raspberries, “These are the best frambuesas EVER!” … and they really were.
(It crossed my mind that they hadn’t been washed, but none of us got sick.)
Even though they were the best frambuesas ever, my youngest son is kind-hearted and gifted one to the aguacatero.
He wasn’t interested.
After agucatero-petting and frambuesa-eating, we went into the visitor center/museum.
There was a wooden box full of typical attire. We tried some on and Carlos took our photo. When I saw the photo of us, I said to myself, “NO ONE MUST EVER SEE THIS!” – I wish I looked pretty in the traditional clothing, but I looked like a silly tourist.
Here is my younger son in traditional Salvadoran dress. He said he was going to pretend he was making soup for the photo, so that’s what he’s doing here.
At the visitor center/museum there was a guest book that I signed.
After we finished playing around, we started up the path to see the crater. The boys bounded ahead of us, leading the way. I managed to keep up with Carlos, but it took some effort. If I hadn’t been sick, it would have been a walk in the park, but since I had Guanaco Gripe, it wasn’t so easy.
Halfway up to the view of the crater, the path split. One sign pointed left, the other pointed right. One said “Difícil” and the other said “Fácil.” We stopped and stared at them.
“Which do you want to take?” Carlos said.
I looked at him sternly, one hand holding my aching ribs as I wiped snot from my runny nose on the back of my other hand, “Which do you think?” I responded.
A man crouched in the dirt nearby, tending to the plants that line the path.
“Disculpe la molestia,” [Sorry to bother you] Carlos said.
The man looked up.
“¿Cuál es más fácil? he asked him, pointing towards the paths and the signs. [Which one is easier?]
I looked at Carlos. What kind of question is that? The sign that says “EASY” is the EASY one! Before I could say something smart, the guy crouching in the dirt shrugged. “Son iguales,” he responded. [They’re the same.]
“Only in El Salvador,” I said to myself. We started up the one that said “Fácil” just in case.
When we finally made it to the top, we were very excited.
My younger son looked down into the crater and asked, “Where’s the lava?” … He wasn’t the only one who wondered though. A group of long haired surfer dudes arrived at the top a few minutes later wearing flip flops – not sure how they made it up the path like that. The surfer dudes, (who talked very surfer dude-ish), were some of the only other gringos I saw while we were in El Salvador.
While at the top, we also looked at the radio towers which, according to the security guard who was standing nearby, were used during the war by Radio Venceremos.
We walked back down a path to the parking lot, where a few vendors were calling out the items they were selling … One man selling frambuesas called to me several times. I smiled and waved, shouting out, “Ya compramos frambuesas más temprano y estaban bien deliciosas, gracias!” … [“We already bought raspberries earlier and they were delicious, thank you.”] Not only did the man fall quiet, but all the other vendors in the area did too. It was quiet for what felt like forever, though it must have been less than a minute.
Carlos stifled a laugh as we walked towards the car.
“What happened? Did I do something wrong?” I asked quietly.
“No,” Carlos said, “I don’t think they expected you to speak Spanish.”