Total distance travelled: 30,908.3 kilometres (19,197.7 miles)
A picturesque mountain town with stunning views and gardens of orchids.
Does that sound like a nice interlude to you?
Well it did to us, so rather than travel directly back to San Salvador from El Cuco, we made plans to abandon our bus part of the way back along the main highway, and make a slight detour to a little highland village.
It was going to require several bus changes for us to get to this slightly off the beaten path little town, and travelling from the coast at El Cuco, our first need was to get ourselves to the hub that is San Miguel, an hour or so inland.
Preceding the circumvention of this problem however was that fact that our hostel, La Tortuga Verde was actually 3km out of El Cuco, so at a fairly early hour, we began the trudge into town, hoping to complete the journey before the already hot morning morphed into an even hotter day.
Luck (as well as the Sun) however was shining on us, and barely a few minutes into what already felt a wearying trek, a local bus roared past us, throwing dust and debris into the air. Seconds later and it was pulled into a nearby side road (or perhaps it was a drive-way), attempting what became about a thirteen point turn, before starting a slow crawl towards us.
A quickly shouted dialogue with the conductor (don’t think smartly pressed uniforms here, rather grubby jeans and a t-shirt) confirmed that it was going to San Miguel, so we clambered on board.
Before long we were in San Miguel using our packs as makeshift seats as we waited for a bus headed towards San Salvador that could drop us off along the way.
The more local version never seemed to show, so we negotiated a cheaper fare for the Especial which would deliver us to El Triunfo for just a dollar each.
So there we were cruising along the highway when I decided to have a bit of doze (on and off for about a half an hour). Eventually waking, I queried with Sarah where we were, only to be told she wasn’t sure, but we must be close.
A little further down the road we spied a road sign pointing towards El Triunfo, however it presented us with a small problem as it was pointed back in the direction from which the bus had just come!
We hastily arranged to get off at the next intersection, not 100% certain of how far beyond our desired stop we had come (turns out we were at a small junction town called Mercedez).
Sarah then spied a local bus just off the highway collecting passengers, but signed with ‘Berlin’ as its destination (a town name we recognised, as it lies only 6km from Alegria, our destination), so we clambered on board for what proved a very scenic trip as the bus slowly took us and its full load of passengers into areas of higher elevation and some stunning views.
From Berlin we figured we could search for another bus or possibly a taxi, or as a worst case scenario, walk the final 6km, packs and all.
It never got to that extreme point, and we quickly found a bus, that after a 30 minute wait in town, took us the final, very scenic 6km to Alegria.
In such a small town, options can seem few, especially when demand doesn’t appear too high, but a quick circuit of the small, but very neat main plaza found us a room at the cute and slightly eclectically decorated Casa de Huespedes La Palma.
This neat little home offered small neat rooms, overlooking a lush (and neat) palm fringed courtyard, and a patio decorated with all sorts of paraphernalia from religious iconography, old irons used as paint canvases and all manner of random knick-knacks.
Although cute to look at, there wasn’t really a whole heap to entertain us in town.
One of the roads skirting the plaza appeared closed to traffic, and in its absence that space had been occupied by many small pop up cafes which was a nice touch, but interested in something a little more substantial for lunch, we put the cake option on ice for a later time.
We instead found what appeared to be one of the few open restaurants, which at first gave us the impression there were no other customers. That is until we wandered further into its depths and fully realised how large it was, built over three or four different levels and sporting some wonderful, if slightly hazy views down into the valley.
After dining on dishes of pork and chicken, we consulted our book (Lonely Planet travel guide) for directions to the nearby laguna which shares the same name as the town.
The book suggested it was 2km down from town, so we wondered if we may in fact be able to see it, but after attempts from a couple of locations, this proved unsuccessful and lead to us actually asking for directions.
At first we were worried that something was lost in translation, as the first local source suggested it was in the opposite direction we had first thought, and was actually uphill!
Two more additional opinions confirmed this, and before long as we exited the town, we did indeed see our first sign that indicated that the lake would certainly be a walk involved an ascent, rather than a descent (at least on the way there)!
Although the walk felt further than the suggested 2km’s, it certainly wasn’t unpleasant, especially given the fact that much of it had the charm of the English countryside with cobbled pavers and trimmed hedgerows for much of the way.
A token entry fee was necessary to enter the lake (just when we began to wonder if we we’d somehow missed a turnoff we found it), and we were free to explore.
It came as something of a surprise how low the water level actually was, but it certainly didn’t feel like a wasted walk, as it was nonetheless a very scenic location.
But for a few young locals, one of which obviously has good eyes as he not only noted, but commented on how beautiful Sarah was, we had the place to ourselves, so we could amble and take pictures unmolested and unobstructed.
Our large lunch had meant we weren’t all that hungry for dinner, so the purchase of a piece of almond cake to tide us over and a couple of muffins for our mornings breakfast seemed a wise decision at the time… until we realised we were very low on physical cash and didn’t know where we could acquire some more for the following days’ journey on to San Salvador.
The lady who was our host suggested the next town may possess a Cajero Automatico (ATM), before a younger guy said that was unnecessary, there was one right here in town!
We hadn’t seen it on our walks, and in fact, it was small enough that even knowing roughly where it was, Sarah missed it on a couple of occasions she walked by in her search for it.
But eventually found it was, we had our additional cash, and could again sleep well, looking forward to our second stint in the capital.
* We got lucky leaving La Tortuga Verde (which is 3km outside of El Cuco) and spotted a passing bus to San Miguel which cost us $0.35 US per person (and saved us a 3km walk into town).
* From the San Miguel bus terminal to El Triunfo cost us $1.00 US per person (although actually missing our stop and alighting at Mercedez worked out for the better).
* A chicken bus from Mercedez to Berlin cost $0.50 US per person, and from Berlin to Alegria $0.30 US per person (along a scenic mountain ridge).
* Entrance into the Laguna Alegria was $0.20 US per person.