The Pompeii of the Americas

Days: 147

Total distance travelled: 31,258.6 kilometres (19,415.28 miles)

Chances are you never knew the Americas had its own city that had been buried under a sea of volcanic ash, thus perfectly preserved for us to appreciate and provide an insight into the way the Mesoamerican peoples once lived.

Okay, I have exaggerated slightly. Joya de Ceren is certainly no city, probably even a stretch at town, but village, it most certainly was and its significance was recognised through UNESCO World Heritage status back in 1993.

We thought the place sounded fascinating and eager to make sure we could get there the same day, we left Suchitoto nice and early indeed.

Quickly sorting ourselves a room near where we’d need to grab the airport shuttle the following morning, we then made our way to San Salvador’s western bus terminal where we understood we could get ourselves out to this ancient village.

Our original plan had been to grab a Pupusa or two, however when we finally discovered where the bus (or in this instance it happened to be a mini-bus), the opportunity for food had passed, so our stomachs were forced to suffer for a bit longer (in fact, we only managed to get an ice-cream into us between this point and our return).

Our guidebook actually delivered perfectly on this little excursion, its suggestion that we’d find the ruins (and therefore needed to get off the bus) just after we crossed the Rio Sucio, and lo and behold, there it rested, just off the dusty verge that fronted the road.

We paid our $3.00 US entrance fee and after reading a few of the information boards and spying a reasonably large guided group, slipped through the gate so that we wouldn’t be forced to wait behind them (I say large, they were probably half a dozen people)!

Unlike other locations, this place was fairly structured, and you followed a delineated path from enclosure to enclosure, where the remains of this pre-Hispanic town are protected from the elements beneath roofed structures.

Feasting our eyes on what the Loma Caldera volcano has preserved for us

Feasting our eyes on what the Loma Caldera volcano has preserved for us

While there aren’t the preserved bodies here (hopefully that means most of the people escaped), the structures are pretty incredible

While there aren’t the preserved bodies here (hopefully that means most of the people escaped), the structures are pretty incredible

To think that at one point, this place was a place of daily life is incredible, in a way that somehow seemed to have more morning than some of the colossal ruins we’ve already seen in our travels.

Many of those locations were for the native elite, royalty and religious types. This place, complete with homes, small temple and steam room (that’s right, they knew how to live it up with a sauna) was for the everyday man or woman of the past.

An insight into construction methods and materials

An insight into construction methods and materials

The preservation was apparently so complete, they’ve even found meals that were set out, ready to be eaten…

The preservation was apparently so complete, they’ve even found meals that were set out, ready to be eaten…

The bodies of people have been found in this time-capsule of a village, but these have not been victims of the quake.

Rather, it’s an insight into the burial practices of these people (they were buried under, or beside the homes) who apparently lived by the mantra of home is where the heart is.

The circuit is in fact small, and it really isn’t long before you’re done. I think in our case it took us about a half hour to wander.

Onsite there is also a museum, it wasn’t bad, but didn’t offer a great deal.

We spent more time getting to and from the ruins, but was it worth such an effort?

Undoubtedly yes!

 

Notes:

* Joya de Ceren was about an hours bus ride from San Salvador’s western bus terminal and cost $0.70 US per person.

* The entrance fee into the ruins themselves was $3.00 US per person.

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5 Responses to The Pompeii of the Americas

  1. Sounds like a great find! You two are really finding some amazing places on your journey. But you always seem to be hungry along the way! Take care of that tummy!

    • Chris says:

      The tummy is holding up well, and to be honest, my stomach is looking closer to a normal size than it has in years (losing a little bulge is a win in my book)!

      It was certainly something different, but not having done so, I’m even keener to check out the actual Pompeii!

  2. Rachel says:

    You should! It’s just what you describe here: a glimpse into the lives of ordinary people rather than huge public buildings or monuments to the elite. Fascinating!

  3. Tracie Howe says:

    Fascinating! I had no idea. PS: I think you mention pupusas in every single post. Haha! It’s always nice to find a quick and easy meal that you love on the road.

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