It was well after dark when we pulled into Ahuachapan. It was a small town but the restaurants and street side bars seemed to be bustling. I sat in the car and watched the square as Grant went inside to check in to our hotel. La Casa de Mamapan is a small hotel in the middle of town where we were to stay the night and begin our first rest day. No 4am start this time! We could sleep in, enjoy actual beds, and air conditioning. We climbed in bed and watched a mix of equally terrible El Salvadorian and American television before quickly falling asleep.
We woke up around eight, a pretty late hour considering our schedule thus far. It was hard to leave the comfort of the beds, but another luxury coaxed us out: showers. Newly clean and with the freshest of clothes, we found breakfast at a local pastry shop nearby. We drank our coffee and used their wifi to look up our next stop, the ruins of Tazumal. Though small in comparison to its Yucatan counterparts, Tazumal was a sight to see. The impressive temple ruins shot up within the small town, and was the tallest building around us, silhouetted against the blue sky. We walked around the temple grounds and would have ascended if not for a few ropes clearly blocking the way. They were in the process of restoring the original walls and we had to settle for the outside view, which did not disappoint.
Leaving the ruins, we met another overlander headed the opposite direction as us. Tonny was riding his motorcycle north to Guatemala and had also stopped to see the ruins. We chatted briefly and snapped a few pics, then hopped back in the Land Cruiser and continued on. We were going to a rainforest, a parque nacional, high up in the mountains. The ride up to Cerro Verde was a climb steadily up into the mist, and as we climbed , the forest seemed to get thicker. At the top we found a flat parking area surrounded by wooden shacks we could barely make out in the fog. With zero signs to follow we found what appeared to be a trailhead and followed it into the forest. What we found at the end can only be described as Jurassic Park. A once luxurious though now abandoned complex sprawled out before us, surrounded by jungle and shrouded by mist. We wound through the corridors and terraces outside of the old lodge and peeked though the windows as we passed, finally exiting the way we came, careful to scan the horizon for prowling velociraptors. We left the facility and found a small trail leading off from the main area. We took it down the far side of the mountain and into the actual rainforest. The emphasis here is on rain. It started to pour almost immediately as we entered the jungle. It was supposed to be a nature walk with scenic overlooks, but it was too foggy to see anything at all, and the rain quickly soaked through our jackets.
We had to hop a fence to get back to the parking lot, but once we got there the rain had finally let up. We each changed clothes into a dry set and grabbed some lunch at one of the wooden shacks nearby. It was a chicken and cabbage concoction served on a bread roll and we wolfed down our meal and hit the road once more. It was a “rest” day, but we still had some driving to do to make sure we stayed on course. After a few more hours in the mountains,we pulled into our campsite for the night outside of the tiny town of Alegria.
The campsite was an old volcano top that had filled with water and formed a lake in the center. Apart from a few locals playing soccer in the field contained withy the crater (seriously, soccer in a volcano? Sign me up) we were the only people there. We set up the car and went for a quick romp in the surrounding jungle. We scrambled up some rocks and even a tree and got a great view of our “private” volcano. Just beautiful. We warmed some soup and treated ourselves to some Oreos, then it was off to bed. The rest day had been a huge success, especially with the trials the following two days would bring.