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From San Salvador and the coastal adventures in Diary 1, I now explore the north.
1/1 2020.
I am in no hurry, as I only have a few sights around town, and it does sound real dead this morning. It seems like only the sun is up, along with the birds. At nine, I walk into the town, and it is truly dead. Only the huge piles of blown-up newspapers from the fireworks, and the absent of humans, show it is the day after New Year's eve.
In the market area, only a very few stands are open.

The first archaeological site, I find it is closed. A huge gate blocks the entrance, but I get to see some ancient buildings along the fence.
Nearby, I find volcanic crater with Laguna Chalchuapa. I read it was a "Mystical sulphur lake", but I rather say it is green, caused by algae. Some cormorants are fishing in it, and I guess it is pretty clean. I do a tour around, and find a lot of interesting plants - had they been native.

As no surprise, the next archaeological site is closed as well. A few souvenir stands are optimistic open along with the juice stands. I see a large pyramid through the fence, drink a pink juice, no idea what it was, and head on.
Another loop around the still dead market, a bit out of the centre and back again.

I stock some food at a supermarket, but find it real hard to come up with some interesting stuff, the lack of kitchen considered. Burger buns, spiced tomato sauce and cheese. Do tingle with the fake Nutella, but leaves it behind.
Back to eat and find out Dakar Rally only starts on the fourth this year. Half pass noon, I start to being desperate....

Well, I do have a car, and I don't mind using it. I find some roads I haven't seen, leading all the way out to the sea. The first part is by the familiar Ruta de las Flores, but way up in the mountains, I head south. It is a magnificent drive, but I fail to make any good photos. I do see the green mountainside, the deep valleys and alike, but through the green trees.

I reach the sea at Playa Metalio, and this is where everybody are! The beach is packed - or rather the water. Here are significantly more people in the water, than on the beach. I do a short stroll, then head a bit back to Área Natural Manglar de Metalio, the mangrove. I see a lot of tiny crabs and not much other wildlife.

I head a bit further west, but it is cattle land, and not very interesting. The traffic have become rather intense on the way home, but is float, although slowly. I gas the car, and it does only do 15,6 km/l, despite the little engine. Here, they sell gasoline by gallons, in contrast to Nicaragua and Honduras. . I'm back at dusk, and glad I have some food stored away, as the town is closed. Dead Chalchuapa and live beach.

2/1. I head out to the Casa Blanca pyramid area, but have to wait a bit, before they opens. They have a little museum with a lot of text, but half is in English for once. I do the loop around the six pyramids, but only two are impressive. Here is a bit of nature as well, and I see a Praying Mantis and a huge Strangler Fig.

Quite close, I find another gathering of pyramids; Tazumal. They are slightly larger and more impressive. Behind them are a protected forest area, and behind that: A real colourful modern graveyard. I try to capture the pyramids before I enter the museum. It have several real nice pottery, among them some statues. While walking the area, I find both the tube-like entrance to a bees hive and on a branch; the hive of wasps. I get a bag of cold orange-juice, before I head on.

My next target is the old town of Santa Ana. My hostel offers a rather crowded dorm for $11, but just around the corner, I get a double room for $15. And I even get to park in the closed yard. I head out in the real cosy town at noon, and find a huge pain, sprayed with avocado and filled with cheese and salad.

Then I do the three markets and everything in-between, their many squares and some of the surroundings. Some buildings like the theatre and the cathedral are real impressive, others are taken over by nature. At the end of many streets, the mountains are blocking the view - in a great way.

I see no tourists and only find a little market with souvenirs. I did see a few Americans at the pyramids, but only a mini-buss-full. I can't figure, why here aren't more visitors?! I have seen quite some birds for sale, but here, I find a aquarium shop too.
The men are playing Checkers and cards in the shadow under the trees
on the squares. As I get to the market out at the main road, the standard is lowered. However, the smiles are just as wide. I have seen the most at five, and as I start looking for dinner, all the food stalls are gone as usually. Then it is going to be a vegetarian pizza with additional jalapeños, parmesan and garlic butter. Casa Blanca and Tazumal pyramids and Santa Ana town.

3/1. In an attempt to see the surounding yellow mountains, I have found two roads. One is leading towards Guatemala, and passes a lot of small farms. It is real hard to get into the nature, as the fields reach real high up the slopes. I might not walk them, but I get to enjoy them from the car. I turn around before the border, but get stopped by a military control on the way back. Polite fellow, puzzled over my souvenirs and my quite used passport.

Back through Santa Ana, and out on some roads, leading towards Aguilares. It is another great drive, and I manages to find four different cacti, and access the river several places. Here are some real worn-down suspension-bridges, leading out to small farms.

I make a small stroll in the little town of San Pablo Tacachico, and find lunch. Another local "Sub". Around here, tire-fixers are called Pinchazo. I set the GPS for the next site, and chooses another route. It leads me over a dry area with suffering guava trees and yellow grass. I make a stroll, but fail to find any cacti, nor other interesting plants.

Then I reach the edge of the enormous crater of Coatepeque. Way down, the six kilometre wide crater lake; Largo De Coatepeque is found. At first, I follow the high road, offering a few glimpses of the lake. As an unexpected treat, I get close to an Agouti. Then I find the little gravel road, following the lake. Unfortunately, the lakeside is occupied by huge estates, closed in by tall walls.

When it finally get out in the wild, it is high up the wall, and I only get to the lake side a few times. Here, I find a fantastic bee-eater; turquoise-browed motmot; Eumomota superciliosa, the national bird. In the low water, some tad-poles are found, and at the shore; red headed vultures. The wall is covered in huge trees, covered in vines. As I get further out, the road turn real bad, and the car is struggling, getting up the steep slopes with loose rocks. Unfortunately, the sun have gone, and the photos are not good.

I find a cosy hostel; Captain Morgan's, offering a dorm-bead for $12. Does sound more tempting than the nearby hotel and their $75 offering, especially as I get it to my self. I kind of watch the lake, although my attention is on the computer. Dinner is next door: Some of the usually stuffed pancakes at the local pupuseria.

I tend to be ahead of my intended  - or rather guessed time schedule, and spend some of the evening, finding more sights. Yellow mountains and Largo De Coatepeque.

4/1. I figure lunch will be delayed, and start the day with the hotels great breakfast. Then I drive around half of Largo De Coatepeque to get to the foot of the volcanoes. When I pass 1000 metres, there start to be some conifers, but only shortly. Then broad-leafed take over again.
I reach the Parque Nacional Los Volcanes office at 2000 metres height on Vulcan Cerro Verde; a green volcano. To one side, the rather barren and really steep Vulcan Izalco is found. To the other, the partly green Vulcan Santa Ana. I find the trailhead of Santa Ana-Trail. It leads down through the dense forest to 1000 metres, and then up on Santa Ana volcano to 2250 metres.

The forest is too dense to have much interesting growing at the floor, but at the openings, I see some of the impressive flowering trees' tops. When I reach 2000 metres on Santa Ana, the huge Agave americana - or something looking that way, appears. Some are flowering, and they are quite impressive.

Where the trail was steep, dusty and partly filled with loose rocks in the forest, it is truly steep and rocky up here. There are a great view to the valley and the other volcanoes, and I almost think I make it. But 500 metres, around 20 meters height before the crater view, I am stopped by a ranger: The trail have been closed for the day, due to strong winds, but only from now. I see some other trackers returning. I am slightly disappointed after that long and tough hike! I have walked 12 kilometres in four hours - but the height and rough surface counts!

Nothing to do, but head back down - and up. At two, I get a balanced lunch: Sneakers for quick calories, banana for slower and fibres, and nachos for salt and real slow calories. Then I set the GPS for Metapán, 75 kilometres north of here.

It is a great drive, although I fail to get any good photos of it. Back around Largo De Coatepeque and then in to a plain, surrounded by yellow mountains with grass and then brow  mountains with small leaf-sheeted trees. Metapán is a fairly modern town, but never the less cosy.

I find a rather expensive hotel - the only one I find, and head out into town at four. I find the Mercando Municipal just as it is about to close. Then I find my way to the central square, and that is something else. The former ones have been quite worn down, but this is pristine.

Huge trees, kits' playground, modern art and a line of cafés and restaurants. I do another loop in the trading area, and find some of the back-allies. Then I head back to the square, and it seems like this is where everyone are, in the evening. I get yet another breakfast-like dish at a nice restaurant. I'm still peckish, and top-up with a Orea cheesecake. It is Saturday after all, and I have burned calories for sure. Almost the crater of Santa Ana and Metapán.
It is time to open Diary 3.

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