Naive art and mountaintop hitchhiking
La Palma is in the northernmost reaches of El Salvador, just across the border from Honduras. It’s home to world-famous painter Fernando Llort. He founded a style called “naive art” which became extremely popular, and then he taught lots of locals how to duplicate paintings in this style, turning them into craftsmen with income-generating businesses! Because of naive art’s fame and brilliance, and the many capable painters in town, La Palma has the most public murals per capita of anywhere in the world! Every wall, business, house, telephone pole, curb, EVERYTHING is painted in this vivid, simple fashion.
La Palma is surrounded by lush mountains and the temperature is quite cool–yay!
Only 12 kilometers away is Cerro El Pital, the highest peak in El Salvador, at 2730 meters (around 9000 feet). San Ignacio, the next town over from La Palma, is the departure point for this hike. The climb is not very daunting, as a road goes most of the way up, so you only have to hike the last 5km of the trail to the summit. Of course we missed the bus going up, but as we started walking uphill from San Ignacio, we saw some people jumping into a pickup, confirmed that they were heading uphill, and joined them! The views as we rode in the back of the truck, climbing higher and higher, were outstanding!
Even better, when we got to the trail and asked the driver how much we owed him, he just smiled and replied, “Nada!” Finally, a first hitchhiking success after many fruitless attempts! The trail up the summit took us about an hour and a half and was steep but not too strenuous. Unfortunately, due to our inability to get up early, clouds were rolling in as we climbed and we couldn’t see anything but white fluff from the top. During clear times (early morning) you can supposedly see into Honduras and Guatemala from the top. So learn from our mistake and if you want to have great views from the summit, go early!
Hiking back down, we got some more partly cloudy views. Again, there was no bus in sight, so we just started hiking down the road hoping a car would pass and pick us up.
Luckily, just as our knees were starting to feel it on the steep slope, a bread truck with two guys in it stopped and crammed us in. They were super friendly and gave us a free ride not only to San Ignacio, but all the way back to La Palma, since they were going that way anyway. Hurrah for hiking and hitchhiking success!!!!!