My trip through El Salvador was timed to ensure that I would be in Juayúa (one of the towns along the Ruta de Flores) on the weekend so I could explore the Food Festival that they hold there every week. The other key attraction of Juayúa is a 5 hour hike called the “Siete Cascadas” or the “7 waterfalls”, and given the amount of food we would be eating, Susan and I decided we’d better get some exercise in as well!
We arranged the trip through the place we were staying – the Hotel Anáhuac – and our guide was there to pick us up at 8am – we were the only 2 on the tour. We walked out of town (it’s not very big) and picked up another couple of guides along the way – one with 2 legs, one with 4. Actually the 4-legged one, aptly named Chase, kept testing to see how good our stability was. He was a young dog and kept falling behind and then racing forward between our legs, often bumping into our calves and/or stepping on our shoes as he raced past. Here he is gearing up for another charge.
The first part of the Siete Cascadas hike was up through steep coffee fields where we got a little explanation of how coffee grows – our guides worked in the coffee fields when they weren’t doing the waterfalls tour. The trees had already flowered and the green coffee beans were everywhere.
At a different time of year, there would be some wonderful views from the top of the ridge, where you can see one of the key volcanic complexes in El Salvador. However, as is common at the end of the dry season, we mostly got clouds and haze (and bugs!).
The waterfalls are really amazing, and still plenty of water in them despite us visiting at the end of the dry season. One of the most interesting things is that the water isn’t surface water that flows over a lip of rock to form the waterfall. It actually emerges from between the rocks.
One of the coolest aspects of this trip is that you get to semi-rappel down one of the waterfalls. It’s not a true rappel, given that it was not a vertical or overhang, you are not strapped in, and you don’t jump and release. If anything it was slightly more frightening given that you had to rely on your own grip and arm strength to avoid falling. You would never be allowed to do this in Australia! This is part of the reason I love travelling in developing countries 🙂
It was also very wet business – here’s me looking a tad unco as I make my way down the last part of the waterfall.
These are not small waterfalls and I couldn’t imagine doing this tour in the wet season, though our guides told me that they did!
The last couple of waterfalls on the hike form the Chorros de la Calera, where swimming pools have been created at the base of the falls. These can be reached directly from Juayúa, and the majority of people actually drive most of the way to these falls to enjoy them on the weekend. When Susan and I arrived, they were very crowded with locals! Fortunately I had visited earlier in the week on my day trip with Ian and Erika. On that occasion, we were the only ones there and it was beautiful and tranquil.
When we arrived at the first pool, our guides set about unpacking a lunch of baguettes, hard-boiled eggs, avocado, capsicum and tomato. After a quick meal, we headed into the pools for a swim. Word of warning – brace yourself for cold water! Nice and refreshing after a hike, but not water you can stay in for a long time.
The final adventure on this trip was to brave the dark tunnel that links the two waterfalls of the Chorros de la Calera. This freaked both Susan and I out, but we followed our guide into the dark abyss with hearts racing.
The first part, walking from the light into the darkness neck deep in water, was the scariest part. Entering completely into the unknown! Fortunately, just as we completely lost the light from the tunnel entrance, the tunnel turned a 90 degree corner and we could see the light from the exit ahead of us. This put us much more at ease and the added advantage was that rocks protruding from the roof were silhouetted for us to see so we didn’t gonk our heads as we kept nose and mouth (but not much else) above the waterline. Definitely an experience! Really glad we didn’t chicken out 🙂
Thanks to Susan, my wonderful travelling companion for the past several days for the video and being my model in the pictures!
Recommendation: It is definitely worth doing the Siete Cascadas tour if you are in Juayúa, or at least visiting the Chorros de la Calera. Would recommend spending a couple of days in Juayúa actually – it is a lovely little town with some of the best pupusas I’ve had in El Salvador.
Time Required: About 5-6 hours which includes the hike, lunch and swimming time.
Cost: US$20 each for the full Siete Cascadas tour (US$2 to just visit the Chorros de la Calera).