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Mountain Mercy – Minca, Colombia

After a few days in the sweltering beach town of Taganga and in sunny, coastal Tayrona National Park we were more than ready for a cool down. In northern Colombia, with its sweaty, slow, Caribbean heat, that means one thing: time to travel to the mountain town of Minca.

The road up to Minca, about nine miles (14 km) from Santa Marta, is narrow, winding and rough but we were undeterred in our quest to get to Finca San Souci which we originally read about the finca in this post from the folks at Life Remotely. We were not disappointed.

Minca view Los Pinos Colombia

The town of Minca, Colombia is in the Sierra Nevada mountains which means cooler temperatures and views like this.

Cool camping in Colombia

Started nearly 20 years ago by Chris, from Germany, and his Colombian wife, Finca San Souci has some basic rooms but we jumped at the chance to do some camping in Colombia and set up our tent for 10,000 COP (about US$4) per person per night including access to a clean cold water shower, two shared toilets and a very cool outdoor kitchen with running water and a fireplace.

There’s also a small swimming pool at Finca San Souci but we are delighted to say it was too cool to use it. At more than 2,000 feet (600 meters) in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Minca delivered the cool temperatures we were after.

Tip: if you’re going to camp in Minca bring groceries and supplies from Santa Marta. There are very few stores or facilities up in Minca. There are no ATMs in Minca either.

SteriPen water purification Minca Colombia

Karen, left, and Teresa (part of the duo we shipped our vehicles with from Panama to Colombia) in a battle of the SteriPENs in the outdoor kitchen at Finca San Souci in Minca.

Travel is better with friends

Another great amenity? Travel mates. Since shipping our truck from Panama to Colombia, we’d been convoying around Colombia with our awesome shipping partners, George and Teresa and “Vida”, their (mostly) trusty Toyota. They’d come up to Minca with us and as we set up our tent on the big, flat lawn they relaxed since Taco has a pop up roof tent that makes camping a breeze.

Besides cool weather, Minca is known for its coffee and its natural beauty. There are hiking trails past waterfalls and up to scenic viewpoints like Los Pinos at more than 5,500 feet (1,700 meters). Wildlife loves the region too. We saw toucans every day in the trees near our tent.

Toucans Minca Colombia

Toucans were our neighbors a we camped at Finca San Souci in Minca.

Minca was one of the most relaxing places we visited in Colombia and we still can’t figure out why there aren’t more tourists in Minca. We liked it so much that the four of us ended up staying for three days and in all that time only two other guests showed up at Finca San Souci.

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Some Parks Have it All – Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

We spent time in dozens of national parks as we traveled through the United States so we can say with some degree of expertise that all of them are amazing in their own unique ways—Yellowstone has geothermal marvels, Denali delivers epic peaks, Crater Lake shows off the power of volcanoes. Then there are national parks that have it all, like Lassen Volcanic National Park in California, which was founded on August 9, 1916 and celebrates its 97th birthday today.

Lassen Peak Helen Lake Reflection California

Lassen Peak seen from Helen Lake in Lassen Volcanic National Park in California.

Within its 106,452 acre (43,080 ha) domain Lassen packs in geothermals and summits plus all four types of volcanoes. Over three days of utterly perfect temperatures we manage to explore most of this diverse park from our base in the Summit Lake North Campground.

Meadow view Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Lassen Peak seen from a bucolic meadow in Lassen Volcanic National Park in California.

Warming up on the Cinder Cone Trail

As a warm up before tackling 10,457 foot (3,187 meter) Lassen Peak, we decided to climb up Cinder Cone. During the drive to the trailhead we spotted a honey colored black bear a few hundred feet off the road. It was busy ripping apart dead tree trunks in search of a snack and hardly notices us as we passed by.

Brown colored California Black Bear - Lassen Volcanic National Park

This bear was hunting for food inside rotting logs near the road that leads to Cinder Cone in Lassen Volcanic National Park in California.

The Cinder Cone trail starts off pleasantly enough (except for the disturbing signs warning visitors about river otter attacks in the area), however, the route becomes very steep and very exposed at the base of the Cinder Cone itself.

Climbing Cinder Cone volcanic Crater - Lassen National Park, California

Karen on the Cinder Cone trail in Lassen Volcanic National Park in California.

To make matters tougher, the trail runs through deep black cinders, which makes it feel like you’re walking through sand as you inch our way up the side of the dormant cone (two steps forward, one sliding step back, etc.). As usual, the harder the walk the greater the reward and at the top Cinder Cone lies a classic deep crater with a trail right down into it and a lovely path around the rim.

Cinder Cone volcanic Crater - Lassen National Park

Reach the top of Cinder Cone trail and your hike still isn’t through. This loop trail takes you around and into the crater itself.

Cinder Cone Panorama - Lassen Volcanic National Park California

Panoramic view from the top of the Cinder Cone trail in Lassen Volcanic National Park in California. See a larger version of this photo.

Ready for Lassen Peak?

The next morning it was time for Lassen Peak. The five mile (eight kilometer) round trip trail was busy but not packed–we saw maybe 40 other hikers—and, it must be said, it was an easier walk than we’d anticipated, perhaps because Cinder Cone was so much tougher than we’d expected.

Climbing Lassen Peak - Lassen National Park California

A stretch of trail about half way up Lassen Peak.

At the top we found a couple of flat rocks, the perfect place to break out our gourmet picnic of bbq pork sandwiches on onion rolls, grilled corn on the cob and boiled then grilled red potatoes leftover from our campsite dinner the night before.

Summit of Lassen Peak - Lassen National Park California

The summit of Lassen Peak.

As we ate, thousands of butterflies appeared all of them flying around the peak in the same clockwise direction. It was something we’d never seen before and it reminded us of what it feels like when we’re SCUBA diving in a swirling school of barracuda—lucky and bewildered. Less surprising were the swarms of chipmunk beggars who had clearly been spoiled by far too many human handouts.

View from Lassen Peak - Lassen National Park California

A view from the trail up Lassen Peak.

On the way down the Lassen Peak trail a doe and two frisky fawns crossed the trail right behind us before scampering off into a small meadow with mom in perpetual pursuit of her two energetic wanderers.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Lassen Peak dominating the skyline in Lassen Volcanic National Park in California.

Welcome to Bumpass Hell

Our final day in Lassen was reserved for the Bumpass Hell trail where we learned that there really was a Mr. Bumpass (we presume he pronounced it Bum Pass) who used to guide visitors among the area’s sprawling fumaroles and boiling pots until he broke through the crust one day and fell into a scalding thermal feature burning his leg so badly that they had to cut it off, hence, the “Hell” part of the trail name.

Before we even reached the geothermal area we could hear the action—a kind of airport runway jet engine roar and hiss that seemed to be coming from all directions at once. After a few minutes of stupidly looking up at the sky trying to spot the planes that must be making all that racket we finally figure it out: we should be looking down.

Bumpass Hell Lassen Volcanic National Park California

The trail network through the geothermal areas of Bumpass Hell.

The Bumpass Hell area is made up of an array of steam vents and patches of bright yellow sulphur and boiling pools full of colorful water and putty-colored mud. It’s every bit as impressive as what we’ve seen in Yellowstone National Park (minus the bison and the elk, of course). Plentiful and blunt warning signs made it clear that if we didn’t watch our step and stay on the trail we could end up just like Mr. Bumpass.

Bumpass Hell geothermal area - Lassen National Park

Fumaroles in the geothermal Bumpass Hell area of Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Bumpass Hell geothermal Lassen Volcanic National Park California

Boiling mud pots in the Bumpass Hell area of Lassen Volcanic National Park.

 

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One Lucky Wolf – Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

We’ve been to Yellowstone National Park more than once but it’s an exciting arrival every time.  The park is enormous (Yellowstone is located primarily in Wyoming, but the park’s boundaries extend into parts of Montana and Idaho too) so there’s always a new nook or cranny to explore. Yellowstone is most famous for its thermal geysers and hot pools (think Old Faithful) but during a visit early in our Trans-Americas Journey we chose to focus on the west side of the park and the animal-rich Lamar Valley. As this iconic national park celebrates its 141st year (it was founded on March 1, 1872), here’s a look back at the Lamar Valley and the fortunes of one lucky wolf.

Bison in Lamar Valley - Yellowstone National Park

Bison roam the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

Wolves on the rebound

As we entered the park (proudly flashing our annual National Parks Pass), a ranger told us that a pack of 11 wolves was being seen most mornings and evenings in the Lamar Valley. This was remarkable news given the fact that there were no wolves in Yellowstone in 1994. Wolves were reintroduced in 1995 and 1996 and park officials estimate there are now more than 300 wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Area.

Flowers - Blacktail Plateau, Yellowstone National Park

Early summer wildflowers in Yellowstone National Park.

Wolves rebounded enough to be taken off the endangered species list a couple of years ago prompting the passage of a law legalizing hunting near park boundaries. Ranchers believe it’s necessary to keep wolf numbers low to prevent them from killing their livestock. However, in December of 2012, an alfa female known as 832F or Rock Star, which had been collared by Yellowstone researchers, was shot and killed when she wandered outside the park’s boundaries. Eight collared wolves from Yellowstone were among dozens of wolves shot near Yellowstone in 2012 and Montana has temporarily revoked the right to hunt them.

Bison Buffalo - Yellowstone National Park

While we didn’t see the packs of wolves that we were hoping for we did see plenty of these guys in the Lamar Valley area of Yellowstone National Park.

Meet the wolf geeks of Yellowstone

Even though we were visiting Yellowstone during peak tourist season we found a camp site at the Pebble Creek Campground less than half a mile from where the wolves had been rendezvousing regularly.

Black Bear Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park

A black bear on the move through the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park.

Black Bear - Yellowstone National Park

A black bear in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park.

With camp set up and evening approaching we drove down the road to see what we could see. Almost immediately we spotted three bison and a black bear all happily eating away in their own separate areas of the Lamar Valley. Then we joined a group of vehicles parked along the road that runs along the valley and watched as drivers began setting up obviously expensive spotting scopes. Yellowstone’s wolf geeks had arrived.

One of them told us he’d been camped in the park for a month doing precious little besides watching wolves. Over the years, these wolf geeks have even become an important part of the park’s own wolf monitoring efforts by sharing sightings and other information with rangers and naturalists.

Joining the pack

They were just as willing to share their knowledge and their scopes with us. It turned out that the ranger at the entrance had the facts slightly wrong. There had been a pack of wolves in the valley but the group had moved off a day or two earlier leaving behind a pup. What the obviously concerned wolf geeks were hoping for was a sighting or a yelp to prove that the abandoned pup was still alive. We waited with them, straining our eyes and ears but none of us saw or heard anything. With hope fading and spirits dropping faster than the sun, we returned to camp. The next day we heard that the pup showed himself, briefly, about 20 minutes after we left, but he was still alone and still in a tremendous amount of danger.

 A lone abandoned pup

Worried about the wolf pup left behind by its pack, we got up at 5:15 and parked on the Lamar Valley road hoping for a sighting. The wolf geeks were there too and they told us that we’d just missed an amazing rescue. As the wolf geeks looked on through high powered scopes and slightly dewy eyes, a pair of female wolves returned to the Lamar Valley and collected the abandoned pup, which was now out of danger, but probably grounded for wandering away and scaring his mother like that.

Black bear and cub Yellowstone National Park

Seeing a wild bear is always exciting but the addition of a cub made this duo special.

With wolf worries off our minds, we had another stunning day in Yellowstone, sighting a black bear with a cub, our very first grizzly in the wild–way off across the valley on a hillside–and many, many elk.

Lower Yellowstone Falls and Canyon

Lower Yellowstone Falls tumbles through the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park.

Lower Yellowstone Falls

Lower Yellowstone Falls in Yellowstone  National Park in Wyoming.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone National Park

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park cuts an impressive course through the landscape.

As we meandered out of the park we stopped at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and watched a bald eagle shade and fan her chicks with her enormous, elegant wings. It looked like she was doing ballet while perched high above the raging river.

Turquise pool hot springs Yellowstone National Park

The color and clarity of the geothermally-heated water in this natural pool in Yellowstone National Park is tempting but this is no Jacuzzi.

And, of course, we couldn’t resist a return visit to a few of the park’s amazing thermal formations which deposit minerals that make some of the land yellow, giving the park its name.

Colorful Hot Springs - Yellowstone National Park

Minerals in geothermally-heated water from deep inside the earth cause intense discoloration including the yellow tint for which Yellowstone National Park is named.

Mammoth Hot Springs formations - Yellowstone National Park

Mammoth Hot Springs formations and discoloration caused by centuries of mineral deposits left behind by tumbling water.

Mammoth Hot Springs - Yellowstone National Park

Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park.

Boling mud pit hot springs Yellowstone National Park

Boiling mud pots are part of the geothermal features for which Yellowstone National Park is famous.

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Cliffs and Condors – Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park in Utah packs a lot in—from canyoneering to one of the most nerve-rattling hikes in the national park system to abundant wildlife including endangered California condors. On November 19 this national park,Utah’s first, celebrates the 93rd anniversary of its founding. Here are some Happy Parkiversary memories from our most recent visit to Zion.

Zion National Park - Fall Colors

Rugged gorges and gentle streams are a hallmark of Zion National Park in Utah.

Zion National Park

This panorama really shows the variety of rock types and formations in Zion National Park.

Evening view from our campsite in Watchman Campground - Zion National Park

Our moonrise view from the Watchman Campground in Utah’s Zion National Park.

Zion River - Zion National Park

The Zion River as it meanders through Zion National Park.

Pick a trail, any trail

We were hoping it would be warm enough to hike The Narrows which requires some canyoneering through water but after setting up camp in the roomy Watchman Campground, we decided that the temperatures were already too cold for The Narrows (though other, heartier, souls were attempting it outfitted in insulated hip waders).

Zion National Park - Slot Canyon hiking to Observation Point

Karen on the trail up, up, up to Observation Point in Zion National Park.

Instead, we focused on some of the park’s other trails like Angels Landing which requires traversing a narrow spine of rock that’s enough to turn some folks back. We’d braved that route on a previous trip to the park.

Zion National Park - Zion Canyon from Observation Point

View of Zion Valley from Observation Point. Angels Landing on ridge in right foreground

Instead,we hiked up to Observation Point along a trail which gains 2,000 feet (600 meters) in four miles (six kilometers) of switchbacks pretty much straight uphill through a range of terrain, including some brief slot canyons and plenty of red rock. It all culminates in a great viewpoint over the park.The scenery along this hike was so gorgeous that before we knew it we were at the top munching on trail mix and enjoying the view.

Zion National Park - view from Observation Point Trail - Angels Landing pinnacle in center and entrance to narrows is on right side

The view from Observation Point, your reward after 2,000 foot elevation gain during a four mile hike pretty much straight uphill.

Zion National Park - view from Observation Point Trail of Zion canyon

The view of Zion National Park from Observation Point.

Zion National Park - Slot Canyon on Observation Point trail

Slot canyons along the trail up to Observation Point in Zion National Park.

Are those condors?

Suddenly, another hiker up at Observation Point looked to the sky and hollered “condors.” We are skeptical. California condors are endangered and famously hard to spot. But a quick check through binoculars revealed the enormous bird’s tell-tale wing markings and an identification number clamped to each animal’s wing.

Zion National Park - California Condors

A pair of endangered California Condors spotted in the sky above Observation Point in Zion National Park.

For the next 15 minutes we watched three California condors slowly circle and swirl above us, ultimately getting so low that we could see their markings without binoculars. We’ve read that condors are so comfortable with humans because they’ve learned that mammals, like us, often leave food behind. We wondered if these birds were hoping for some leftover trail mix.

Then, as quickly as they appeared, the huge birds were gone. Vanished. As if they were never there. All of the hikers at Observation Point looked at each other as if to confirm that we’d all just seen what we thought we saw. Energized by our condor sighting, we covered the trail back down in record time, almost like we’re flying ourselves.

The next morning we made a quick breakfast and headed out to the Emerald Pools Trail which threads together three different natural pools. On a sunny day, the pools each exhibit a different brilliant color. In the gathering grayness on the morning we were there, however, the colors were not quite apparent but it was a pleasant walk nonetheless.

Zion National Park - Court of the Patriarchs

Formations called the Court of the Patriarchs in Utah’s Zion National Park.

Zion National Park - Rock formations on the Zion - Mount Carmel Highwway

Rock formations along the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway through Zion National Park in Utah.

Panorama of Kolob Canyon area of Zion National Park

A panorama of the Kolob Canyon area of Zion National Park.

TIPS

Not into camping? No problem. Opened by a former Zion National Park shuttle bus driver, the Cable Mountain Lodge in Springdale, just a stone’s throw from the south entrance of the park, has 50 rooms ($89-$139) some featuring jetted tubs, fireplaces and full kitchens. All rooms have in-your-face views of Cable Mountain.

Don’t Miss: Zion Canyon Giant Screen Theater located next to Cable Mountain Lodge. It’s the largest 3-D screen in Utah and one of the largest in the world measuring 60 feet (18 meters) high and 82 feet (24 meters) across.

To ease traffic congestion and protect the environment Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is closed to personal vehicles from April through October. During this time all visitors must explore the heart of the park on board free, propane-powered park shuttle buses. If you want to the freedom of exploring the park in your own vehicle, like we did, plan accordingly.

 

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Never was a Park More Misnamed – Badlands National Park, South Dakota

The truth is, there’s nothing bad about the land in Badlands National Park in South Dakota, at least not for us since we didn’t have to walk across the arid, sun-baked, rattlesnake addled expanse as the original Native American inhabitants who named it did. This 240,000 acre (97,125 hectare) park, full of buttes, eroded stone spires and mixed grass prairies, was founded on November 10, 1978 and is like a cross between Bryce Canyon National Park and Cappadocia, Turkey. It’s also the only US National Park we know of where you just might have to share the campground with a herd of buffalo.

Badlands National Park sign - South Dakota

Welcome to Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

Badlands National Park - The Castes Mountains

This elegantly eroded area in Badlands National Park in South Dakota is called The Castle for a reason.

Badlands National Park -canyons geological formations

Dramatic, daunting canyons like this helped earn Badlands National Park its name but they’re now part of the geographical wow factor of this park.

Badlands National Park - eroded hills geological formations

Walking through this topography would be, um, bad. But appreciating it during a visit to Badlands National Park in South Dakota is good.

All roads lead to Wall Drug

Even though we dipped off the interstate and traveled on back roads toward Badlands National Park, we still encountered 53 billboards for Wall Drug, perhaps the most aggressively advertised roadside attraction on earth. Somehow we manage to resist the allure of “free water” and more cheap souvenirs than you can throw a jackalope at.

Back roads in Badlands

Developed areas of Badlands National Park cover a compact area with one main paved road that will take you all the way through the park and past a bunch of short, boardwalk trails in one long day. But the real action takes place on Creek Rim Road, a dirt loop that gets you back to where the animals really hang out.

We saw North American pronghorn sheep, big horn sheep (with babies), white-tail deer (with babies) and more squeaking, scampering prairie dogs then we will bore you with at this time.

Badlands National Park - North American Pronghorn

North American Pronghorn sheep in Badlands National Park.

Badlands National Park - Baby Bighorn Sheep

Baby bighorn sheep eat their way through Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

Joining the herd in Badlands National Park

After glimpsing some buffalo in a dip off to the left, we turned down a side road in search of a better vantage point. What we discovered was a camping area completely occupied by a huge herd of slowly grazing buffalo. The animals, munched, snorted, and kicked up dust as they traveled slowly past the porta-potty and a few people’s tents. In that instant we decided we had to join the herd and camp at the Sage Creek Campground for the night.

Badlands National Park - Buffalo in campground

Camping with buffalo in Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

However, Sage Creek is a back country campground which meant no water and we didn’t have enough with us in the truck. With fingers crossed we drove back to the ranger station and asked if we could fill up some containers at a tap there. Easy.

Back at the campground, the buffalo continued to mill around as we set up camp. As the sun set, the herd wandered away from our cozy, new home and we were left alone in a not so bad land.

Badlands National Park - Buffalo

A huge buffalo takes a break as we set up camp nearby in Badlands National Park.

Badlands National Park - Herd of Buffalo

A herd of buffalo shares space with us in the Sage Creek Campground in Badlands National Park.

Badlands National Park - Beware of Rattlesnake

Rattlesnakes are just one reason Native Americans considered the badlands to be so bad. We saw one ourselves, just off a trail to an overlook in the park.

Badlands National Park - erosion geology

Dramatic, daunting topography like this helped earn Badlands National Park its name but they’re now part of the geographical wow factor of this park.

Badlands National Park - melting hills geology

Topography like this helped earn Badlands National Park its name but it’s now part of the geographical wow factor for visitors.

Badlands National Park grasslands

A breathtaking mix of landscapes is just one reason to visit Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

Badlands National Park - The Castles

On the road through Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

 

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Dinosaur Bones and Cow Udders – Above Metapán, El Salvador

Montecristo National Park, encompassing mountaintop terrain above  Metapán, is famous for the array of birds which live in the park or migrate through including the resplendent quetzal. It’s also one of those cool border-straddling parks and has its feet planted in El Salvador, Guatemala (where it’s called the Trifinio Biosphere Reserve) and Honduras (where it’s called Montecristo Trifinio National Park).

Sadly, the road into the park was closed for repairs when we were there. But we weren’t about to let a little thing like a park closure stop us from exploring the hills above Metapán. We didn’t see any quetzals, but there were dinosaur bones and cow udders to make up for it. You heard us.

Montecristo-El Trifinio National Park Limo Valley - Metapan, El Salvador

Looking up at the El Limo waterfall and the bird-filled Montecristo National Park high above Metapán in El Salvador. 

The road out of Metapán quickly deteriorated into a rutted, rocky dirt track and we were
very, very glad we’d accepted a ride from Oscar Cabrera Mira, whose family owns nearly 500 acres (more than 200 hectares) of private reserve called Parque Geoturístico El Limo land just outside the national park. Our truck would have had trouble negotiating around some of the tight corners. Also, driving up the road with Oscar gave him the chance to pull over and show us something we never, ever could have predicted.

Meet Mr. Dinosaur

About midway up the mountain Oscar stopped the truck, opened a rickety gate and stood staring expectantly at a high mud bank. We stared with him. Then he started pointing out shapes and damn if they didn’t look just like massive dinosaur bones–vertebrae, jaw bones and more suddenly popped out at us. We watch the Discovery Channel. We’ve seen footage of digs. We were impressed.

Dinosaur teeth fossil - El Limo - Metapan, El Salvador

Are these dinosaur teeth buried in the hills above Metapán? One man sure thinks so…

El Limo - Metapan, El Salvador

Oscar, aka Mr. Dinosaur, made this playful sign marking the trail to the El Limo waterfall on his family’s property near the Montecristo National Park.

Oscar Cabrera Mira El Limo fossil museum - Metapan, El Salvador

Oscar, aka Mr. Dinosaur, outside the rustic museum which houses his fossilized finds from the hills above Metapán, El Salvador.

Leaf fossil - El Limo - Metapan, El Salvador

A fossilized leaf on display in the small museum Oscar has filled with his finds.

We were even more impressed when we reached Oscar’s family’s mountain house and he took us out back to see his museum. Turns out, the bones in the mud bank are just the tip of the ice age iceberg. Here in a small shed Oscar, a trained engineer who has taught himself about dinosaurs and fossils in general, has amassed ammonites, fossilized leaves, big pieces of compressed earth full of what looked like more bones and teeth.

If you’re a student or professor of paleontology please send a scholarly delegation up the hill so Oscar can finally get some expert opinions about his finds. You can reach Oscar at oscarmira2 (at) yahoo (dot) com. Trust us when we tell you that he’d be delighted to hear from you and ecstatic to show you what he’s dug up.

El Limo dinosaur sculpture

Artifact-inspired art outside Oscar’s museum.

Oscar was also anxious to show us some of the area’s more expected attractions, including the spectacular El Limo waterfall which we reached via a steep, windy trail up that followed a deep gorge in the hills. The multi-tiered waterfall was very dramatic but Oscar still spent most of the walk looking at the ground for more treasures to put in his museum.

El Limo waterfall - Metapan, El Salvador

A pretty trail leads up to El Limo waterfall, just south of Montecristo National Park in the hills above Metapán, El Salvador.

El Limo waterfall - Metapan, El Salvador

El Limo waterfall above Metapán, El Salvador.

El Limo waterfall - Metapan, El Salvador

On the trail to El Limo waterfall above Metapán, El Salvador.

Clear wing butterfly El Salvador

The jungle near El Limo waterfall was full of these nearly entirely see-through butterflies.

 

Just eat it

About 15 minutes back down the road lies Hostal Villa Limon. One evening we stopped by to tour their four wood, brick and stone cabanas with multiple bedrooms, fireplaces, full kitchens and patios and decks with awesome views (US$40 to US$55). There’s also a pool on site and a zipline course (US$15 pp) with eight different lines traversing the steep hillsides and gorges in the area. One of the lines is a quarter of a mile (430 meters) long and rises to more than 300 feet (90 meters) above the ground.

By the time we were introduced to Sigfredo Salazar Torres, the fabulously-named general manager of Hostal Villa Limon, it was too dark to try the zipline. Besides, Sigfredo and some friends and family were having a BBQ party and he graciously invited us to stay. Even though it was getting dark and we had to drive back up that dreadful road in order to return to our room at Oscar’s house we would have been fools to say no.

 Hostal Villa Limon tortillas hecho a mano

Tortilla being made by hand in preparation for a party and feast we somehow got ourselves invited to at Hostal Villa Limon above Metapán.

And so we found ourselves with glasses of whiskey and plates of perfectly grilled meat. The conversation got going (in English and in Spanish) and then a very special plate came out. It took a few explanations before we understood (we think) that we were being offered grilled cow udder. By the eager looks on everyone else’s faces we understood that this was a delicacy and quickly put a small piece on our plates. The rest was devoured almost immediately.

BBQ  Hostal Villa Limon Metapan, El Salvador

I’ts not a party without grilled meat–and a bit of mystery meat we ate for the very first time.

It actually wasn’t bad–it looked, felt and tasted like funky foie gras. And now we have a pretty good answer to give when someone wants to know what the strangest thing we’ve ever eaten is.

Sunset from Hostal Villa Limon Metapan, El Salvador

Sunset from Hostal Villa Limon with the volcanoes of Guatemala in the distance.

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