Juayua Cascades (Los Chorros de la Calera)
"No, no, take some more!," Jamie says, leaning against the rocks of the falls, smiling and posing alluringly. As awkward as all of this is, there are surely worse things in life than having a 20-year old blond girl in an orange bikini ask you to take lots of pictures of her while she frolics in a tropical waterfall. I tell you, what I suffer in the name of art! What's even weirder is her mother, Karen, is standing right alongside me snapping photos of Jamie as well. The thing is, and I realize this quickly enough, Jamie probably doesn't trust her mom to take that one perfect, sexy shot she can get a copy of later and use on Facebook to make all of her friends insanely jealous. And I have to admit, if you're just out of your teen years and the Juayua Cascades are a backdrop in one of your photos, well... It's pretty damn epic. Guaranteed to both drive her girlfriends green with envy and interested boys red with lust.
This area, officially known as "Los Chorros de la Calera", is 1200 metres (almost 4000 feet) above sea level and encompasses many different waterfalls, chutes, man-made dams and natural pools, which flow through volcanic rock crevices and through hydroelectric power generators. Local Mayan legend tells that the falling water springs from where a gigantic, terrifying snake with the head of a pig chooses to sleep. The beast, named "Cuyancua", announces the rain and you can hear its growls coming from the depths of the jungle during a storm. These chutes all feed the Santa Lucia River.
I flip through the photos on my cheap point-and-shoot Canon, making sure I've taken a few choice semi-professional-looking images of Jamie to choose from. She hollers over the sound of the falls, "Did you get some good ones?!" I think to myself, "Wow, kid--it looks like they were torn from the pages of the 'Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition', what more do you want?" I nod with exaggeration so she can see because she certainly can't hear a thing with all that water running around her head.
Over the course of the past week, Karen and Jamie, along with Karen's sister-in-law, Jerry, have sort of adopted yours truly into their family. Which is fine with me, because it's easy to get bored as a solo traveller and it's just plain flattering to have three women take you in as one of their own. I also think that spending so much time together, they were probably driving each other completely crazy and needed to introduce a male element in order to balance things out a bit and give them someone new to talk to. Also fine. We signed up to do this "Buggies & Cascades Tour" together and the day has been a complete blast!
Covered with dirt, grime, and sweat from the dunebuggies portion of the tour earlier in the day, followed by a steep 20-minute walk down a rocky jungle hillside to get to this location, what a sublime sight these waterfalls and pools were! We all couldn't wait to get in the crystal-clear water and cool off. Refreshing? Oh yes, the very definition, dear reader. The half-hour walk back uphill to get to the parked tour bus? Something I don't want to think about right now. ...And if you don't mind, I'll also pretend there isn't a gigantic pig-snake lurking somewhere in the depths of these pools.
See my "Decameron Explorer - Buggies & Cascades" video.
- Adventure Travel
- Jungle and Rain Forest
Templo del Señor Juayúa
On the western side of Parque Central stands Templo del Señor Juayúa, the main church of Juayúa. The church dates back more than 500 years, but it has been rebuilt three times and the last is a white-washed church constructed between 1953 - 1956. Inside there are colourful stained -glass windows showing the different stages of the cross. Many people come here to see and pray by the “Cristo Negro”, a crucifix made by Quirio Cataño in the 16th century. There are stairs behind the altar so you can have a close look at the crucifix.
- Arts and Culture
- Religious Travel
The streets just north and west of Templo del Señor Juayúa are covered and here is the market where you can buy fruits and vegetables, and of course a lot of other things.
During the food festival you will find more market stalls around the square where they are selling bracelets and necklaces and other small souvenirs. If you sit down at a table during the food festival there will for sure be vendors, many times children, coming up to your table selling fruits, plants or textiles.
Seven Waterfalls tour
I booked the Seven Waterfalls tour through Hotel Anáhuac. The tour was 20 dollars (June 2009). We started the walk at 7.30 and returned at 14.00.On the walk we were two tourists, two guides, the brothers Mario and Douglas, and their three dogs + three more dogs.
We walked through coffee plantations and along the River Bebedero. On the way we passed several waterfalls, some small others higher. It was a lovely walk. At lunchtime we stopped and Mario and Douglas prepared the lunch: bread, avocado, egg, onion, cucumber, tomatoes and a fruit drink. It tasted very good.
The last waterfall we came to were Chorros de la Calera, it is a system of several waterfalls with cement walls below forming swimming pools. It was Sunday and the place was packed with people swimming and having picnic. At this place it was good to have two guides as one could guard our bags and clothes while swimming. There are two tunnels you can walk through, one is 50 metres and the other 30 metres. The water in the tunnels reaches your chest and around the feet you can feel the current. At some point it is completely dark. When we walked through the first tunnel we were alone and everything were fine. But when we came to the second tunnel other people went in before us. Two women panicked and wanted to turn around. It was all dark and all people in the other group were trying to pass us, against the current, shouting and smelling of alcohol. I tried to stay steady on the floor and found some cracks in the ceiling to hold on to. I felt it was easy to fall and be dragged with the current at this point. But once the others had passed we could easily continue.
- Hiking and Walking
Juayua Key Sights and Attractions
Juayua's key sights and attractions are three: the Main Square with the Black Christ Church (Iglesia del Cristo Negro), the Food Festival (Feria Gastronomica), held in the Main Square over the weekend days, and the Chorros de la Calera waterfalls, located a couple of Kms outside the village.
As every other villages in El Salvador, life of the whole village spins around the Main Square. Here is where you will likely find spending most of your time watching the people of the village going through their daily life. During the weekend days the Main Square gets crowded with tourists and street vendors selling food, merchandise and different kinds of street-entertainment.
The key landmark in the Main Square is the Iglesia del Cristo Negro. The church, originally built by the Spaniard in XVI century, has some historical relevance and it is famous for hosting a carved crucifix of a Black Christ, object of worship and pilgrimage. What I found most remarkable though is the funny facade, adorned with red crucifixes and other red themes, as I have never seen in any other places in the world. It is a nice church, worth visiting and you are likely going to remember it for its funny appearance.
The Food Festival is just a line up of stalls and table serving Salvadorian typical street-food. Held in the weekend days, it attracts people from all over the area as well as city dwellers looking for a weekend getaway. With all due respect, tourists will unlikely be impressed by the Food Festival, but it is lively and colorful and provides a good chance for a taste of local dishes as well as some people watching.
I can't say about the Chorros de la Calera waterfalls that I did not visit though I was told they are nice and easy to get to.
These waterfalls are a short hike in, but are completely awesome! There are several sets of falls and pools. Connecting them are underground tunnels which you can float through completely in the dark. Keep your feet first and watch your head -- it feels like you're in the Goonies. Take a couple of beers with you and hang out with the locals which frequent the site.
- Hiking and Walking
- Adventure Travel