Cerro El Pital (2730m) is the highest mountain in El Salvador. It's also the easiest country high point in Central America because there is a road almost to the summit.
Getting from Honduras to El Salvador
We had just climbed the highest mountain in Honduras. We were lucky to have the Dutch owner of the hotel in Gracias, to drive us to Santa Rosa de Copan, because she had an appointment with her dentist. We were happy to avoid the slow and dangerous chicken bus. The Dutch lady dropped us off at the terminal in Santa Rosa de Copan, where we continued by bus (a nice one!!) to the border between Honduras and El Salvador. Two hours later we arrived a small town close to the border, but we had to grab a one-dollar-taxi to bring us the last few kilometers to the border. Checking out of Honduras was easy and fast. The immigration to El Salvador was efficient as well. Surprisingly we didn't have to pay any fees at all.
From the border there are frequent chicken buses departing to the nearby towns of San Ignacio and La Palma. We decided to stay in La Palma because we had read in Lonely Planet that only the latter town has an ATM.
A chicken bus and a short walk to the summit
Next morning we took the local bus to San Ignacio only 3-4 kilometer away (0.25 USD). From San Ignacio there are public buses to Las Pilas, which cross a high pass below the summit of El Pital. But these buses only depart a few times per day. We skipped the early 7:00 AM bus, and decided on the 9:30 AM departure instead. After 45 minutes on a very steep hairpin road, we jumped off at the pass, Rio Chiquito, at 2200 m.a.s.l. The bus fare to Rio Chiquito is only USD 1.15.
From the pass (Rio Chiquito) a cobble stone road, later turning into a dirt road, goes almost all the way to the summit. The sign in Rio Chiquito says 5.5 km to the summit, but we felt it was shorter. The road was easy walking and the weather and temperature was pleasant at this elevation. We had to pay a 2 USD entrance fee, because the summit is private property. At the end of the road, we arrived at a nice campsite with a couple of restaurants nearby. They seemed closed for the moment, but the restaurants are probably open during holidays and weekends. From the camp site it's just a few minutes stroll to the summit of El Pital. Two barking rottweilers were guarding the telecom installation at the summit, but they were behind a tall fence with barbed wire. It was easy to identify the highest point of Cerro El Pital, a white stone marking the border between El Salvador and Honduras.
Hitch hiking with a pick-up
After the mandatory summit photos, we descended to the campsite, ate a few biscuits and continued down to the pass at Rio Chiquito. We met two guys waiting along the road and we asked them if the bus was going to arrive anytime soon. They replied that there was no more buses today (really??). Suddenly a brand new pickup arrived at the pass and the two boys jumped into it. They invited us to join them. We were dropped off at San Ignacio. We were a bit surprised that the driver didn't want any money. Another example of the hospitality in El Salvador.
Beware of scorpions in the bed
We enjoyed a big lunch at a local comida in San Ignacio, then we headed back to our hotel in La Palma. In the evening I found a scorpion hiding in my bed. Just sheer luck that I saw it before I jumped into bed. Otherwise I might have ended up in a medical facility that night.
Tomorrow we are heading to San Salvador!