Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Off the Beaten Path: Puerta del Diablo

When there is fog, you can see nothing...

When there is rain, the footing is treacherous...

But on a bright, sunny, windy day, you can climb to the top and see the world!

It is not hard to imagine shamans telling tales of this place as ancestors gathered around an evening fire or guerrilla fighters passing long hours in the caves inventing stories of good and evil.

The people of Panchimalco say that long, long ago the devil and the archangel were fighting in their town.  The angel prevailed, casting the devil from the town with great force.  The devil hurled uncontrollably into the rock cliff, his body breaking through the rocks and plummeting to the floor of the valley below.  The great gap in the rocky ridge is known as The Devil's Door.  Some people say that from across the valley, the two sides of the doorway appear to curve upward, like the devil's horns.

Over the years, as we have passed below the Puerta del Diablo in an old bus or car, various storytellers have shared dramatic myths about young lovers throwing themselves off of the cliffs, and  of a young beauty who unknowingly danced with the devil until she looked at her feet and suddenly fell to her death. Modern tales of the dance with the devil include security camera images of the beautiful girl dancing with an invisible partner, and messages written in blood scrawled across the bathroom mirror.

An increase in local and international tourism in this spot has brought some development to the parking lot along the highway, just a short distance south of San Salvador.  Small businesses offer artisan gifts, locally made sweets, a few hot choices for lunch, loud 80's music (in English) and even the occasional Ferris wheel ride (which, if you are brave enough to try the zip line, you might be brave enough to try the Ferris wheel).

There are several pathways up to different heights and look-out points.  Where there are stairs, they are uneven and very slippery in the rain.  Re-bar handrails and cable ropes help climbers in some areas, but you need to be pretty sure-footed to climb up to any of the summits.  Even a partial climb offers great views, archways and secret caves.  The altitude provides slightly cooler temperatures, but can also challenge visitors with crazy strong winds, quickly descending clouds, and mist.  All of this provides for amazing photography opportunities!  If you plan your visit in the late morning, you can then take advantage of lunch and other sight-seeing opportunities in nearby Los Planes de Renderos.  Of course, Los Planes is a great spot to look out over the city of San Salvador in the evening, but it is very much less crowded during the day!














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