Today I did something untypically touristic. I visited El Tazumal, a Pre-Columbian Mayan archaeological site in Chalchuapa, El Salvador. I chose it as a day trip because it was easily reachable using city bus #218 from Santa Ana. I caught the bus in front of Flash Mall, but it stops every couple of blocks along its route. There are few, if any bus stop signs in Santa Ana, but if you see a group of people standing on a sidewalk looking up the street it’s a safe bet its a bus stop. Fortunately for this limited Spanish speaker, the word for bus in Spanish sounds like “bus” in English. Pointing at the sidewalk and saying, in a quizzical tone, “Bus”, resulted in confirmation.
The cost of the ride was just US$0.25 (25 cents), which was collected after I was aboard the bus. The driver’s assistant will occasionally walk down the bus collecting from passengers that boarded after his last collection. The man has to have the best memory for faced of any moral being on this planet. He never asked someone who paid to pay again, and no one I could tell got a free ride. It was an amazing feat I thought.
As Mayan ruins go Tazumal is small. Really, really small… disappointingly small. But the admission fee is small too, just US$3 for foreigners.
Tazumal is so small in fact, I could not use the panorama feature on my camera properly. The last frame of the 3 comprising the panorama was snapped way off in the woods. It is believed by many archaeologists that Tazumal was inhabited from 100 to 1200 AD.
Also a disappointment was that there was only one spot where visitors could climb up to get a better view of the ruins. I appreciate that to preserve what is left of ancient Mayan archaeological sites foot traffic has to be minimized, but the spot chosen to construct an observation area was not the best. Not the best, but it did suffice.
The museum on the grounds was small as well, but very interesting. The artifacts left behind were, as usual, made of ceramic, stone and jade. Anything made of gold or silver, or even gilded in one of the only two metals had been stolen long ago. What was left is now on display, and everything is in remarkably good condition, making the museum the high-point of my visit and a must see for anyone visiting Tazumal.
Calle Tazumal, the street running in front of the ruins contains a stretch of eateries and stalls selling recreations of Mayan ceramics, stone carving (also made of ceramics) and what looks like jade carvings and jewelry (but are not made of real jade). Some of the items are actually very well made. I couldn’t help thinking that I could sell a ton of the products online that I saw that day. Hopefully I will find the source of the masks, jewelry, statues and trinkets.