It’s not often that we write so specifically about what we are doing – I really wouldn’t want to bore you with our day-to-day. And it’s not often that we’ll go on about a particular restaurant, hotel or bar – basically because we don’t go to any of them that much. But as it was my birthday, we thought we’d splash out on a few days at D&D Brewery at Lake Yojoa, in the mountains of central Honduras. For nearly a week we pretended to be more like real tourists and for now, I’m going to pretend to be a real travel blogger.
We first arrived at Pulhapanzak Falls, a short drive up from the plains along the Caribbean coast. Arriving just as it was getting dark we pulled into the privately-owned park next to the cascades. In the twilight, the place looked a little industrial with a couple of big trucks lined up amidst heaps of wood. A guy with a gun came over and wanted 180 Lempiras for us staying there plus 60 Lempiras for entrance to the grounds. Now so far in Honduras we had been sticking to the Costa Garifuna, which differed in two ways from the present situation, here in Honduras proper. Firstly, we’d only been paying 100 Lempiras for a night of parking, when we paid at all, and that was all they had asked for; and secondly, this was the first gun we’d seen for a while that wasn’t attached to an actual cop or soldier. Hmm. Anyway, the instinct to negotiate kicked in – the guy settled for 150 for both parking and entrance – told us not to tell the other campers about our deal – told us to definitely tell his boss the next day otherwise the boss would think he was cheating on him – and we were in, choosing our spot in the vast, lightly forested parking area and trying to predict where there’d be shade in the morning. I think it was a Beretta P x 4 Storm Compact but I’m no expert.
So, yes, the Falls are pretty spectacular. You can swim in the river at the top, if you don’t fancy clambering over rocks to get past the white water and into a beautiful, fresh pool at the bottom of the 43m waterfall. Make sure you’re camera’s waterproof if you do go that far down, that’s all I’m saying. There’s a zip-line course that takes you out right over the precipice a couple of times. Not so much like a canopy tour than a really short hang glide into space. All in all, a nice place to spend a hot day.
As the big day approached (my 40th birthday slash yet another attempt to give up smoking), we motored back to Pena Blanca, got lost for a bit then found D&D Brewery at Los Naranjos close to the Lake Yojoa itself. Do yourself a favor and click on their link now if you want to go but don’t want to do the getting lost bit. I used to enjoy getting lost. Taking half a day to get out of Chelyabinsk, Siberia, (which has a friggin’ ring road, for chrissakes – you only need to go in a straight line) or laughing at our hopeless transliteration to Latin from the Hangeul scripted signage in South Korea was always great fun. These days it’s just too hot to bother getting lost.
D&D Brewery proved to be the perfect place to celebrate our few days of the high-life. It was what is known in the trade as posh. It is very well planned out and built in a piece of almost jungle, centered on a swimming pool. It has loads of books, WI-FI, info on the surrounding attractions, university-trained staff, vaguely warm showers, a restaurant and a bar. It is also, of course a brewery of the micro kind producing various fruity and non-fruity ales. Even if you don’t like that kind of stuff, they break up the monotony of Central American lager perfectly. And they do their own root beer and cream soda, two of my favorite flavors. The best thing about the place, though, was the people we met there. We’d been off the tourist trail for a while now, we felt, having met a few ex-pat Floridians here and there who were completely non-tourist and more like pirates sheltering from the windy season. And the problem is; I don’t talk very good Pirate. Have you ever changed your Facebook language to Pirate? No? Well as the only Pirate tuition I’ve ever attempted, I have to say that these Pirates that we had met along the Caribbean coast spoke something more like a kind of American deep beneath their beards. The Garifuna people offer little relief to the hard-of-hearing conversationalist either – their language veers from a mysterious creole to Caribbean English whenever it wasn’t simply Spanish. And so, here at the D&D, the poshest gaff I’d seen in a while, my birthday imminent, apricot ale in hand, we had the immense fortune to meet a load of British people! Not only that but they spoke wiv a proper London accent! Truly, I felt spoilt. Passports aside, it was the variety of people we met at the D&D that was refreshing. Backpackers, foreign teachers taking a break, professional rafters organizing a competition in neighboring Costa Rica, local and distant Hondurans passing through – even journalists driving the Americas whose latest story was that their van was out of action for a month and currently on bricks 100km north. Come to think of it, the D&D Brewery doesn’t have a very large car park – two overland vehicles would have dangerously filled it up. The place is also a bargain. That is if you don’t pay to get hooked up with electricity. In the grand scheme of things, I suppose that energy should cost more than space in a kind of economical-astrophysical sense but it seemed still strange to be asked to pay for 150 Lempiras to be plugged in but only 120 Lempiras for the parking along with the Wi-Fi, showers, swimming pool, etc. The only problem, of course, was that we’d promised to give up smoking the next day.
It started out well enough – the nicotine patches were handed out and we had a nice traditional birthday fry-up. Then, we rented a couple of oars from a place round the corner and went to choose a boat on the canal that leads onto the lake. Drip, drip the patch must have been feeding that most addictive of substances into my bloodstream but it seems I still couldn’t row straight. One side always kept having more pull than the other and we zigzagged around the place, covering maybe 20m of actual canal-length in twenty minutes. Dunia had a go and we zigzagged some more, this time 20m in about fifteen minutes.
Vaga, our dog, seemed uninterested in contributing – she looked like she was wandering how long this could go on for and deciding whether to make a jump for it on one of regular approaches back towards dry land. But the frustration didn’t make us want to light a cigarette up at all; the drip, drip from the patch was doing its job and for this reason they’re always my weapon of choice in the battle against nicotine addiction. However, what with all the exertion of getting out onto the lake and back again in a fashion that minimized our embarrassment before our fellow boat people (OK, some young lad actually towed us along for a bit), what with all the sweat under a hot sun, the patches slipped off and wouldn’t stick back on. We didn’t see much in the way of wildlife out on the lake. The patch-slipping sun was at its zenith when any sensible animal was sheltering out of sight. Instead, you have to go early in the morning with Malcolm, who you will find at the D&D. A pro-bird-watcher with binoculars, a keen eye and years of experience. He doesn’t zigzag – at least not while rowing. A trip with him should have been my birthday present – as it was we’d only had those two patches and, soon after returning the oars and getting back to a D&D for a perfectly, vaguely warm shower, we started smoking again.
Still, it’s hard to be disappointed with your decision to spend time around the Lake Yojoa. You can take a trip out onto the lake with a pro-bird watcher, early in the morning or there’s a couple of interesting walks nearby via coffee plantations, a partially excavated Lenca site (i.e. pre-Colombian) trails, and swimming holes known collectively as the Parque Eco-Arquelogico Los Naranjos. Further afield, trips can be arranged to some hot springs south of the lake and two National Parks in the west and eastern areas. This is where you might see the lushest and mistiest of cloud forests. Parque Nacional Cerro Azulmeamar also has caves that were first occupied thousands of years ago while Parque Nacional Santa Barbara contains Honduras’ second highest peak which is 2.7 km high.
There’s something about the Lago de Yojoa area. It was peaceful. It seemed somehow like a different part of Honduras than its very central location suggests. Maybe that’s it – crossroads can be interesting places, especially one with a beautiful lake focusing the attention of the surrounding areas…well, I’m over egging the travel blogging (yeah, I know, it was pretty well-egged by paragraph two). Lago de Yojoa – highly recommended. Use nicotine gum.