Our Long Weekend to the Lago de Yojoa Area

We decided to take weekend trip last minute because of a day dive trip to Cayos Cochinos was called off due to bad weather (next post is about our near death dive day from hell we had the following weekend at Cayos Cochinos), but it worked out perfectly because right before we were going to leave, Gerald, our landlord, gave us the keys to his truck for the weekend. He is just that nice. At first Jim did not want to drive, since it is not our car or a rental, and it is more dangerous here. Hondurans drive crazy and there is some unwritten middle lane rule on the “highways” that scares the bejiggers out of us. And they will swerve wildly into oncoming traffic to avoid what may be a small pothole but hold steady when they might clip a pedestrian, dog or motorcyclist. But after thinking about the traveling freedom it would give us, we took Gerald up on his offer and off we went.

The ride to the little village of Los Naranjos on Lago de Yojoa took us 4 hours and it went smoothly. Fortunately since it was a holiday, there was little traffic, and since we did not hit the road until 2pm it was dark by the time we got to Pena Blanca. While driving through we passed by a teeny tiny cute little carnival. The holiday weekend had started! We took the turnoff in Pena Blanca to get to Los Naranjos and the D and D Brewery and Hotel. Jim had a micro-brew beer in hand even before we were settled into our room. The small hotel and even smaller brewery were quite cute and very lush. People were gathered around small tables telling tales of their day’s adventures, while we tried the much acclaimed microbrews and hamburgers. The place shuts down at 9pm, so early to bed in our very comfortable $12.50 a night room!

Click Photo Below for the D and D Brewery Album:

D & D Brewery

The next day we did not get a super early start, but not super late either. We decided, since we had a car, to go on a road trip around the lake to check out some of the small villages along the way. The first interesting thing we came upon in a tiny village was a big blue circus type tent with a semi-truck parked in front if it. On the side of the truck was written: “El Globo del Muerte!” (The Globe of Death). We were intrigued and found out it was one of those metal ball cages where the motorcycles ride around inside, upside down and sideways. I was ready to buy tickets, but we had a road trip adventure ahead of us.

We were told part of the way would be off-road, and boy oh boy was it. Okay, we have been on worse roads; at least it was dry dirt and not mud until it started raining lightly! Jim handled the drive famously and I enjoyed the view, or complained about the bumpiness while I was trying to take photos! We took our time and even stopped for a cricket crossing the road in a stream bed we crossed!

Click the Photo Below for the Trip Around the Lake Photos:

Road Trip Around Lago de Yojoa

Our first major stop was Santa Barbara. The area is best known for their coffee and junco crafts. It is a small town set on a hillside, and that appeared to be the best thing about it. As with cities of any size here in Honduras, finding one with charm requires some searching. And to top it all off, the Parque Central in Santa Barbara was under construction and all fenced in. So, we just stopped the car, decided not to get out and then drove on through. Our next stop was Gualala.

Aaaah, Gualala…we loved Gualala! There is a long well cared for road to get into the center of town and on this day it was closed off for the labor holiday weekend festivities. We think we just missed horse races or some kind of horse show. We were amazed at the horses we saw, because the typical horses we see in Honduras are the size of donkeys and are usually grey. These horses were big, and wonderfully beautiful. They also had shining coats in chestnut, black and white. They pranced with an overwhelming amount of pride. It was nice just to be near them.

When nothing was happening with the horses we decided to walk to the center of town. It is a sleepy town, with white washed houses and old terracotta tiled roofs. Although it was hot, we enjoyed the walk through this quaint Honduran town. We made it to the Parque Central with its well taken care of large church on one side. Jim said the central square and church reminded him of the one in Valladolid, Yucatan, Mexico. It was pretty empty, but there were some booths set up selling wares. Homemade colorful candies appear to be the most common item for sale in Gualala! We bought some for our landlord’s family and asked about the festivities. A big fiesta was planned to start at 4pm, in about 3 hours. In Honduran time, that typically means well after sunset. We would miss the party, but realized we had to pass by the town on the way home and maybe we would get to see a glimpse the fun.

On one corner of the square there was a booth with a spinning colorful circle made of wood on it. It had the smell of gambling to me, so I went straight over and proceeded to gamble with some 1 Lempira bills (approximately 6 cents U.S.). I won, I lost and I won again. I did not want to walk away from this particular casino as a winner, so I bet one more time and walked away as a slight loser…but happy for the entertainment.

Walking back through town towards the car we noticed many sweaty boys running in uniforms. Running is not a sport people typically seem to do here unless there is a ball you need to kick around at the same time. So our interest was peaked and realized they were actually racing, beginning and ending at the local school. Running in t-shirts and long sweat pants in horrid heat and humidity is alone an accomplishment. Kudos to all those kids! As we got out the way of the runners, we enjoyed taking photos of the small simple homes we passed. They were mostly made of mud and sticks covered in a thin layer of plaster and white washed. The whole town was very clean, an unusual thing in most of the Honduran towns we’ve seen. The people seemed muy contento and harmonious. We really enjoyed our short stay in Gualala and would recommend going back there for their Labor Day celebrations!

Click on the Photo Below for the Gualala Album:

Gualala – Our Favorite Little Town

We had to move on, and on we went to Trinidad! Trinidad did have some of the cute cobblestone streets mentioned in Lonely Planet, but that was as far as it went in the quaintness department. We went on a short walk looking for a place to eat, but not many businesses were open. The ones that were open did not look as good as the one we saw on the river at the town entry. We went back and had lunch, Jim a skinny burrito thing and me, a chewy meat pincho (kebab). After finishing lunch and our favorite refreshing drink, Fresca, a grapefruit flavored soda, we were on our way.

We were on our way back towards Gualala after 4pm, so we did a drive through to see if the fiesta had picked up momentum yet. Although things had picked up in the main square, they were only just setting up for the fiesta! We saw two trunks filled with musicians and instruments, a stage being decorated and more people milling around, but no partying as of yet. We needed to move on and reluctantly left cute little Gualala. On the road back right outside of town we passed a truck filled with speakers heading towards Gualala, that fiesta was going to rock!

After Gualala we stopped in tiny little Ilama, took photos and walked around for a short bit. It is a sleepy little town with a big old municipal building. Not the cutest little town in the country, but due to the people walking in and out of church, the two kids on bikes using the two or three words of English they knew on me, and the giant tree in the dirt Parque Central made for a laid back welcoming feel.

Click Photo Below for Album of Ilama:

Ilama – near Lago de Yojoa May -2009

Since we had only gone less than half way around Lago de Yojoa, we had to make up some time to get back before it got too late in the evening. Fortunately, the roads were all paved on this route, so the driving went smoothly. Well, if you do not mind cars coming straight towards you as they pass huge trucks. This is what I mentioned at the beginning of this post. The unwritten “middle lane” rule. If a car is passing another car and coming straight towards you, you move over so it can fit in between! I joked with Jim that he would never be a Honduran driver if he did not do the following: pass a car on a blind curve, pass a car while going up a hill, or pass a car when there is oncoming traffic. Well, I learned not to challenge Jim because he did all three, and not only did he do all three, he passed a car on a blind curve while going up a hill! My eyes were closed so he might have done it with on coming traffic as well! It sounds dangerous, but it really is not as bad as you think. Since all drivers know this happens, people move over, slow down and so on. But with that said, we did see 3 significant accidents on the road during the weekend away. I can honestly say, although Jim did drive Honduran style, he did it much safer than most.

Our drive back to D and D was mellow, and I am happy to say we had time to stop and enjoy some of the road side crafts for sale. In the Lago de Yojoa area, “junco” crafts are popular. They include items made of reed such as hats, purses, mats and baskets. And at many road side huts, there is typically a hammock or two. We got a good size open basket for our shoes for only $2.50! Further along the drive near the shore of the lake, we had to stop for a photo op of the fish hanging out for sale on the roadside. If it could be sold in the Honduran countryside, they will sell on the road side!

After we returned to D and D, Jim went for a dip in the pool and I read nearby. When people started to gather for dinner, we moved over to the tables to talk with the new guests. And of course more of the micro-brew sodas and mirco-brew beer was ingested as well as dinner. It is always fun to meet other travelers from all over the world and hear about their experiences. On this particular night we also had live entertainment. Bob, the owner of D and D, along with some of his expat friends played some blue grass. Even a talented guest joined when another guitar appeared. Very nice. The “bar” was open a bit later on this particular night so we stayed to talk more to a young American couple that was at the end of their year teaching in Gracias, a little town in the mountains. After hearing more about it, now we really want to see Gracias even more!

The next day was waterfall day! We have heard and read about the Pulhapanzak Falls. Pulhapanzak is most likely a Lenca word. Lenca are the indigenous people of this part of Honduras and the area around the lake was apparently their capital. They are the largest indigenous population in Honduras and cover the largest geographic area. The Lempira which is what Honduran money is called is named after a young Lenca chieftain, who is now a hero for fighting against the Spanish Repression in 1537. There are several Lenca ruins in the area, but what we heard was they are still un-restored mounds of earth, or that they are not marked and hard to find, which we found out the hard way.

Back to the falls, since it was still a holiday weekend, the whole falls area was packed with Hondurans enjoying their day off in the cool river waters. At the top of the falls is a swimming and picnicking area. Down a sometimes dangerous walk you can get to the bottom of the falls which proves to be a bit wet from the spray, but offers a great view of the whole thing top to bottom. The park offers zip lines across the top of the 150 foot Falls. We were also thinking about getting a guide to go into the caves behind the falls, but we were just too hot and wanted to cool off in the water first. We had a nice day and even met a guy from Detroit who had recently been laid off from his engineering job at Ford, his cool job of trying to make race cars go faster just did not seem as needed in these economic times. Before the layoff he had a wedding to attend in Costa Rica, so instead of flying, he decided to drive his motorcycle down. He was on his way back to the States but seemed drawn to explore further given the weak economic prospects back home. Since he spoke Spanish fluently we tried to convince him to stay in Honduras longer and find some temporary work, but he was running out of money and the American way of life was calling him home. After awhile of enjoying nature and the people enjoying their last day of the holiday weekend, we were on our way. We made it back to D and D mid afternoon, so we just relaxed enjoying the quiet.

Click the Photo Below for the Falls Album:

Pulhapanzak Water Falls and Lago de Yojoa

For our last day, Jim suggested we check out some Lenca ruins and a town a bit further away before heading back to La Ceiba. I agreed, but did not know there was tons of construction taking place on the highway which slowed things up a lot. As the Hondurans say, “As God Wills,” meaning what can you do about it! The ride was long, but not lost as we got to see very cute Comayagua, a clean colonial town of many churches and several parques dating back to the 1500s. The city was the first capital of Honduras, holding the seat of power from 1537-1880. I use the Spanish word for park, because as we think of parks, we think of grass. Many parks in Central American towns are what we call the town square and are mostly made of cement with some trees. Although that may sound not so cute to you, it is nice because it usually is a meeting and hang-out place for many people in the town where they relax on a bench under a tree and talk with their friends and loved ones. We walked around the center of town taking photos of the great churches and parques. We even got some shots of other churches on our drive out of town. Would really like to go back to Comayagua for their Semana Santa celebration when they blanket the main street in beautiful pictures made from colored sawdust only to be trampled over right after it is finished for an Easter procession! Goodbye Comayagua, hope to see you again!

Another thing we became more aware of during the long ride home was how most of the small villages along the highway have their own special item for sale. And what is so neat about this, is house after house, or teeny tiny stand after stand, sell exactly the same items. One could wonder how does any one place make enough money to survive with all the competition, but for the traveler zooming by it makes for good road side entertainment. We also noticed that the highway widening project was displacing a large number of these road side stands. Fortunately, it appears that someone is building new, modern, concrete and metal vendor stalls every so often with parking areas to replace the old dilapidated stalls that are “in the way of progress.” I’m sure the roadside shanty vendors will survive but they will probably be competing with the lucky few that get a stall in the new “stall-parks.”

Near the lake it was the junco items for sale, baskets, purses, dolls and hats made from reed. And of course fish as well. Then going up the mountain it was homemade honey, tons and tons of bottles filled with honey! You could see the light shining through the rich gold color as we drove quickly by. Going down the mountain there were hundreds and hundreds of mangos, which are in season right now, for sale. Brightly colored mangos lined up neatly, stand after stand. And then there was pottery, tons of it. I must say, I was not impressed with the pottery at these particular stands. They looked too much like machine made and tacky at that, but who knows. Also for sale at these pottery stands were bird cages, which should have alarmed us to what was being sold in the next town. At first it looked as though a woman was trying to rid herself of an annoying pet, but she was actually trying to sell the green parrot that was sitting on the end of the stick she was waving at us! And then another woman was doing the same thing a few houses down, and then a young girl after that. Now…I totally wholehearted agree with selling wares you make, but how did this town come up with selling the birds? Since there are so many NGOs (non-government organizations) down here, Jim thought one might have helped some of the towns with micro-enterprise plans. But could you imagine an NGO saying, “Hey, you have a lot of parrots living wild here, why don’t you clip their wings and sell them for imprisonment?” Whatever…those particular people found a way to make money to survive, more power to them. I am not for taking animals from the jungle and selling them for a life in a cage, but who am I to say what is wrong or right if selling those parrots put food on their table? Until they or someone else helps find another way to make money to survive they are going to do what it takes.

We made it home right after dark and thanks to Gerald for loaning us his car the trip was so much more exciting, interesting and easier! We can not let ourselves get pampered with car travel because in June we will be travelling for 3 days on buses to get to another country to renew our visa. I’m sure we will have many adventures along the way. We looked into flying, but the prices were just more than we can spend. So, back to my motto of “It is an adventure to get to an adventure!”

A now funny little video of a cool little Honduran bug…and friends:

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~ by HenderBalz on May 18, 2009.

2 Responses to “Our Long Weekend to the Lago de Yojoa Area”

  1. I’m dying to go to the lake soon! I heard that the beer at D&D was amazing, but the rooms weren’t all that great. I read some really bad reviews online. What do you think??

    • Okay, we are budget travelers….so the room for $12.50 U. S. (250 lemps) with bath and hot water was fine for us. The cabins looked even nicer for 500 lemps. Nothing fancy at D&D, but nothing dirty either. If you have lived here for awhile and are not top end travelers…i would think it is fine. The beer was really good…especially since we have not had anything but local and other Central American local beer for over 7 months. It was just a really nice atmosphere there. Hope that helps!

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