This weekend was a much needed reminder of why we signed up for the MSG program.
We grabbed two of our Marines and ventured through three hours of mountains and valleys, watching the landscape slowly turn greener as we made it to the north side of Lake Yojoa. After several kilometers of wondering whether or not Google Maps was leading us astray down dirt roads with more potholes than passable land, we pulled in to D&D Brewery. This place is the hidden gem (emphasis on hidden) of central Honduras, I’m sure of it. It’s one part American-owned brewery and restaurant, one part backpacker hostel slash cabin rental, one part adventure tour guide service, and many parts awesome. After sitting down for a surprisingly good meal it was obvious we’d spend just as much time relaxing at D&D as we would adventuring around the area, and that we’d be perfectly fine with that.
Snagged these photos from the D&D Facebook. Hope y’all don’t mind!
We did drag ourselves away for a quick trip to the main attraction: Pulhapanzak. Dropping 140 feet, it’s Honduras’ largest waterfall. The Hondurans know what an attraction it is and they’ve taken full advantage of it, building cabins and a restaurant along the water’s edge, stringing a zipline across the top of the falls, and offering guided tours behind the waterfall.
Obviously, we took advantage of it too. For a little perspective, Pulhapanzak is only 30 feet shorter than Niagara Falls and we were literally taken underneath it by a guide and two children. No harnesses or netting or safety precautions of any kind. For $12. This is why everyone should travel internationally, especially to unconventional places.
The name Pulhapanzak comes from a Nahuatl expression which in English would be something like “Overflow of White River.” And overflow it does. The spray of the water is so intense at the bottom, you literally can’t breathe. J joked that we were all waterboarding ourselves. That’s why I camped out in a cave at the base of the falls while the boys did their studly man thing and climbed behind the falls and jumped off some cliffs. Meanwhile, the local guides (two pre-teen Honduran boys and an middle-aged guy with the spirit of a pre-teen boy) dove and swam and leaped rock to rock barefooted like it was just another day. Of course to them it is just another day and they took amazing care of us. It will always blow my mind the lengths strangers go to accommodate us, even if it is the tourist industry.
We had such a good time we decided to forego visiting the lake and exploring the many hiking trails in the are and met back up with our guides at Pulhapanzak the next day. We grabbed some tubes, drove up-river and rode our way back down to the top of the waterfall. Once again, I let the boys get precariously close to the edge of the falls while I bailed out early. Living on the edge… with plenty of buffer of course. Along the way the guides treated us like we were old pals, like they were part of our trip from the beginning. I only wish we spoke more Spanish so we could have thanked them more adequately, particularly for the warnings about rocks and rapids: “bumpies arriba!”
The rest of the trip was spent around the bonfire at D&D chatting with the many backpackers making their way through Honduras and Central America. Two Australian adventures (one who had just ridden a motorbike from South Africa to London and another Land Cruising through Central America) made a point of the travel culture in their country. Everyone gets 4 weeks of leave every year, which is commonly taken in one consecutive chunk. Can you imagine bailing on work for 4 straight weeks to go on some grand adventure and nobody batting an eyelash? Being able to see the world at length and in depth like that would probably do us all a world of good. I know that’s true for us.
Speaking of which, one of the best parts of this trip was being able to bring two of J’s Marines. As tough as we may find Teguc at times, they have it much worse with no personal vehicle and even less freedom than we have. Pro tip for future MSGs and MSG spouses: take your Marines out and about! They joined this program for a reason too, and it’s bound to make your adventures more adventurous! (Thanks M and R for not letting me drown and die this weekend.)
Language barriers, security concerns, and cultural differences make living overseas challenging, to say the least. But when you can get away from it all, or maybe just dive in a little deeper, you realize it’s worth the effort. D&D, we’ll be back! Maybe next time we’ll actually see the lake…