Lake Yojoa

We broke up our trip between the Bay Islands and Nicaragua at Lake Yojoa. The guide book talked about D&D brewery and the thought of getting to spend the night at a brewery seemed too good to pass up. We hired a car to take us up into the mountains as the trip was a bit more complicated than we had planned. Arriving late at night we enjoyed delicious micro brews and dinner with a new travel friend, Manuela.

The brewery had an activity board posted with all the reviews, trip transportation and a map that made picking what to do easy in one sense but hard in that there was so much to choose from!

Pick an activity!  

Pick an activity!
 

Wednesday we set off to explore the surrounding countryside. We went on a walk around an archeological site that had board walks going down to the lake. It was completely tranquil and we were the only ones there!

In the afternoon we took a chicken bus up to a 45m waterfall. They had the option to go behind the waterfall so off we went - jumping into pools and standing under the enormous spray of water. When we were in the middle of the waterfall we could stand and look up at the underside of the water arch falling upon us. It was amazing! We both agreed it was something that they'd never allow in the US which made it all the more fun!

Wednesday night we found a fellow cribbage player and played into the night. Eating at a good brewery, with good food and drinks it was hard to remember we were in Honduras!

Thursday we set off for a longer adventure, to one of Honduras's national parks. We had been told they take very good care of the parks and that this one is beautiful so off we went, hitch hiking for part of the journey (we were assured by the brewery staff beforehand it is safe and common practice). Upon arrival at the park we were given maps and directions around a 3-4 hour loop that went up the side of a mountain and down past waterfalls and rivers. It felt so nice to be out hiking and getting some exercise! The views were gorgeous and made all the hard work worthwhile.

When we were done with the hike and waiting for a cab back to the road we struck up conversation with an American and his wife that have been living in Honduras for the last 8 years. He explained the presidential elections (coming up this Sunday), how inexpensive it is to live in Honduras, how all of the upper class lives here and advised us to be extremely careful in Tegucialpa, our forced next stop on the way to Nicaragua. It was a really interesting perspective on the ways of life for both the small upper class who lead an extremely extravagant life with many servants and to that of the lower class who hardly gets by. There is no structure set up so that those that work harder get more pay, better positions, or praise so everything is basically done as slow and as poorly as possible. There are no incentives to do otherwise and with this mentality more people are hired to do the same work a few could accomplish. Coming from the competitive US where individual work is valued it was very interesting.

4 wheeling Utila

Taking some time off from diving we wanted to see more of what is above water on this little island oasis. Since few of the island's roads are paved and rainy season has begun we were advised we'd need a 4 wheeler to get through all of the roads. The roads we came across were sand and could be covered with coral, rocks, garbage, grass, and are home to thousands of iguanas that quickly scamper off in fear of our motor approaching. Our only must see was from the top of Pumpkin Hill, the highest point on the island. We approached from every angle and then unable to find the summit we went back to our diving school to ask for advice. The carpenter there, Henry, said he'd jump on the back and off we went again, through huge puddles, over all sorts of ups and downs and turns, and found ourselves back where Eric and I had been before. Our only misstep was that we had to hike, there was no road! Henry led the way straight up a path that sometimes provided relief with a cable to hold onto. Eric's flip flops, yes we were in flip flops, we so covered in mud from the drive in he ditched them for bare feet. We all but crawled to the top. Stairs would have been helpful as it was literally straight up. Henry led us along the ridge and we were finally rewarded with the view we were in search of - that of the whole island. We took some photos, got a few mosquito bites, and headed back to school. We were so grateful for Henry as we would have literally never found it without him! We also came across fresh water caves that Eric swam in. All in all it was a really fun day and caked in mud, sunscreen, and bug repellent, we earned our shower that evening!  Here are some photos.

Utila Island

Our cabin

Our cabin

We have been on Utila a week now and in-between 4 days of intensive scuba diving lessons have gotten quite settled into a routine.

We have rented this cute little cabin that has everything we need - kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and a little porch. It's off the main drag of Utila's street so we don't have to listen to the endless motorbike, 4 wheeler, and golf carts whizzing noisily around at all hours.

As I mentioned in our last post, Pablo our instructor helped us find all the spots to buy our food. We now have a fruit guy, fish guy, meat store, and then two other stores to frequent for everything else. The directions to the fish guy kind of sum up how everything seems to work down here: find paradise dive spot, take a right down the long path, at the end you'll see a dock and that's where Zoro (the fish master) will be if his boat is in yet. We asked 5 or so people when Zoro is there and they all gave different responses. When we found Zoro on our second attempt, he was filleting beautiful tuna fish right on the dock. For 4 of the filets he charged us 100L ($5). He said it's the best fish we'll ever have and next to the salmon Eric catches, he's right. He caught the fish with an empty coffee canister with a fishing line around it and a little hook.

I've been the attraction to what seems like all the sand flies on the island - totaling some 60 bites on just ONE of my legs - so we have ventured out to procure the best food but not for many adventures. With all the google research we have done the symptoms are supposed to ease up today - I'm otherwise treated to burning sensations as I walk (online they compared it to poison ivy but since I've never encountered it I'm just taking their word for it!). We are now slathering on a mixture of baby oil, sunscreen, and deet to prevent more bites. I never thought I'd go the deet route but this is literally unbearable!

Yesterday we tried to kayak through the lagoon and into the middle of the island but hadn't been told the kayak needs to be plugged or it will sink. Eric had to get out and walk back on the way back to our diving school, and I barely made it back. The boat was finally drained and we felt lucky to have made it back at all - a few more minutes and I think we would have abandoned the boat to swim! All in all it was a fun adventure and I think we'll leave the middle of the island unexplored by kayak!

We have plans to keep diving, snorkel some, rent a 4 wheeler to explore beyond the one street, and Eric has promised Pablo our instructor that he will take him on in a Ping pong tournament. From the rain soaked entry to the island we have found our stride here and are glad into finally be experiencing some of the brochure-like views on Utila. Now if only these bites would go away...

Scuba!!!!

Watch out underworld we are scuba certified!

After a log journey by bus from Antigua to Copan to La Ceiba, Honduras we finally got on the ferry to Utila island, one of the islands off the coast of Honduras in the Caribbean. We were promised clear blue water and sunny skies but instead were met with so much rain that we got off the dock into ankle deep water more than filling up our running shoes. We have thankfully dried out and settled into a little cabin on the island we are planning to call home for the next two weeks. Also the skies have cleared and today we finally had a brochure-like day out scuba diving.

We got open water certified with Captain Morgans here on Utila. They told us this island is in the top 3 in the world for certifying divers. They have the second best reef in the world so it was an incredible place to learn! Our instructor was a really great guy - calm and confident - and as he has lived here for a few years has tipped us off to where we should buy vegetables, where to buy meat, and which grocery store to frequent. He is one to know and for anyone following or footsteps down here - ask for Pablo!

With all the rain we haven't taken too many photos but here are a few:

Our HUGE bus seats for the journey

Our HUGE bus seats for the journey

What's crazy is that the views scuba were 100x more beautiful than this!  

What's crazy is that the views scuba were 100x more beautiful than this!
 

Eric hanging out on the boat - literally

Eric hanging out on the boat - literally

Looking at Utila town from the boat

Looking at Utila town from the boat

A true adventure

So our day just went like this: 

Our guide, Juan

Our guide, Juan

We went on a tour of the Copan Ruins this morning.  Towards the end of our tour, the guide starts talking about a cool mountain trip he can take us on, $60 no matter how many people go.  So we find the couple we met on the bus to Honduras yesterday (who are also from Seattle - it's a small, small world) and they agreed to come with. 

 

We grab a few things from our hotel, meet up for lunch, and then climb into the back of a mini pick up truck to head to the hills.  We are crossing our fingers the metal we are hanging onto is strong enough to hold us. 

Juan said he wanted to show us how coffee used to be made so we got out of the truck to follow him into the hills.  The bus then drove away (!!?!??!??!) and I got a little scared...  (Spoiler alert: I'm writing this post so we made it out alive and safe!) 

We walked back to find the truck down the street (thank you God!) and climbed back in to continue our adventure to the lagoon.  At the lagoon, Juan pulls out squash "wine" - still not sure how this is made or what was in it, but we aren't sick yet so maybe alcohol kills everything?  We are told you can only chug it and then we walked around the lagoon, finding 3 rocks to throw into the middle of the lagoon, each with a wish.  Legend has it that the middle of the lagoon is a hole and that the water is sacred. 

After chugging another glass of the squash "wine" we headed up the mountain, beautiful views peeking out.  We stopped for a little while at this person's house (not sure why) but we did see what was inside this berry that looks very similar to lychee.   Juan demonstrated the berries abilities on his arm (see 2nd photo below). 

We then got back into the truck and continued to fly up the hills, passing people that were slowly making their way up to homes deep in the mountains.  At the top we  reached a beautiful destination.   

We toured around the Ixchel spa, were told we had to dunk our heads in the holy water at the pool, and had yet another drink (at this point we were pouring them out in the bushes when no one was looking!).  On the way down we stopped to take a few photos and then returned back, safely (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), to Copan.   

At the time this adventure seemed like a great idea to get beyond our guidebook, but really, I'm glad we are back safely.  We have always felt safer traveling in numbers, but this was a bit stupid of a situation to put ourselves in.  Thankfully it turned out to be a fun adventure with gorgeous views that ended safely!   

Copan

We couldn't pass by an opportunity to break up our ride on the bus from Antigua to La Ceiba in order to see Mayan ruins at Copan.  We had a great guide and were able to tour the ruins for the whole morning.  We met a travel friend, Roberto, and enjoyed learning about this city.