A Trip to the Lake

Trip Start Feb 08, 2007
Trip End Feb 22, 2007

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Where I stayed
Finca las Glorias Hotel

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

The trick upon arriving back in San Pedro Sula was trying to figure out where to catch a bus to Lago de Yajoa ("ya-ho-a").  Hedman-Atlas didn't go in that direction, so we followed the directions in our guidebook and walked to where we thought it left from. Except for an empty school bus, going who knows where eventually, the place appeared deserted.  We had no idea what to do, so, in broken Spanish, we asked a fellow sitting nearby if he knew where to catch a bus to Lago de Yajoa.  Once we showed him our destination on the map, he explained to us that this bus went to Pena Blanca, but the one we wanted the one to La Guama that went down a completely different highway.  We would need to take a bus from the new central bus station on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula (not yet built at the time our guidebook was published).  He helped us flag down a taxi to get there and we thanked him for his help.
So off we went to the central bus station.  It was a long way out of the city, actually not far from the airport.  It was a cavernous building, most of which was vacant, save for a few food stalls.  Outside were buses of all shapes and sizes - everything from "luxury" long-haul buses to school buses and vans.  Our "deluxe" bus to La Guama was not quite up to the standards of Hedman-Atlas: no air-conditioning, shabby and less-than-clean seats.  Martin sat in front of me and couldn't even move his seat up from the reclining position.  I was beginning to rethink even going to Lago de Yajoa (being touted in our book as being one of the newest popular destinations for travelers).  It only took us an hour, however, and we were at La Guama.   We asked "Donde este la autobus a Pena Blanca" and were directed across the road to a school bus that would be going west back towards Pena Blanca.
We were headed to a bed and breakfast between La Guama and Agua Azul that was advertised in Honduras Tips.  The place was called El Cartijo de Lago and was owned by American John Charter and his Honduran wife.  It sounded like an idyllic spot right by the lake. Pointing to the information in the book in Spanish prompted the bus assistant to let us off just a few kilometers from La Guama at the road leading to our accommodation.  A short walk in and we were there.  We were welcomed by John Charter, his wife Marta and their daughter, Sara,12.  Our room was $30 US per night or just under 600 "limps", as John called lempira.
John, originally from Vermont, came to Honduras in 1981 on a Partners of the Americans project focusing on conservation/community development with youth groups.  He met Marta in 1983 and they have now lived in Honduras for about 20 years, at the lake since John retired two years ago.  Sara is home-schooled, but has had many opportunities to travel to the US.  Her parents ensure she has interaction with other children; every Saturday they travel to San Pedro Sula for Sara's French class. They do not yet have access to Internet along the lake, so Sara is unable to use the Internet as a learning tool as yet.
After a long day, it was wonderful to sit and relax by the lake and watch the sun go down.  It was Valentine's Day and a young couple had arranged for Marta to cook them a meal so they could have a private dinner in a screened-in cabin by the lake.  Sitting there enjoying the sunset was very romantic, though not so enjoyable once the mosquitoes came out and started to feast.  We quickly moved indoors.
Lago de Yajoa is a vast freshwater lake about 16 km long and 8 km wide that is home to more than 373 species of birds, many of which migrate to Canada during our summer.  We spotted herons, ducks, egrets and hawks.  The sounds from the lake at night filled the air.  Particularly interesting was the call of the tiger heron, sounding like a bullfrog with its "rat-a-tat-tat". The lake also provides some of the best fishing in Honduras; a favourite fish with the locals is tilapia, a delicate flavourful whitefish. 
The lake in itself is spectacular, but that it is backed by cloud-forested mountains makes it even more so.  It is a piece of unspoiled wilderness in the heart of Honduras.  Tourists who want to get off the beaten track come here to bird watch, hike and soak up the scenery.
The first morning, John and Sara drove us to Pena Blanca and dropped us off at the archeological park.  The edge of the lake is dotted with ruins of the Lenca people.  The Lenca are to Honduras what the Aztecs were to Mexico. Though there are still some Lenca living in Honduras, the language and many of their traditions have been lost.  A guide showed us around the park and we walked along the dilapidated boardwalk near the water's edge and past many mounds that housed ruins.  He seemed very knowledgeable about Lenca history and the flora and fauna of the area, even if we couldn't understand much of what he said.  There were certainly lots of moquitoes.  To fend them off, he broke off a branch of a tree for me to wave around.  At the end of a short hike, he found us a taxi to travel to Pulhapanzak Falls.
The falls, just off the highway to San Pedro Sula, are on private land.   There's a small entrance fee of about $1.50 US.  Once inside the gates, we were approached by boys wanting to guide us behind the falls.  Our guidebook, however, warned us that the path leading down is slippery and only for the very sure-footed.  More than one person has fallen and died.
Pulhapanzak Falls drop over 43 metres and are quite spectacular.  There are various viewing points and the path is certainly muddy and slick.  It's also easy to get wet, but considering it was warm and sunny, we didn't mind the cool and refreshing spray one little bit.  Apparently it's a very popular spot with local families during the holidays, but the place was practically deserted when we were there.  It was definitely worth the visit.
The challenge was getting back to Pena Blanca.  We walked out to the main highway, stood with the sun beating down on us for about ten minutes, then decided to begin walking and try to hitch a ride as we went.  It wasn't long before we were in the back of a pickup truck speeding along to Pena Blanca.  From there, we flagged down a minibus heading in the direction of La Guama and got off at Finca las Glorias. This was a hotel that was highly recommended in our guidebook where we might have stayed if we hadn't come across information in Honduras Tips recommending out current accommodation.
It was one heck of a walk in (about 1.5 km) at the hottest time of the day.  I couldn't imagine packing in and out, though it might have been possible to hitch a ride.  By the time we got to the hotel, we were tired and very hungry.  Lunch never tasted so good. The grounds of the hotel were spotless and well-manicured.  Although it was nice, it was a little more grandiose that we like which made us happy about our choice of the B and B.  Well-rested and re-fuelled, the hike out wasn't as bad.  It was only a short wait at the main road before a La Guama minibus came by.  However, it was crowded with kids heading home from school; poor Martin had to stand most of the way with his neck crunched up against the ceiling.  I have never laughed so hard.  All the locals got quite a kick out of it.
Our reward at the end of the day was a wonderful meal prepared by Marta in her little kitchen.  We retired early.

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