The next day I went to Pulhapanzak Falls with a small group of people staying at the D&D Brewery, including a fresh-faced American couple; a Brit who lived in LA and sold medical marijuana for a living; and a gorgeous Jordy by the name of Sandra. I had met Sandra the morning I was boarding Capitan Vern’s boat for Roatan. She was with Tyler, a Canadian boy with beautiful tatts. They had also met in Utila & become an odd pair of travelling companions for the time being… She was 46, well-travelled & gregarious. He was 25, softly spoken & travelling for the first time on his own. I just love seeing worlds collide like this… it would be a rare thing for two people from such different places to come together and take a trip like this.
We had heard about an unusual walk you could do, which took you behind the waterfall. It sounded beautiful. I envisaged the waters cascading gently over a large rocky overhang, and a generous ledge below, creating a gorgeous green walkway whereupon I might be able feel a misty spray softly caressing my face… sheer bliss.
The waterfall is 43m high. If you’re anything like me and don’t have a great sense of measurement (good news for the boys!) – this is roughly 14 stories high and about ½ the height of Niagara Falls. I am 1.63m, so this waterfall is 26 times my size. BIG.
We were met at the gate by a lovely local guide with beautiful blue eyes. He had a little middle aged spread going on and was thinning on top a little. I put him in his late 30s. I don’t know why but I found this slightly reassuring.
I had had issues in withdrawing cash from the only ATM in the tiny township of Pena Blanca on the way in, so when I found out the price (which was only 120 lempiras, but that was pretty much all I had on me), I decided I would just swim under the waterfall in the natural pools below.
Our guide wasn’t having any of that, and very generously organised for me to come anyway. Free. I was stunned to say the least.
So we all followed him down a proper walking trail and then across a treacherous boardwalk with a hand rail which opened up to lovely vistas of the waterfall.
And it was at this point, we got a sense of the scale of what we were about to do. And my first thought was this: HOLY MOTHER OF GOD. The waterfall was a big wild beast, thrashing about angrily. Completely unbridled. Ferocious. And loud. Really fucking loud.
We all looked at it and each other a little nervously. It was beautiful, there was no doubting that. But the part of my brain that conceives things like a gorgeously produced cinematic commercial shot in New Zealand very quickly woke up to itself.
This was not going to be a walk in the park. And our guide was clearly a psychopath in sheep’s clothing.
He made us strip down to our swimmers and take off our shoes. We then walked through a gate which said ‘Enter at your own risk’ or something like that in Spanish. And then we hiked barefoot over sharp and slippery rocks. Anyone that knows anything about me knows I am not the most stable on my feet in the best of conditions. I have managed to trip over skirting boards in your standard suburban home. So, I was feeling a tad anxious before we even got to the waterfall’s edge.
So it was all a bit of a scramble but as we got closer to the waterfall, the moss and mud start dissipating and the rocks become a little easier to grip with my toes.
My Dad is bit of a boulderer… I am, and always will be, grateful to him for leading me through many a rock-hopping expedition around the beaches of Coledale, Wombarra and Scarborough when I was a whippersnapper. What better way for a father & daughter to while away the hours together?
However even my Dad for all his ‘get-into-it’ country-boy attitude would have taken one look at this thing, shaken his head, laughed, and just said very firmly, “you can have THAT.”
me, on the other hand… well… I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
We got to the left hand side of the waterfall and were instantaneously saturated. It was so noisy, we had to yell to be heard. Our guide took my hand, and started leading me through the waterfall. Not behind it. But THROUGH it. We were clinging to the very rockface the water was smashing against. There was no large overhang. There was no generous ledge. And there was definitely no freakin Puccini.
At some points of the ‘walk’, we had no more than a couple of rocks underfoot that were, at best, a metre wide. Which sounds like a lot if you’re not dealing with angry rampaging waters trying to smash you to a pulp.
For parts of it, it was impossible to see anything. Zip. Nada. Cero. And at one point, the force of the water pushed away my bathers, exposing both of my breasts. While I am normally a bit shy when it comes to nuding up in front of complete strangers – in the threat of certain death: it was the least of my concerns. Hell, that waterfall could have completely disrobed me and I wouldn’t have cared less.
Every couple of metres, there’d be a reprise of sorts, and we were standing on a slightly wider ledge and the waters would be merely violent as opposed to life-threatening. I didn’t realise how scared I was until I saw the look in the others’ eyes. My heart was in amplified overdrive. I had definitely gone into survival mode. It was now just a matter of getting out alive.
There was also a small cave towards the end, which we took refuge in. We got our breath back. And looked at each other in the darkness with utter disbelief. Laughing like maniacs. It dawned on us what a ridiculously dangerous situation we had put ourselves in. And then we realised we had to go back.
We did. And it was a bit easier the second time round, knowing what to expect. But still a crazy hectic motherass thing to do. We came out the other end, panting and laughing. There was a lot of woo-hooing. Moreover for the fact that we were alive than anything else.
Once I stopped giggling like a lunatic, I thanked our guide for ensuring I got to do this. It ranked right up there with jumping out of an aeroplane at 14,500 feet when I was 21. I gave him my last 100lemps as a tip, figuring I had enough money to get me to the other village down the road, to try a different ATM (which happily provided).
We got back to D&D and downed many home-made beers (including a newly tapped blueberry infused beer) celebrating our survival. Skye eventually turned up from Copan Ruins and we caught up on our time apart. A tasty broccoli soup for dinner and I was not long for bed. I slept like a log that night.
The next day, Skye & I visited the Taulabe Caves. They have paved and lit the first 3 or 400m and apparently exploration has gone as far in as 12km. There’s a lot of stalagmites and stalactites and unusual rock formations – the most impressive to my eye was an angel’s wing maybe 3 metres high. But the thing that was really unusual about these caves is that they are really hot & humid. It gets up to 32 degrees Celsius, due to the fact they are steeped in volcanic grounds.
We hired a guide who took us past the lit paved part and into the batty bits of the cave. It was pretty muddy and slippery and all a bit of a scramble. Towards the end of the hike, one of the rocky ledges we had to climb proved a bit too tricky for me to lever myself up on. My Archilles’ was playing up and the tread on my boots were proving useless, so I opted to sit and wait for Skye and the guide to complete the course. I turned off my torch and sat in the complete blackness, listening to the sound of small bat wings flutter past. My eyes never adjusted for the whole time and I couldn’t see a thing. It was way cool.
Back at the Brewery, we jumped in the pool set in amongst the pretty jungly gardens and cooled off with a couple of pale ales. The manager brought us chocolate-covered strawberries and I told him he was my new favourite person. A softly spoken Manchurian bloke with a cheeky sense of humour and a great chest – I had developed a bit of a crush on Anthony. The chocolate covered strawberries just sealed the deal.
Later that night the ex-manager, a guy called John and his big beautiful brown dog called Lucy; Skye; Anthony and I did our best to empty the bar. Well, Lucy didn’t drink because she’s a dog. But the rest of us gave it a good nudge. Skye and I went to bed with only a couple of hours til the alarm was due to go off.
5.30am and we set off for a 2 day trip to get to Leon in Nicaragua. Me with raging hangover (do you see a pattern emerging here?) And poor old Skye who was sick as a dog with a serious fever and a dreadful cough. 12 hours on 7 buses (not counting the hours of wait times in between), 4 taxis, and 1 very difficult border crossing in the pouring rain, and we finally arrived.
Yet to go out & explore as it’s raining like all get out, at the moment, but a bit excited to be here.
*Disclaimer: I don’t think chocolate-covered strawberries being delivered to you poolside is necessarily included in the price of your room at D&D.