28 Dec

Waterfalls of Honduras: Cascadas, Cataratas y Saltos de Agua

How many ways do we love you, Honduras? And how many bleeping ways are there to translate the word “waterfall” in Spanish?? Cascada, salto de agua (literally a ‘water jump’), caída de agua (‘water drop’), or the jaw-dropping larger variety referred to as cataratas.


First order of business upon entering a new country is to find an ATM or bank to withdraw the local currency. In this case, Honduran lempiras. The first decently sized town we drive through after the border crossing is Danli. Surprisingly modern, this town has banks, shops, and bustling restaurants. We also need to restock the fridge in anticipation of several upcoming nights camping in the woods. Here’s the first part of our route through Honduras.


From Danli, we drive on towards the capital city of Tegucigalpa. Normally we make a point to avoid the big major cities, where crime is most prevalent. We had a few words about it in the car and decided there was no good way around it. All roads lead to Rome. Or in this case, the 1.5-million person city of Tegucigalpa. As we approach the city sprawl, the highway is notably well maintained with four lanes across of smooth pavement. If the semi-trucks were going straight through the center of town, so would we.


In the end, it was really a non-issue. Other than some aggressive Central American driving, Bruno emerged on the other side unscathed. Here’s a shot looking back down on the beautiful valley that Tegucigalpa sits in.


It looks like paradise from above and we had zero issues driving straight through, but only a week later, we read in the local paper that there had been two separate drug gang massacres in the city. Gangsters killed at least 13 people (three of them children) in a poor neighborhood, apparently to terrorize people in districts where the gang sells drugs.


Our first night camping in Honduras, Open Street Maps led us astray trying to find the place (aside: this could arguably have been Travis’ reading of the OSM map). We meet a really nice family who obviously are not used to having visitors up their road in the middle of nowhere. You needed serious 4WD to reach them. Or a horse. Or a donkey. We chatted them up and told them we don’t have burros where we come from (it was the easiest way to explain why we were photographing their laborer). Then they set us straight with the directions, which weren’t terribly clear. We decided to go with our back-up option for the night: camping in the parking lot of the local Aqua Park!


The following morning, we head north towards Lago de Yojoa, the largest lake in Honduras. There are restaurants, shops and hotels that line the lake shore and it is a popular fishing destination for Hondurans. Here’s a panoramic shot of the wetlands with the lake beyond, looking west towards the steep mountains of Santa Bárbara National Park.


We drove up into the mountains on the east side of the lake to camp for a few days. The roads to Parque Nacional Cerro Azul Meambar converge at PANACAM lodge, a mountain hotel with cabañas and excellent camping facilities. We were the only ones in the camping area, so we backed Bruno right up to the covered picnic area and made ourselves at home!


Breathing the carcinogenic fumes of our gasoline-fueled cook stove is a small price to pay for such fine camping cuisine: beef chili with a green salad of red peppers and tomatoes!


There are several hiking options within the park. We decide to take the longest route, a 6-mile trek through the cloud forest (bosque nublado) reaching a height of 2300 feet and barely seeing the sun. Through breaks in the mist, we’re awarded with glimpses of Lago de Yojoa below and the promise of a grand waterfall along the trail.



The hike was great, but at the three-hour mark Travis announced that he needed to get back to restroom facilities with urgency. He decided to upgrade the final 20 minutes of hiking into a trail run and took off jogging. When we caught back up at the camp site, he looked relieved and happy!

The next morning, we followed the short trail next to our camping spot for a second beautiful waterfall. Both are plenty swimmable and very refreshing.


Ready for more falls, we pack up Bruno and drive an hour north of the lake to the giant Pulhapanzak Waterfalls (affectionately called Pulha by locals). The Cataratas de Pulha are 141 ft/43 m high. To try and give you a scale of this picture, Amanda (if you can find her) is about 1/3 of the distance to the falls from where the camera is.


There’s zip-lining upstream across the river that feeds the waterfall, and there are guides at the site who charge for tours. We saw some very happy, very wet tourists emerge from behind the falls!

There are several nice tent-camping spots by the falls, but we camped near the site restaurant and plugged-in to use their electricity. Bruno’s auxiliary battery is not in great health and can barely power our fridge and fan through the night unplugged, so we’ve been trying to camp where we can plug in. What’s even more exciting is that evening at the restaurant, we witnessed a high school graduation event! Many nicely dressed young adults with their families attended. We did our best to stay out of sight; it’s unlikely that high school grads want to be photo-bombed by our #trucklife activities.


Back on the road again, we enjoyed fantastic scenery on the rolling rural roads. In the next post, we continue north to the Mayan Ruins of Copán!