Honduras Mainland - Lago Yejoa, Copan
After a cram packed week up in the USA, I felt like I really needed a bit of a rest, so once I got back down to Honduras I headed directly down to Lago Yejoa, the home of the D&D Brewery.
The brewery is attached to a hostel set on a little forested block of land, both of which are run by Bobby, the late-20s American owner. He tells me he runs the brewery as a bit of fun, and to provide some jobs for the locals. Apparently the area wasn't really on the tourist circuit at all back before he started up here, and now lots of people are coming to the area specifically to visit the brewery and then are told about the local natural attractions around to visit.
Bobby makes some pretty tasty beers, from memory there were maybe 5-6 different ones on tap but I've neglected to keep any notes about what they were. They're made in a sort of large scale home brew manner, using malt extracts and hops. I asked Bobby if he's thought about doing it with actual grains (the all-grain homebrewer in my past believes it's the only way to make exception beers), and he told me he'd originally bought a pallet of grain with the intention of doing it all that way, but the humidity in the area makes it near impossible to store the stuff without it spoiling and growing mould, which seems like a pretty fair reason for doing it the way he does.
The place has a nice little restaurant that makes pretty good burritos and baliadas, but their most impressive menu option is the blueberry pancakes which have a very generous portion of fresh blueberries cooked into them. I think I ate them for breakfast nearly every morning I was there. They're so good I'd probably recommend going their for the pancakes even if you don't like beer!
One night I got talking with an Irish guy named Johnny who is one of the most interesting people I've met on the road so far. He's an Irish bloke who makes his living as a travel blogger, travelling 9 months out of every year and living in Thailand the other 3.
The guy is like one of those self made success stories you'd read about in a magazine. He started off with a travel blog, and then worked out how to make very decent money online through SEO marketing. He had visited 114 countries when I met him (now 141 with the slow rate I update my blog), and plans to visit every country in the world in the next few years. I'll chuck in a plug for his website in case you want to see for yourself.
It was really interesting to talk to someone who's been on the road so long, a whole lot more insightful than the average backpacker about the difficulties and challenges of truly living life on the road, as opposed to just living overseas.
Johnny and myself did a hike up to a nearby lookout the next morning, and we were half way up when my flip-flops decided to tear through the toe strap, leaving me to do the rest of the way up and the way back barefoot. The view from the top was pretty nice and my feet held up surprisingly well, although I did get some nasty ant bites and found it very hard coming down hill through all the mud.
After nearly a week at D&D I was feeling re-energised and so I got the chicken bus to Copan via San Pedro Sula, during which I had the closest thing to a bad experience I had in Honduras. At one point a man got on, stood up at the front of the bus and asked me in English where I was from. After a little bit of small talk he switched to Spanish and started yelling something at the bus, then started digging around in his bag for something. I thought for sure we were being hijacked and he was about to pull out a gun, but then he actually pulled out a bible and continued to yell at the bus for 15 minutes, before taking of his shirt and showing that he was covered in religious (prison?) tattoos. A huge sense of relief washed over me when I realised he was a preacher and not a hijacker.
Once I'd arrived in Copan and found somewhere to stay, me and a few guys from the hostel went to check out (probably) the only authentic German brewery in Honduras. We'd gone there at 3pm in the afternoon to have a beer or two and get something to eat, but ended up staying until about 11pm and drinking many beers.
The brewery is run by an older German guy named Thomas, who's imported all the shiny brewery equipment from Germany himself, and has big temperature controlled fridges for fermenting his 120 litre batches. He imports all the German malts himself and mostly brews adhering to theReinheitsgebot (German beer purity law), although he tells me he does make a hefeweizen with cacao beans in it which sounds like it would be delicious! Getting shown around the back room and all the brewery bling had me reminiscing about my years as an all-grain homebrewer throughout university.
The two beers on tap while I was there were a hefeweizen and a red lager. I really enjoyed the hefe, but everyone else seemed to prefer the lager. One thing is certain, Thomas definitely makes some of the best beer in all of Honduras!
The next day I headed to a place called Macaw Mountain, a private bird reserve aiming at repopulating the Macaws in the local area. They also have a bunch of other exotic Central American birds such as toucans, and parrots, all of which have been donated by pet owners who no longer wanted them, or confiscated from bird smugglers.
There's a big interactive area where you could get a photo taken with a bunch of the Macaws; they'd perch on you and then you'd twist your wrist a little and the birds would spread their wings for the photo!
They were actually keeping a whole lot of macaws at Copan Ruins to try and get them used to the area, and then later opened their cages releasing them into the wild, in an effort to repopulate the Macaws the feature so heavily in the carvings there.
There was also a very naughty toucan, for some reason missing his tail feathers, that hopped around on the ground trying to peck at toes. I was initially running away from him every time he hopped up to me, then I decided maybe I was being silly and let him get me... it was quite a painful peck. Cheeky little bastard!
I couldn't visit Copan without visiting the ruins that the place is named after, so I headed out there the next day and grouped up with a big family (half Americans, half Hondurans) and got a guide to show us around the site.
The ruins were vertically very tall, but it really wasn't that big of a site. The “amazing detail” that people had been telling me about actually seemed kind of plain, especially compared to other ruins like Angkor Wat (although now having seen other Mayan ruins, Copan really is quite detailed compared to other Mayan sites).
There's lots of work that's been done reconstructing many of the building of Copan. Our guide pointed our a few odd shaped hills and told us that that is how they all were when the site was found, with tree roots tearing the structures apart, dirt filling in the gaps and eventually just looking like a pile of rubble. It's actually quite incredible they're able to figure out how to put them back together at all.
I also found out that the biggest structures actually used the previous buildings on the same site inside them as foundations. Modern tunnels have being dug into the buildings to get a look at some of the enclosed previous temples. Not exposed to the weather, there is a lot more preserved details. There were lots of great carved statues of macaw's faces statues in the tunnels, but it is a shame it's so narrow in there and they've fenced off a lot of it now so you have glass between you and statues, because previous visitors couldn't keep their damn hands to themselves.
After a long day looking at ruins, I headed back to town and went back to Thomas' brewery for a few last beers in Honduras, before I started heading into Guatemala the next day.