Under the Rainbow

When you’re encircled by shimmering rainbows and pummeled by foaming spray, it’s immediately obvious why Catarata de Pulhapanzak has been dubbed the most beautiful waterfall in Honduras. And if your balance is up to it, you can become much more than just a shutter-clicking spectator.

Deceptively calm when you first come across it, the Río Lindo slides lazily past; locals laughing, splashing, floating in rubber rings and occasionally washing their socks. If you can stand the irritating reggaetton that thuds out of the café-bar overlooking the river, this is a good place to stretch out and watch the world as the sun dries your clothes. For if you’re going to get interactive with Nature at Pulhapanzak, expect a thorough drenching.

For those all-important photo opportunities, a dusty track leads you round to face the 43-metre-high wall of frothing white water from a safe distance, a faint mist rising from below. A more neatly-concreted path takes you past a hydro-electric plant and straight into the slippery rocks at the base of the falls.

Footholds are fairly good but many of the boulders are coated with a layer of mud and slime, so watch yourself. Over the first obstacle is a natural pool, about seven feet deep – for those who don’t want to wait for the hissing spray to soak you to the skin, jumping into the middle will soon speed things up. Without a guide it took a couple of intrepid locals flinging themselves several metres off a rocky overhang to encourage us to do the same.

Catch your breath and let your thumping heart slow in a secluded cave, while rainbows run brightly-coloured rings around the rocks in front of you. Then it’s straight into a wall of thunderous spray that forces your eyes shut and invigorates your senses (although hearing can be a challenge afterwards.) Overlooking a second, shallower pool is a cliff ledge behind the falls: Shield your eyes and look up from here to see water pouring over a craggy outcrop in all directions, a natural power-shower. Watching from a distance can never do it justice.

Catarata de Pulhapanzak costs L25 entry for adults and is an easy fifteen-minute walk from the village of San Buenaventura, north of Lake Yojoa. Returning moist but happy, we stayed at the D&D brewery, tucked away off the road between Peña Blanca and El Mochito.

Run by ale-enthusiast Robert Dale from Oregon, it’s the only micro-brewery in Honduras and many relaxing hours can be spent sipping a jug of fine ale by the side of his swimming pool. Expect to pay around L200 for a double room, or you can sling a hammock up for L40 each if you fancy sleeping under the stars.

But beware: Peña Blanca folk will not respond to anything along the lines of dónde está la cervezeria que se llama D&D. In fact, we found ourselves led on all sorts of crazy adventures, from bottle depositories to random pulperias.

Maybe I just can’t speak Spanish for toffee, but after several hours trekking up and down the (wrong) road, we were lucky enough to find a taxi driver with an eye for a good ale who dropped us at the door. Robert’s used to it. His advice: Just ask for el gringo que hace cerveza. Works every time.

This article was published in Honduras This Week, Saturday April 16th 2005

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