If you’re backpacking the typical gringo trail through Central America and are going to pass through Honduras, you will be pretty sure to hear about the D&D Brewery through fellow travellers – if you hadn’t already planned to visit after reading about it in your Lonely Planet guide.
D&D Brewery is something of a backpacking legend. Just type it into Google and a whole host of blog articles, reviews and TripAdvisor ratings will pop up – and almost 100% of them completely rave about the place. D&D’s website itself is also a gold mine of information about the hostel and the surrounding area, and all the fun things you will be able to see and do when you visit. Not only that but you are guaranteed to meet people on your travels who have been, or who are planning to go – the closer we got to Honduras, the more people we met who had been and who could not stop singing its praises. So naturally we started to get pretty excited, imagining this traveller’s mecca full of delicious home brewed beer, clean and comfortable digs and a personal, family-run atmosphere.
But you know when something is built up massively and you go in with seriously high expectations, it can never quite live up to the hype? Unfortunately for us, this was what we found with the D&D Brewery. Don’t get me wrong, it was a really great place to stay, and if it hadn’t been quite so built up in our minds in the weeks leading up to our visit we would probably have enjoyed the experience more. And to be fair, some of the issues we faced there were not the fault of the D&D Brewery – apart from, in the case of our shared bathroom, perhaps poor building planning.
We stayed in a private room with a shared bathroom. The bathroom setup was quite unlike any shared bathroom we had experienced before – it was basically in the middle of two adjoining rooms, and when you went in to use it, you had to lock the door of the other room so that your neighbours couldn’t get into the bathroom while you were in there. However, this of course posed one big problem: what if the people in the other room forgot to unlock your door into the bathroom when they had finished? Sadly on our first night we were sharing our bathroom with what sounded like 20 people staying in the adjacent room, none of whom could apparently grasp the concept of unlocking the bathroom door on our side once they had finished using it. So our first 24 hours at D&D was spent knocking on our neighbours door to unlock the bathroom for us, and when that failed (as it frequently did) having to run to reception to get them to unlock the door for us. Slightly frustrating really, but at least the clean, comfortable room we had helped to make up for it.
Despite the bathroom issue, we had been really looking forward to trying the D&D Brewery food and – in Dan’s case – the home brewed beer. Again, reviews and blogs and other travellers had raved about both, but we found the food to be pretty uninspiring. And coming from me this is quite a big thing to admit, because I am notorious for liking anything. It seemed like for most dishes the principle ingredient was cheese, and everything else came second. I love cheese, but it even got a bit much for me!
Lake Yojoa and the surrounding area really is beautiful, and we got to experience some of the stunning Honduran nature while we were there. On our first full day we took a walk to the nearby Los Naranjos Ecological and Archaeological Park, which consists of pathways and boardwalks around and over marshland just outside of the lake. The day we went a tree had fallen on the pathway, so we weren’t charged an entrance fee – which was good, because although it was a pleasant walk it wasn’t really worth the usual price of USD $6 to get in, even if the fallen tree hadn’t been there. The park is in a bit of a state of disrepair, with many of the boardwalks rotting or closed off all together. It’s a shame, because you can imagine at one point it would have been really stunning.
On the second day Dan visited Cerro Azul Neambar with a guy called Emiel who was also staying at D&D (I sat that one out because I wasn’t feeling well, largely I suspect because of excessive cheese consumption), which involved a beautiful hike through nature visiting waterfalls and swimming in cool natural pools. They both came back pretty excited, because they had seen their first snake – a small, skinny green creature that was about 30 cm long. I acted impressed at the time but was secretly quite pleased to have missed it, as I hoped to avoid seeing snakes for the duration of our trip.
Little did I know that I would have gladly adopted that small green snake as a house pet if it meant avoiding the terror we were about to experience the following day.
The day started off well. Dan, Emiel and I wandered down the road to the Finca Paradise Coffee Plantation, which had a number of pleasant walking routes that meandered through it. The terrain was mostly flat, the air was cool thanks to the shade from all the trees, and apart from the mosquitoes the size of budgies that were capable of biting through my Craghopper mosquito repellent hiking trousers, it was a very enjoyable day. We were all very relaxed and chatting away, walking along a wide and well marked pathway, not really paying attention to where we were going…when all of a sudden, and I am not exaggerating when I say this, Emiel came within inches of stepping on a thick, 1 and a half metre long, black and yellow snake.
Now to be fair, we might not have even noticed this snake, but apparently we scared the thing (I am skeptical about who was more scared, to be honest) because as we got close it literally leapt straight up into the air and lunged forward to bite. Fortunately we really must have taken it by surprise, or it was drunk, because it lunged in totally the wrong direction and missed us completely before retreating and slithering hastily away into the trees. Not before all three of us (yes, boys included) let out loud, high pitched screams and practically fell over each other in our hurry to get away.
After that we were a bit more cautious walking through the plantation, but by the time we left Dan and Emiel had recovered enough to think that it had been an awesome encounter, and couldn’t stop talking about how cool it was. I agreed that it was cool, but only in a “it’s cool we didn’t die today” sort of way. Especially later when we told the D&D trip guide what we saw, and he informed us it was a bothrops asper – not necessarily deadly if you’re bitten, but if you don’t seek treatment fairly sharpish the part of you that was bitten will essentially shrivel up and drop off. Wonderful.
When we had sufficiently recovered from the experience (I stress ate several pieces of cake and Dan downed a number of beers), we were ready to plan our onward journey out of Honduras to Leon, Nicaragua.