Sitting on the dock of the bay islands

Trip Start Nov 27, 2009
Trip End Apr 16, 2010

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Roses Hotel

Flag of Honduras  , Bay Islands,
Friday, March 26, 2010

The temperature in Nicaragua was stifling hot – 40C each day and 90% humidity. As such, we thought we would head over to the caribbean coast of Honduras to try to find some cooler (relatively) weather. We had heard quite a lot about the Bay islands having amazing diving and specifically Utila, one of the islands, was more geared up for backpackers. So we decided to cross Honduras as quickly as possible to get there. This ended up being a marathon 2 day journey involving about 10 different legs with a mix of buses, taxis, collectivos and boats. At least 2 of these legs were extremely uncomfortable on buses without air conditioning and with locals reluctant to open the windows to let air in the bus. I had to use a significant proportion of my water on my head trying to cool myself down and was sitting semi-naked for long periods of time.

We had to overnight half way through in the capital of Honduras called Tegulcigalpa (try saying that after a few pints). Our bus driver dropped us off at 10pm at night in a very dodgy area and we only had the name of one hotel. We got a cab there and checked it out, but the room wasn't very nice, so we found another place over the road. We were starving hungry, not having eaten all day, so we had to venture out foraging for food and I have to say the city is not particularly welcoming – we saw a lot of poverty here, which we didn't really see too much in South America.

Anyway, next morning we got out of Tegus as quickly as possible and found ourselves on Utila before it got dark. We met a girl on the ferry over, who was married to the owner of a dive shop and who said she could help us find accommodation; we went with her and found ourselves a room for the night, booked ourselves on some diving for the next day and went out for dinner – food was great, the best we had eaten for at least a couple of weeks. This would prove to the be case for the whole stay in Utila – good food and relatively cheap.

After a restful sleep, we got some breakfast and then went diving. Utila has the second largest reef in the world after the great barrier reef and diving here was an amazing experience. Although we didn't really see anything we hadn't seen before, the water was really warm, the reefs really beautiful with some amazing swim-throughs and the visibility was over 25m. The best thing that happened on this dive was on the way back - Kate and I were sitting on the prow of the boat when somebody on the boat shouted 'Dolphin!'; as we looked over we saw a dolphin jump out of the water completely and seconds later a pod of about 50 dolphins was racing alongside us, especially at the front of the boat next to us. For at least a couple of minutes we were able to trail our hands in the water and actually touch the dolphins. Several times they leapt out of the water and we were able to 'high-five them' – as Kate's friend Nat says, they truly are the most wonderful and precious creatures and this was an unforgettable experience.

After diving, we went for a walk and found a really beautiful place to stay, with a balcony overlooking the bay (and without screaming kids running around at 6am, as we unfortunately had at the last place). So we shifted our gear, even though the owner was telling us we would only be able to stay there for a couple of nights, figuring something would crop up afterwards. It always does.

Utila is a long narrow island, with only 2 or 3 paved roads, but with every type of vehicle moving up and down it including golf carts, quads, scooters, bikes, cycles, tuk-tuks, cars and the occasional truck; I never did quite get used to seeing an elderly lady roaring past on a quad, but it was par for the course here. 95% of the island is uninhabitable, as it is covered in mangrove swamps, so the 10,000 odd inhabitants all live along one main strip. Anything that is going on or happening on the island, you hear about pretty quickly and you usually bump into the same people at least a few times a day. There were only 2 beaches on the island – a public and a private one. We hired cycles to get to the public one, but it turned out to be an overcrowded sandpit, so we headed back instead. I got myself a massage and visited a barber to get my (by now shaggy) beard trimmed. The guy either didn't like me much or oversold his ability to trim beards, as I left looking like my face had been stuck in a lawnmower, but at least it was a bit cooler.

We did a couple more dives with the same dive company the next day, but started to get fed up with the very young and inexperienced dive crew, so decided we would look for another place. Though a small island, Utila must have about 30-odd dive companies of varying size and competencies, so finding another one would not be difficult. By now, we were also being kicked out of our beautiful balcony room, as the whole place was booked up for semana santa – the week before Easter. This is the busiest week in central and south america and Utila sees twice the normal number of visitors during this week. This basically gives them an excuse to raise the price of just about everything and stretches the place so that it can just about cope.

We stumbled across a dive centre just up the road, which also had some space for us to stay and seemed like it had a really groovy atmosphere, so we moved in the next day. This would prove to be a great decision as we met some really cool people here, drunk a lot at the bar in the evenings, dived some more, played volleyball and footie-volley, lounged in hammocks and swum and snorkelled in the marina.

We ate well in the evenings, with delicious fresh seafood and great meat too. Although we had planned to, we never made it to the beach, though we did catch a couple of footie games, including the arsenal barcelona game at a local bar, which was a bonus too. We also found a crazy bar called Tree-tanic in a hotel called the Jade seahorse. The creator of this place must have won a ton of marbles, taken a lot of acid and gone wild with a glue gun, as the buildings and gardens were covered in the things, as well as having sculptures, gazebos and other things all in bright colours. Both beautiful and wacky at the same time – also tarantulas scattered around the place and it seemed that they were encouraged to be there. Kate didn't like that, but after we ran across the wooden rope bridge and into the hollowed out tree where the bar was, we were fine. Then we got very drunk and staggered home.

We tried to charter a plane to fly us over to Belize, as we were starting to doubt our ability to endure another long overland slog to Guatemala, but in the end we couldn't arrange it in time and we wanted to get off the island before good Friday as everything shuts down at this time, making traveling that much more difficult. After a week of chilling, diving and eating and drinking well, we said goodbye to Utila and jumped on the ferry. One thing we will certainly not miss is the number of sandflies on the island, which mercilessly bite you 24hours a day and which you are helpless to prevent. I literally had about 100 bites on each foot, by the time we left and both Kate and I had hardly a square inch of skin, which went unbitten by these cursed creatures.
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