While here, we decided to take a taxi ($2 per person) to Coxen Hole to take a look at the main town, more so than we had when we entered Roatan
. It is a busy town with lots of vendors lining the streets often in rather crude settings. Entering a typical clothing business, for example, one walks through an open doorway into a dark cave-like area where goods are perched on rudimentary shelving and hanging from rafters. Not particularly inviting. We had a delicious fried chicken lunch in a local restaurant, Comedor Garay, on the main street. As usual, everything is made fresh to order so it always takes awhile to get a meal. The fried chicken was unusually good with a different but delicious spice. The proprietor seemed very pleased that we had chosen her restaurant for our meal and spent some time talking with us. Although she didn't sell beer to have with our lunch, she offered it and sent her son down the street to get it for us. After that we took a bus--a large van--to West End, a trendy little resort about 20 minutes from Coxen Hole. The van cost us $1 each and worked out quite well. We did opt for a taxi back to Fantasy Island for about $5 each. Of course it was air conditioned and the driver was excellent, driving carefully and not overly fast. (We've been on islands where the driving is quite scary and fast and where we always are amazed that we get where we're going alive.) West End was pretty, but lots of trendy shops, bars and restaurants designed for the tourist, the kind of place we typically avoid.
On Wednesday, we rented a car and toured the island ourselves
. There is one main road 29 miles long. It is well-paved and safe to drive. Most of the islanders drive sanely here. We took a few side roads which proved to be dirt for the most part and very hard on our vehicle and us. We were in search of a local restaurant similar to Comedor Garay--not easy to find. Finally, in a place called Jonesville, we found McNabs Restaurant. We really enjoyed our light tostada-like meals listed as a burrito and a pulpusa (tostada covered with a cabbage filling.) Once again the proprietor welcomed us and showed us the animals she keeps in the restaurant: 2 parrots, 2 caimen, and turtles who lived in a fenced area at the foot of her dock. Next door a monkey swung from a tree. After Jonesville, we went to the end of the paved road to see the town of Oakridge, a large shrimping and lobstering community. Incidentally, the shrimp and lobster boats on this island are beautifully painted and in great repair, the best we've seen anywhere. Big business here.
Then we drove back to the western end of the island to see West Bay. We found the former studio of an artist, Bella, who crewed for a friend from Grenada to Venezuela about two years ago. However, we learned she was no longer living there--had gone to an ashram in India. So we had a drink amidst the parrots at Celeste's. West Bay seemed very trendy too. Not our style.
We also did some shopping at the large HiperMega store in a brand new shopping mall
. With the car, it is easier to stock up on items like beer and wine that otherwise make for a heavy load when walking. We have been shopping at a rather nice grocery store called Eldon's that we learned is owned by one of Florida's large grocers, Publix.
With a reasonable weather window to move around and a need to test our engine, we moved to Jonesville Bight, an attractive bay about 4.5 miles from French Harbour. We were anxious to visit the Hole in the Wall restaurant about which we'd heard a lot. Of course, being off-season, there are just the usual hangers-on in a rather crude, run-down building full of tee-shirts and other memorabilia of those who passed this way.
Hopefully, we'll leave tomorrow for the next island, Guanaja.
We are really enjoying Roatan. It's a very comfortable island for us gringos. Most everyone speaks English although not always well. The resort, Fantasy Island, located where we are anchored in French Harbour is beautiful--pretty beaches, lots of flora and fauna--and caters to scuba divers. The buildings themselves border on being a little rundown, but we are nevertheless enjoying it. We spend time in the resort in order to use the internet since we can't get it from the boat; disappointing. However, there's a beautiful peacock who is frequently strutting her (his?) stuff at the door to the bar waiting for peanut handouts from patrons. There are macaws and other pretty birds flitting around as well as ducks and ducklings. We had hoped to find some good snorkeling as the divers rave about the reef, but instead we discovered the reef to be mostly brown in color, rather washed out looking, with few fish. Disappointing. Maybe we should take up scuba diving?