Seasickness and Sun

Trip Start Feb 08, 2007
Trip End Feb 22, 2007

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Where I stayed
Posada des Orchidas

Flag of Honduras  ,
Tuesday, February 20, 2007

It continued to rain throughout the night at La Ceiba.  The hiking at the nearby nature reserve, Pico Bonito would have slippery and wet, so we changed out plans.  (A pity to miss it, but, try as you might, you can't plan the weather!)  Instead, the four of us opted to go over to Roatan, one of the Bay Islands off the north coast on Honduras.
It's amazing how out-of-date our guide book is even though it's a 2006 edition.  Since it was printed, we discovered that the hotel we were interested in staying in at La Ceiba has closed, the ferry no longer leaves from La Ceiba but from further out of town, and it now lands French Harbour rather than Coxen Hole on Roatan!  Such is the rate of change in some developing countries.  We almost missed the boat because of that outdated information.
The ferry was not a regular boat, but a high speed catamaran - and thank heaven for that!  You know you're in trouble when they hand out sick bags to passengers as they board.  I shouldn't have eaten breakfast!
The cheap seats at the stern of the boat were wet, so I pulled out rain ponchos for us to sit on.  The boat pitched and rocked as we left the harbour.  At first, Martin seemed to think it was great fun, standing at the back and trying to keep his footing, exclaiming, "Ride 'em, cowboy!".  A smaller watercraft (and not that small, I might add), disappeared in the waves behind our boat.  I hope they returned to shore because, considering what was coming, there was no possible way they could have successful crossed to the islands.
Watching the horizon only helps so long when it comes to being on really rough water.  I wasn't the first one sick - I was the second.  I don't even think sickness drugs would have helped, it was that bad.  Thirty foot waves washed over the boat.  Virtually everyone on board, save for the crew, was sick.  Martin followed my lead, then Steve.  Karen must have a cast iron stomach as she read all the way over!  She told she didn't feel sick at any time during the crossing.  Wow.  (We found out later that we managed to catch the last ferry before it closed down for two days because of the weather - and to think we almost missed it!  I don't think we would have enjoyed two more days in La Ceiba.)
The crew was very empathetic and helpful, passing out extra sick bags, providing passengers with paper towel to wipe off their faces, taking around the garbage can to pick up the used bags (which, I'm sure, also made for less mess for them to clean up.)  Two of the crew and Martin also helped me to the bathroom which was no small feat, considering how the boat was being thrown around, then propped me up along the railing so I could get some fresh air.  After the fact, we jokingly rated how sick we were according to the number of bags we used:  Me - 4; Steve - 3; Martin - 2.  I certainly didn't drink orange juice for awhile!  (I'd had orange juice for breakfast.)  It wasn't surprising that Karen was the only one who was hungry that evening . . . .
Nothing compares to being seasick.  You want to die.  "Please, just throw me overboard", I thought to myself.  However, after about 40 minutes, the waters became calmer and the  gagging died down.  In just over an hour, the torture ended and we arrived on Roatan.  I could hardly wait to disembark and, on jelly legs, found a comfortable place to sit down while the others found transportation to West End, one of the more economical areas to stay
Our first night was spent at Posada des Orchidas, a brand new hotel right on the beach and the next day moved to Posada Arco Iris, a sister hotel, which was more central and on the less windy side of the bay (we'd listened to the chairs on our balcony crash around all night at the first place).  For an ocean view room, the Orchidas was USD $35 per night and the Iris only $5 more.  We wondered how long the smaller hotels and the lower prices would last, considering the increasing popularity of the island and the development that was going on.  Apparently, Air Canada now has direct flights from Toronto to Roatan.
Despite this, West End is still a sleepy little town, located along a pot-holed dusty road.  Lengths of huge nautical rope have been embedded into the dirt to serve as speed bumps to slow vehicles down.  It's a good thing because there is continual traffic.  As pedestrians, we all found it very annoying.  Steve, the community developer, thought it would make much more sense to close the road to pedestrian traffic and build a road for vehicles further away.  It certainly made sense to us, too.
Roatan is the largest of the Bay Islands at 30 miles long and 13 wide, and the most developed.  Other options include Utila, a popular backpacker destination to the west of Roatan, and Guanaja to the east.  Wanna-be divers flock to Roatan because it is one of the cheapest places in the world to learn how to scuba dive.  And, at USD $25 per dive (and even less for multiple dives), it's a great bargain for those who already have their diving tickets.  Not to mention that the diving is very good.  Keen divers dive as many times as day as their bodies allow them; virtually all their waking time is spent in the water.
There's dozens of dive shops to choose from and it's important to check them out regarding safety, etc.  Other divers recommendations are helpful, as is information provided in guidebooks.  The first (and only) time Martin went out, they took the group out deeper than Martin was actually qualified for (only qualified to 60 ft and went out to 70) and he broke blood vessels in both eyes trying to equalize the pressure in his ears.  (He's always had difficulty with equalizing.)  Karen, also fairly new to diving, went out several times and enjoyed it immensely. While we were there, she visited several different diving companies in her quest to find one that went through safety procedures and explained the dive thoroughly beforehand.
One of the best things about the reef at Roatan is that is close to shore.  From the beach just outside our hotel you could swim to it.  One day Karen, Steve and I walked to West Bay, about a half hour walk along the coast to check out the reef there.  All you had to do was slip on your snorkeling equipment and it was right there.  Although the coral was not all that colourful (though there were many different types), it was teeming with fish of all different sizes, shapes and colours - beautiful schools of hundreds of fish that would pass by within arm's length.  Time slips by while you're paddling about.  It's hard to believe what's under the surface if you're looking at the water from a distance because all you see are the waves hitting some rocks in the ocean.  Karen and Martin also saw sea turtles and eels when they were diving. 
There's no shortage of restaurants on Roatan - everything from Indian (owned by a couple from London, ON) to pizza to Vietnamese/Thai to, of course, seafood.  The power goes off on occasion, so sometimes it's a case of finding a restaurant that has a generator.  This happened to us the morning after we arrived.  The power outage was a probably a result of the storm.
It's always important to have various alternatives in mind for money when traveling, just in case.  We had ATM cards for two different financial institutions, our credit card and some American cash.  (Some people even buy traveler's cheques but they're not always easy to cash so we never bother.)  Using a credit card to pay for our hotel wasn't a good choice because they tacked on an additional 11%, so our options were American cash or Honduran lempira.  Karen and Steve had difficulties because their ATM card wouldn't work and they didn't have another one with them.  Between bank holidays in the US and banks being closed on Roatan for the weekend, it took awhile before they were able to get into Coxen Hole to the bank to get some money.  It was a bit worrisome for them and they made several calls to the US trying to figure out what to do.
On one of our last nights in Roatan, we ran into Julie from Utah who we had met in Copan, and her friend Sergio.  One of the nicest things about traveling is meeting other travelers - and then meeting them again!
The weather was starting to heat up just as we were leaving Roatan.  I think it would have been a bit much, so maybe it was just as well we were moving on. 

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