Yeah, unfortunately, rain has been a major theme during our last week of travel abroad. Some brief showers in Livingston got the ball rolling, and from there it progressed steadily in Honduras, really picking up steam by the time we reached Utila. We got off the plane in the midst of a storm (that was Saturday) and the rain continued basically non-stop for three days (and we’re told two weeks before that, too). Most of the long-termers were moping around with this kind of dead, saturated look which hinted that an appearance of the sun might just be running neck-and-neck with a suicide attempt. The traffic on the “main” road (there are more or less only two on the island) consisted mostly of people biking along with a passenger seated crossways on the bar and an umbrella balanced clumsily on the handlebars. On the bright side, we are now the proud owners of our very first umbrella, a deluxe black model that matches my top-hat and makes me look extra-suave while tap dancing through the streets.
The rain did eventually break, however, and we were treated to one mediocre, still mostly cloudy, day and one hot sunny day suitable for a couple hours on the beach. Alas, the better weather turned out to be a double-edged sword. Utila is well-known, and somewhat feared, for its prodigious sand fly population. As it turned out the bugs had also been impatiently waiting for a warmer, drier climate that would allow them unlimited access to all the various vulnerable parts of Laynni’s body. Stomach, hands, feet, calves, etc., etc. She’s now a walking chicken-pock. Of course, not to be overlooked are the two bites on my foot and the weird one on my knee that looks funny but doesn’t itch. I would heartily recommend to anyone going travelling to always remember to bring along a personal bug magnet, they’re worth their weight in calamine lotion.
Now to backtrack a little and fill you in on exactly how we managed to get here from Guatemala. Ahem: from our hotel in Livingston we walked to the dock, took a small boat to Puerto Barrios, walked downtown, took a minibus to the Honduran border, caught a ride in the back of a truck to the first Honduran town (and the immigration office, a 6X6 cubicle inhabited by a guy brandishing paperclips and a very official-looking rubber stamp), hopped on an exact replica of the bus I rode to school for years as a kid (complete with the “Your child’s safety is our business” sticker; except on ours the last “s” was missing) to Omoa, where we were pedalled in a little bike taxi to a hotel by a kid who was probably about eight years old. I couldn’t decide if we should feel upper-class or Oprah’s sweatshop-ish.
A couple buses and a taxi the following day had us comfortably waiting in the San Pedro Sula airport for our 2 o’clock flight to Utila. For less than $80 we felt it was well worth putting an end to all the “cultural” transport we had recently become so familiar with. Quick, easy, organized; flying is just such a treat.
1:30 You know, we could be on the beach by 3
1:45 This is weird, I wonder if the flight’s delayed (customs officer says no)
2:00 Obviously something’s wrong (negative again, this time from the guy at the gate)
2:30 What the hell? (a shrug from another Sosa employee)
3:00 OK, now I’m pretty sure something’s up
So I went downstairs to the ticket counter where I found out that there was a perfectly good explanation for the delay.
“No plane today”
“I see………really, no plane?”
My further questions regarding “when the hell somebody was going to tell us” were easily deflected by their oh-so-generous offer that we could fly tomorrow, if we wanted.
7:00am (the following morning): We’re told they have no idea when a flight might go because of bad weather in La Ceiba. We are just to wait and they’ll let us know. Sure they will.
8:30 We’re ushered onto the runway with two others where we board a tiny little 18-seater. We had barely belted our backpacks into the seats next to us before we arrived in Utila, just half an hour later, after a bit of a wobbly landing through the rain that took us much closer to the treetops than seems healthy (the Utila “airport” turned out to be just a landing strip, finally paved this year, an open shelter with a tin roof and one small luggage trolley).
Apparently we ended up on a special direct flight (which they never do, we’re told) which leads us to believe that somebody, or something, far more important than us needed in or out of Utila. Either way, lucky for us, especially compared to the guy we left behind in San Pedro Sula. Shawn, a(nother) San Franciscan, was on his way to the island of Guanaja (part of the same chain as Utila) for a one-week kayaking trip. He had left Thursday night, passed through El Salvador and arrived in Honduras around 9am. Unfortunately his bag did not. And on top of that he went through the same scenario as us except that he had been there four hours earlier and seemed no closer to leaving when our plane took off Saturday morning, and he still didn’t know where his luggage was. We’re planning to e-mail him to find out the thrilling conclusion.
Anyway, about Utila. I already mentioned that there are only two roads, and probably only about a dozen vehicles. Everybody else walks, bikes, or drives mopeds or 4-wheel ATV´s. There are even a couple of older expats that cruise around in golf carts. Small-town atmosphere to say the least. It’s also very different in that almost everybody speaks English even though Spanish is still officially their first language. In Guatemala (and other parts of Honduras) almost nobody spoke English so I was forced to communicate in roughly kindergarten-level Spanish most of the way. In Utila things are much simpler, although the English is usually more of what is often termed as “Spanglish”, with a strong Carribean influence thrown in for good measure. Some perfect examples come courtesy of Bill, the driver of our dive boat.
“Aw be waydin ahn ya, bra” (Assuring us he won’t leave)
“She be cute, bu’ mawch too wawd fo may, mahn”(Explaining why he chose to strike out at the bar)
“Da waves, day be foggin widma starin” (His excuse for missing the buoy)
The day after we arrived Laynni and I went for a couple of cold, windy morning dives which resulted in both some excellent marine viewing and a pesky cold for Laynni that would last the rest of our stay and prevent her from doing any more diving. On the bright side she was much more interested in just relaxing and hadn’t planned to dive much, anyway.
I spent a few more days underwater and the diving was excellent. The tiny island is ringed by an unbelievable 80 dive sites, it’s more or less non-stop reef all the way around. Some of the highlights: barracudas, moray eels, some huge lobsters, several porcupine fish, a reef squid, a turtle and a Northern Stargazer (its mouth and eyes are both on top of its head). Sadly, no whale sharks or seahorses. Good visibility and beautiful coral, though, (and cheap prices) make this a great place to spend some time, bad weather or not (although non-divers may get bored when it’s raining, assuming they don’t like to read two books a day like Laynni).
One of the divemasters-in-training, Ron, is a slightly paunchy 40-year old with a wetsuit that has obviously spent its fair share of time in use and has developed an unfortunately-located tear smack-dab in the crotch area. It doesn’t help that his bright blue shorts serve to draw as much attention as possible to the hole, or that the extra-snug suit uses some trick of physics to, shall we say, force things out through the opening. And believe me, the last thing you need when you’re dragging yourself over the side of the boat at the end of an hour-long dive is to have some luminescent blue smurf-dick thrust in your face. “Thanks for the help, Ron, but I think I’ll haul up my own tank next time.”
So here we are, back in San Pedro Sula, hoping for more success with our Continental flight home tomorrow than we did flying with Sosa. At least we know our way around the airport now. We’ll wrap things up from either Casa Dhanani ne Murphy or from home, so we’ll talk to you then.