Thursday, July 12, 2012

The story continues.... you've figured out I'm regressing in my mind, reliving past voyages to exotic places, while in reality I'm running the gamut of routine poking and prodding my way, hopefully, to good health.  Or maybe we should just talk about health care?  Didn't think so!

So I figured you're on pins and needles to hear "the rest of the story" which, by the way, takes us back to the month of February 2009.  We're aboard a 51' sailboat with friends whom we'd only met once, briefly, in Port Townsend, WA.  Now that's a leap of faith in itself, but Howard will never pass up a chance to go sailing, though we could have easily become victims of a random kidnapping for ransom, but then we'd need wealthy kids and friends.  Soooo......

My turn

This is what sailing is all about!  Up by 5 a.m. for a very long day, 60 some miles could be 12 hours unless we go really fast, and fast we went, sailing all the way!  The seas started getting big and choppy, 6 footers, and some of our folks were feeling a little queasy.  We were good, in our element (Lynda knocking on wood).  These waves don't compare to the Pacific Ocean near Half Moon Bay.  Ever hear of  Mavericks where 50 foot waves bring surfers from all over the world?!

In his element!

By late afternoon we cautiously made our way through a narrow entrance, guarded by huge rocks on either side, into a beautiful protected cove near the town of Puerto Escondido on the Caribbean side of mainland Honduras.  That night we were treated to the screams of Howler monkeys high up in the jungle.  We passed on the shore hike the following day as Howard has come down with his usual "travelers' gout".  His right foot and knee are swollen and inflamed and walking is quite painful.

Approaching a very narrow entrance

Inside our little cove

Leaving our pristine little cove early the next morning we take an easterly course, beating dead into the wind, motorsailing for approximately 40 nautical miles to Isla de Utila, one of the Bay Islands of Honduras.  Our progress is slow and takes about 8 hours, putting us into the harbor about 3 p.m.

Approaching Isla de Utila

Anchoring has become increasingly difficult as the boat's windlass, a mechanical device used to raise the heavy anchor, is slowly deteriorating and will need to be replaced as soon as parts and shipment can be arranged; most likely on Roatan.  Here in Utila the boat traffic is considerable and we cautiously position the boat before dropping anchor.  Everyone agrees that it is time to go ashore for a meal off the boat.  Checking into the country will have to wait till tomorrow.  We had to get exit visas from Belize and now we have to "officially" enter Honduras.

After 17 days, the last 7 of which have basically been at sea, albeit with one beautiful anchorage after another, we decide it is now time for us to move ashore and let our gracious hosts deal with boat repairs.  Our bodies have been constantly in motion.  Even when sleeping the boat is rocking and I have grown quite fond of the "cradle" effect.  Getting in and out of the dinghy, especially at docks that are higher than my meager statue allows, goes from comical to ridiculous.  Suffice to say that I am getting quite agile and a bit of a contortionist.  I will leave you with that picture in mind!  Now walking on "terra firma" is quite a different story.  We weave like a bunch of drunks.  I have taken more falls on the first day ashore after a sailing trip and am determined that this will not be one of them.

Tuesday morning we go ashore to find the Port Captain and Immigration offices and get legally checked into Honduras, then set off to find ourselves a "home" for the next few days.  We are immediately surrounded by local people intent on helping us.  The guys at the internet cafe and a couple of ladies from Sedona all recommend the Hotel Utila.

Balcony view from Hotel Utila

We soon have a very nice room by local standards with AC and hot water, both hard to come by, cable TV in English no less, and wireless internet!  And for $35 a day, only $15 without the AC, but we are feeling reckless!  A quick walk for me to the farmacia and Howard has pills for his gout.  It is so nice not to have to arrange a doctor's appointment to get medications that are sold over the counter in most countries outside of the U.S.

The "flavor" of the island is a combination of many multi-cultural nationalities.  The local native islanders are often blue-eyed and light skinned with ancestors from England or the Cayman Islands.  There is also the Caribe African and mainland Hispanic Hondurans.  A Lot of ex-pats from all over the world, U.S. and Australia seemingly most predominant, but Canadians and Europeans as well, have moved here and opened businesses, namely restaurants or dive shops.  Overall the atmosphere is sort of 60's, Bob Marley, reggae and youngish, very laid-back, pleasant and friendly.

Main street, very narrow with nasty drop-offs

The restaurant choices are many, varied and cheap. In fact the cost of living overall here is amazingly reasonable.   The Honduran currency is lempiras and the exchange rate at this time is 19.23L to one U.S. dollar.  When presented with a bill of several hundred lempiras one quickly learns to divide by 20 and add a couple!

We settled into a routine of favorite places for certain meals: breakfast at Munchies serving home made yogurts, granola and fresh fruit and egg dishes. Lunch or dinner at the CafĂ© Barracuda whose menu always included fresh steamed veggies and great salads and the “just caught fish of the day”. Then we discovered Kate’s “El Piccolo”. This was a tad more expensive with fresh, homemade raviolis, Greek salads with their own home grown basil and fresh mozzarella, hard to resist.

Eclectic, no?

Honduras is a third world country; of that there is no doubt.  I do not know the state of its politics, but here there was no sign of protest or unrest as frequently occurs on the Mainland.  I often walked the streets by myself, camera in tow, never once feeling concerned for my safety.  There was no begging, the children all attended local schools, the locals busy with various jobs, the shopkeepers maintained clean, appealing goods and stores, and lots of laughter and camaraderie were evident.

Local merchant displays

Now we need to address our means of travel between Utila and Roatan, a mere 20 miles away.  How hard can this be?  Well, it seems that both the ferry which runs twice daily, and commercial flights which are only on certain days of the week and leave at 6:30 a.m., must first go to La Ceiba on the mainland, disembark, and then re-board for the trip to Roatan.  This can take from several hours to all day with us schlepping a ton of luggage, or so it seems when one tries to pack for a month.

We found a travel agent during one of our many walks and in discussing our options she made a few calls and offered us an interesting proposal. How would we like to charter our very own private plane, a Cessna 180? Well first of all this had to be terribly expensive and secondly I’m just getting somewhat used to flying aboard an 8-10 seater and now you want to cram me into a sardine can built for 4 small adults, 3 max with all our stuff! The cost for Saturday was the same as flying the commercial route but we could pick our own time of departure. This is beginning to sound like a possibility. OK, done deal, go to ATM for cash up front but don’t worry we do this all the time. And yes, we’ll arrange for a taxi to pick you up at the hotel.  Don’t worry, the plane is very safe, the pilot very experienced! OMG……
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