Roatan, my island paradise
Roatan Travel Blog› entry 10 of 12 › view all entries
To get to the ferry dock in order to head to Roatan, I had to cross a bridge. Small problem, the hurricane had wiped out the bridge. There were two crossing options: either in a little metal basket hanging from a cable over the river, or in a dugout canoe, being pulled across by men in the now-chestdeep water. I opted for the cayuca (canoe). I sat precariously balanced, with all my belongings, as we moved through the water. Got over without incident, into another taxi on the other side, and on to the ferry dock.
Once I arrived in Roatan, it was already getting dark. I had picked out an inexpensive hotel from my guidebook, so I grabbed a cab to west end. The power was still out on the island. The hotel I had picked was no longer in existence, but luckily, West End is lined with accomodations (and after a hurricane, you're not going to have problems finding a vacancy!), so I went next door to Sunset Inn. The guy who was checking me in asked if I was a diver, and I told him I'd actually be looking for work. He suggested talking to their diveshop manager the next day.
I put my bags in the room, and went down to the bar on property, the infamous Twisted Toucan. The first person that I started chatting with has ended up being a good friend of mine over the years: a fellow Canadian who has also gotten stuck in Roatan.
The lack of electricity didn't put a damper on spirits, and there was quite a crowd. I made the very poor mistake of not applying bugspray, not realized that the famed Roatan sandflies are not confined to the sand. Some people don't react to their bites, I'm not one of those people. I was so itchy for the next few days, and my body covered in itchy red bumps, my legs felt like the page of a braille book. For those of you who are heading to Roatan: be diligent with your bug spray!!! Incidentally, after a period of time, your body builds up some kind of an immunity, so you can still feel the annoyance when they bite, but no lasting effect, no itching or mark afterwards.
Anyway, got to know a few people at the bar, and the next day I stopped by the diveshop, Ocean Divers (now re-located and re-named Ocean Connections). With the news of the approaching hurricane, apparently several dive instructors had left the island, so there was work available!
Roatan actually got very little damage with hurricane Mitch, relatively speaking, mostly to docks and some places right on the waterline. The mainland got all the heavy rains and flooding to one side of Roatan, and on the other side of Roatan, sister island Guanaja was in the eye of the hurricane, completely flattened by galeforce winds. However, to the rest of the world listening to news reports, all of Honduras was a mess, and that really hurt the tourism industry. I had work, but it was commission based on the courses I taught, and there was just a small trickle of students coming in.
Nevertheless, it was enough to keep me there for the moment. I stayed at a room above the diveshop for the first few weeks, and then found a 2 bedroom wood house to share with one of the other instructors, Kaj, that was just a couple minutes walk from West End. We had a closeknit staff, and had a lot of fun times together. On my days off, I'd suntan at the end of the dock with a friend of mine. We got to know all the water-taxi guys, so part of the day we'd spend riding on boats.
The rainy season began: 10 days straight, I thought it would never end (the next year, there was 30 days straight!). The little sandy road in West End would turn into a pothole nightmare: potholes large enough to swallow a small child (my boys had so much fun in those pot holes this past year!!). Rain didn't stop people from going to the Twisted Toucan for drinks: we'd all crowd around, trying to stay in the small dry circle surrounding the bar.
Christmas approached. Kaj and I made a beautiful Christmas tree from palm fronds, complete with popcorn strings and paper chains. We had a Christmas party at our place, and on Christmas day, a group of us all had a great Christmas lunch together, the diveshop was closed. That was a nice change: most tourist spots, Christmas is business as usual, with the customers not even seeming to realize that they are having people work on Christmas day.
In the new year, a large dive conference, DEMA, was scheduled in New Orleans, and I had always wanted to go check it out, so I decided this would be the year.