first arrival in Honduras, greeted by Hurricane Mitch

La Ceiba Travel Blog

 › entry 9 of 12 › view all entries

Summer ended, things wound down at the skate shop, and we started into fall.  I made my plans to set out on my next trip, this time I had decided on Honduras.   I had read quite a bit about the Bay Islands of Honduras, which were gaining a reputation for their dive sites.  And I wanted to learn more Spanish, so I decided to take a few weeks of Spanish classes with a homestay program on the mainland when I arrived.  I booked my ticket down, as well as my Spanish course, and I’d figure out the rest when I got there.

I flew down via Houston, where I overnighted with some friends of mine who had been customers on the dive boat in Egypt.  The next day, I took a flight to San Pedro Sula, and from there took a 3 hour bus to La Ceiba.  It went pretty smoothly: by this point in my travels I had learned to pack a lot lighter, so other than my divegear (which a miraculously managed to cram into a duffel bag), I just had a carry-on size backpack with my belongings.

I checked into a hotel, since I was arriving a few days before my course and homestay started.  A couple days later, got settled into my homestay.  The parents were away for the first couple days, so I was just staying with the grandma and 11 yr old, until they returned with their baby.  It’s been 9 years now since my first arrival in Honduras (wow, can’t believe how fast time goes), so my first memories have become a bit blurred over time.

My classes were one on one, which was great: I had taken a year of Spanish in high school, and with my fluency in French, I just needed lots of practice with conversation. 

About a week or so after my arrival in Honduras, we heard news that a hurricane was coming.  Mitch, later to be nicknamed ‘Mitch the bitch’: I was about to experience my first hurricane, and it was a category 5, the highest rating for a hurricane.

Mitch delayed it’s arrival a little bit, which I was happy for, as all my clothes had been at the laundrimat and I was wondering what I would do with no clean clothes (yes, this was actually the thought going through my mind when confronted with an approaching hurricane!).  Classes obviously were cancelled, and each student’s family had the responsibility of taking care of them.  My family stocked up on food and water.  The rains started.  That evening, they made the decision to take us to a relative’s apartment, which was a 2nd floor apartment, incase the house became flooded.  My host dad ferried relatives to the apartment in his pickup street.  I remember as we were waiting to go, the 11 yr old in the family was waiting by the door with a blow-up mattress: ready to paddle around in the street! 

When it was our turn to go, the cab of the truck was crowded, I think there were 5 of us.  The rain was coming down so hard, it was like in a movie, you could hardly see a few feet in front of you.  The wind was already blowing pretty hard: there were hotel and business signs being ripped off of where they were hanging.  We got to the apartment and settled in for the duration.  There were 17 people in all, a mix of adults and children, in a one bedroom apartment.  The power went out, but we had a battery powered radio to keep abreast when the news, though sometimes the frequency wasn’t very good.

The next day, the storm was abating, we were able to go back to the house, which thankfully hadn't flooded.  I took some time in the afternoon to walk around town: there were areas where the water was up to my knees in the streets (and just outside of La Ceiba, entire villages had been completely flooded out, the bridges all washed out).  The government imposed a 8pm curfew and a ban on alcohol, to try to curb problems with looting and crime.  There was a jailbreak.  The electricity remained off for about a week following: we bought a little propane cooker.  No water: my family would fill containers from somewhere and bring them in (I went out and just showered in the rain one day).  There wasn't any hot water to begin with (most houses have only cold water plumbing), so at least that part didn't take any getting used to.  Since there was a curfew, and there was only candlelight at night, bedtime got pretty early, as there wasn't much else to do!  I finally was able to get to a public phone that was open to call my family and let them know I was okay.  We were fortunate: it's estimated that about 10,000 Hondurans died in that hurricane.  Months later, I still saw signs of the devastation: watermarks in the San Pedro Sula airport 5 feet from the ground, hundreds of makeshift, tarp homes on the outskirts of the cities, bridges and roads still being repaired.

Classes resumed, I finished off what I had booked, and contemplated my next move.  In the face of the hurricane, it seemed pretty unlikely that I would be able to find work.  But I was this far already, I might as well head over to Roatan and check it out!  So I said my goodbyes to my host family and school mates, and made my way to the ferry dock.

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La Ceiba
photo by: giotravel