Monterrico - Festival de la Tortuga 2009
Monterrico Travel Blog› entry 5 of 21 › view all entries
We heard about the Turtle festival while in Antigua and decided we wanted to head down there, particularly as Maree and Al had tried to release turtles before and for various reasons had missed out. I just love turtles and thought it would be quite something seeing them released in to the wild and being involved in some way.
We left San Pedro and had to travel via Antigua to Monterrico. When we arrived it was stinking hot... instant sweat running down your back and dripping off your face. We had no accommodation booked and had travelled with 5 others from San Pedro making a group of 9 in total, which created difficulties not only in decision making but also in finding accommodation to house us all.
Prior to the hell hole, two of the guys - Nikki (the German with the Irish accent) and Dom had gone to check out a placed called ´Johnny´s Place´, which apparently had a private room and seven dorm beds - although the dorm beds had been reserved and the parties had not yet shown up.
We were warned about the black sand and how it heats up during the day - thus foot wear is an essential, and we were warned about mosquitoes and sandflies - so drowned all exposed skin in repellent and wore long pants, sandals with socks.
Once we were covered up and smelling pretty revolting, we headed down to the beach to catch the evenings release of baby turtles. We arrived to a scene of mayhem - hundreds of people were milling about, many had bought tickets to collect baby turtles for release. People came around with buckets filled with hundreds of baby turtles, which they were exchanging for tickets. Some how - briefly - I ended up with a baby turtle, but I felt bad for it so released it straight away. Many kids were given baby turtles to release and a lot of the younger ones couldn´t really understand that it was not a toy. One little girl was encouraged to put it down, only to keep picking it up and dropping it on it´s head.
We then watched the little baby turtles scuttle across the beach to the sea´s edge, which was quite some journey - I felt that the barrier was too far back from the sea´s edge. As the turtles made their way we watched an amazing sunset across the sea, then headed back to Johnny´s for dinner. Afterwards we went next door which was filled with locals dancing or should I say 'dirty dancing' to regeton - the most popular music across South and Central America. There was one particular couple who provided us with much entertainment, the girl in a red bikini - barely able to hold herself up, and her partner bumping and grinding away - making sure she kept standing.
After a couple of drinks we decided that even with a couple of drinks under our belt we were not quite ready to dance to regeton, so we headed back to Johnny´s which was playing more varied and western music. The drinks kept flowing and we had a laugh... I even did a bit of table top dancing... lol... well they had long bench tables on the beach front and I just figured it was easier to dance on there than on the sand in my sexy sock sandals.
We headed to bed around 1am, but the party on the beach front kept going all night long. Not much sleep was had in our dorm, as it sounded like the party was right outside... and well... it was... plus people kept coming and going from the room and it was incredibly muggy - despite the fans.
Thankfully we moved to a place down the road - Hotel el Basco, it was more of a family place - quieter and cleaner. They also had a decent sized pool. So after sorting out our rooms we headed straight for a swim... the water was warm but still very refreshing. There were a lot of festivities about including a couple of low flying show planes, which were flying along the beach front. Maree, me and Al watched them for a while occasionally stepping in to waves, which I soon decided against due to the strength of the current.
That eve we headed back to the beach for the baby turtle release. I decided to wear a dress and flip flops this time as it was just too damn hot, but I made sure to cover myself in repellent. Well, as we walked along the beach I soon became covered in black beach sand as it stuck to the repellent... I think I gave a new image for the term 'dirty backpacker'. Unfortunately when we got to the place for the turtle release they had sold out of tickets, so we could only ask locals if we could pose with their baby turtles before they released them.
We then headed to the main square for some more local music, we had watched a band play for an hour the night before. Everyone ate street food except for me, as street food isn´t always veg friendly. We were entertained by a rather drunk local who kept trying to dance and involve us. I have to say that some of the guys were great sports, including Alan who brought out his infamous ´gibber chick´ - which can only really be described as a headless chicken on one leg... awesome entertainment for all! I however am not a fan of dancing with drunk smelly men, so declined the offer to get up there and boogie.
The following morning we went on a tour of the mangroves with a local guide at 5.
We left later that morning to head back to Antigua to get a bus to La Ceba in Honduras, so that we could get the ferry across to Utila in the Bay Islands to do our PADI course.