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Utila Travel Blog

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Beautiful West End

Holy mackerel!  Literally. I haven’t added a blog since june 18th.  The night before I met my cuz, sarah on roatan.  Getting there was a project…shuttle to a ferry, on which I threw my guts up after having scarfed down a burrito in the ferry  waiting area that took 45 minutes and that wound up containing chicken and ketchup.  KETCHUP.  Really?  In Honduras?

Arrived at Chillies “Hostel”, where Sarah was waiting with, to my delight, a small , private cottage with a hot shower.  Sarah and I haven’t spent any significant time together as adults, and Sarah is a little green to ‘roughing it’ travel ��" but within minutes of being in each other’s company, we both knew that traveling together was gonna be a no brainer.

Scorpion fish
 

On our first little jaunt into town to score some food, we met and were adopted by John, a Canadian who owns a glass bottom boat and snorkeling gear on the island.  We spent our two days hanging with him, and graciously accepting his above and beyond generosity and protection from the local ‘predators’ (an unfortunate product of the brand of ‘holiday’ tourism that dominates roatan).  Though our one full day in roatan was AMAZING due to the gorgeous  day, the rad snorkeling right off the beach (trumpetfish, scorpionfish, a sting ray and very friendly schools of  sergeant majors and grunts), johns private beach-front house and a thai meal that cost more than it would in new york city (thanks john : ) ��" it was definitely not the ‘right’ travel energy OR within our budget.

cutest fish in the sea

Our options for getting from roatan to utila were A) to take a $24 public ferry to la ceiba, wait five hours and then take another $24 public ferry to utila or B) to spend an extra $7 per person to charter a 4 hour private catamaran ride straight to the dock of our dive shop…guess which one we opted for???    So we rocked up to the altons dock in style, which went something like this…

Captain vern:  ok gals, we’re about 5 minutes from the dock.  Grab your packs and shoes and get ready to jump!!

Sarah and Jen:  errr…ok.

And kerplunk.

Sarah with her friends
  We couldn’t have jumped onto a more welcoming dock.  Thinking we were due to arrive the following day, the shop didn’t have our room ready.  We were ushered to a rundown room in a n’awlins style dilapidated house, then guided through our options for doing our advanced open water course.

Option 1:  Naui certification, which required a mandatory night dive and a written test.

Option 2: PADI certification, 5 adventure dives of our choosing plus 2 free fun dives.  No night dive required, no tests.

Being that I was vehemently against diving at night (as I am scared of the dark in my own bedroom), we went with PADI, and a fun loving English lad called Sam was selected  to teach us.

They thought she was one of them
  Of course, within seconds of agreeing to the PADI, I had Sam in one ear and Sarah in the other, chanting ‘night dive, night dive, night dive’.  I said I’d think about it, but I knew, almost instantly, that it was inevitable.

After being moved into our AWESOME cabana-esque oceanfront room the next day, utila swept us off our feet with its chilled out ambiance, good, affordable food and our front yard:  a dock full of warm, intelligent traveling divers, from novices to masters.  This week has been dive, dive, dive…our 5 electives consisted of a navigation dive, then sarah did her peak performance buoyancy (which I already did in gili trewangan ��" see thailand-bali-oz blog entitled “the beauty of breathing’ from November 2007) while I did my fish identification dive.  the next day, a deep dive on a wreck (SOOOO COOL) during which our friend Ryan found a ken doll, which we photographed and then left on the wheelhouse.

Loving life snorkeling in Roatan
  Next, was our photography dive ��" sarah and I took turns playing with my camera in an underwater housing we borrowed from an awesome dude named victor.

We surfaced to discover a flyer on the table in alton’s snack shack (which boasts a chef from texas ��" how appropriate)…the flyer offered a 500 lempira reward for aforementioned ken doll, whose name is popster paul , a prop a father/son duo from NYC brought with them traveling and accidentally dropped while diving the wreck.  Ben’s dad (whose name I cant remember) was happy to know that popster paul is alive and well, and he will most likely be rescued during the wreck dive going out tomorrow.

Sarah and I decided that, with the permission of shawn and Christine (the snack shacks owners), we would host a dinner party at the dive shop…first come, first serve, tips accepted for the pasta in dank pink sauce and garlic rolls that we whipped up in the wooden box  of a kitchen with a two windows looking out onto the deep blue sea.

look at him...quick quick take the picture!
  We fed 15+people well and then engaged in a little jam session slash singalong where me and rich, an UNBELIEVABLE songwriter who is doing his dive masters here, took turns on guitar, alternating between sharing our originals and playing the kind of songs (ie wonderwall-ish songs) that are conducive to a dock full of people from every corner of the globe.

Yesterday, Friday - two fun dives on the morning boat, both long, mellow dives.  Then seven hours of kicking around, beach bum style... and then ��" the moment of truth had arrived.  Through the course of my diving, I had actually gotten quite amped up for the night dive.  As the sun went down and we set up our equipment, the reality of plopping into dark water with a but small flashlights to lead the way through a dark coral reef, knowing that the large predatory fish come out at night, hit me ��" hard.

Hi everybody back home!
  My heart was racing as I held my mask and regulator with one hand, flashlight and weight belt with the other, and plunged into the ominous caribbean sea.  Sarah and I nervously joked about how our deceased grandpa was probably going to fuck with us via a tiger shark sighting. He was a joker, that guy.

The second we began our descent, all panic instantly subsided.  Being down there, while eerie, was so peaceful, comforting, exciting.  As my eyes adjusted, I took note of the thousand little red shrimp eyes peeking out from every crevasse in the coral, which upon illumination, appeared more vibrant than any flower or butterfly I have ever seen above surface.  Sam waved his flashlight around to indicate a spotting, and the four of us (sarah, victor, rocia ��" sam’s awesome girlfriend- and i) to witness an iridescent blue octopus about the size of a dinner plate suctioned to the coral.

el perro es muy limpio...uh I mean lindo, hehehe!
  We all gave each other  the ‘rock and roll’ hand signal, then swam on to ogle our surreal surroundings and shield our lights, waving our hands across the water to stir up the bioluminescent fairy dust that looked straight out of Avatar.  Night diving ��" ME GUTSA MUCHO!

We were met back at the dock with cocktails and otis redding, which turned into a drinky stony, encephalopod inspired  dance party in our bikinis and birds-nest hair do’s.

The night continued at treetanic, a hotel bar that is VERY reminiscent of antoni gaudi’s park guell.  Cant wait to take photos there in the daylight.  The hotel grounds is like a giant work of trippy art.

A ray just off of the beach shore in Roatan
  We were then led, in the pissing rain, to ‘bar in the bush,’  where we danced until the wee hours.  A lucky tuk-tuk (rare here) spotting saved us most of the 20 minute walk home.  I twisted up a doobie while sarah ran back and forth in the rain to the communal kitchen to boil up some pasta.  After smoking and eating, I jumped online to have a gander at the news.  The water was starting to inch up to the dock our room is on, and both the waves, surge and rain were intensifying. 

I googled “utila tropical storm” and the search instantly produced articles as new as 10 minutes old from literally every news outlet in the world  about the first atlantic tropical storm of the season, Alex, was brewing in the gulf of mexico and that the Honduran government has issued severe storm warnings for roatan and utila.

his fish friend really liked him
  Sarah and my initial laughter about the fact that our ocean front room on a tiny island was about to be the stage for a hurricane quickly turned into the realization that we were, in fact, in a very vulnerable situation, and as the water started to find its way beneath  our door ��" the panic set in. Our panic fueled a quick sweep of all of our belongings into our backpacks, which we piled onto our beds in case of a flood.  We inquired about the severity of the storm from Fifi, the Honduran security guard who is so named because he washed up on utila with amnesia 40 years ago during hurricane Fifi.  His response was (insert nearly unintelligible caribbean accent) utila safe.  No worry hurricane.  It get bad, hurricane Fifi come get you, keep you safe. All there was to do was curl up with our loaded backpacks and pass out.
Shirley and Meryle

We woke up today to rough waters and moderate rain.  All dives were cancelled, so we threw down some lempiras for a poker tournament  (which sarah won) while chef hugh whipped up a tandoori pork and coconut stew and hot chocolates with rum.  Its mellow here now, because everyone is watching the usa-ghana world cup match…which I am about to go catch the overtime of.  I’m assuming that when the game is over, everyone will gravitate back over to the covered area of the dock for a hangout because, well, there’s nowhere else to go.

About 5 more dives ahead and then off to the next destination ��" which we’re still trying to pin down…perhaps nicaragua’s corn islands for yet more dives???  Copan’s Mayan ruins??? Ometepe Island???  Maybe all three????  Who knows ��" it’s like having a lot of cool slides, monkey bars, swings and pools to choose from in a giant tropical playground.

yuuuuuummmmmm ceviche
   Good times.

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Beautiful West End
Beautiful West End
Scorpion fish
Scorpion fish
cutest fish in the sea
cutest fish in the sea
Sarah with her friends
Sarah with her friends
They thought she was one of them
They thought she was one of them
Loving life snorkeling in Roatan
Loving life snorkeling in Roatan
look at him...quick quick take the…
look at him...quick quick take th…
Hi everybody back home!
Hi everybody back home!
el perro es muy limpio...uh I mean…
el perro es muy limpio...uh I mea…
A ray just off of the beach shore …
A ray just off of the beach shore…
his fish friend really liked him
his fish friend really liked him
Shirley and Meryle
Shirley and Meryle
yuuuuuummmmmm ceviche
yuuuuuummmmmm ceviche
Our bodyguard slash sugardaddy sla…
Our bodyguard slash sugardaddy sl…
Aaaaamazing Thai food on the dock …
Aaaaamazing Thai food on the dock…
our room at chillies
our room at chillies
our little home
our little home
postcard
postcard
behind the wheel
behind the wheel
chillin on the trampoline
chillin on the trampoline
happy sailors
happy sailors
settin sail
settin sail
arriving at our next home
arriving at our next 'home'
the view from our room at altons
the view from our room at altons
the living room
the living room
cuzs
cuz's
nuf said
nuf said
sarah taking the plunge
sarah taking the plunge
introducing the scuba sarah doll...
introducing the scuba sarah doll...
into the wreck
into the wreck
ryan and popster paul
ryan and popster paul
creepy buoy
creepy buoy
indigo hamlet
indigo hamlet
french angelfish
french angelfish
the yellow ones
the yellow ones
wish i could rock that hairdo abov…
wish i could rock that hairdo abo…
octopus!!!!!!
octopus!!!!!!
the color was 200% brighter in per…
the color was 200% brighter in pe…
shrimp eyes
shrimp eyes
yellow stingray nestled in some ro…
yellow stingray nestled in some r…
sleeping stingray face
sleeping stingray face
Banana Tree
Banana Tree
Goofing on the bikes
Goofing on the bikes
Utila beach view
Utila beach view
Shes got the Sauce
She's got the Sauce
Simon ;-)
Simon ;-)
The View from our room
The View from our room
Were taking the night plunge
Were taking the night plunge
Suited up and ready to go
Suited up and ready to go
Faces of fear anticipating the dee…
Faces of fear anticipating the de…
post night dive dance party with S…
post night dive dance party with …
fool in the rain
fool in the rain
Baleadas delicioso!  Gracias Cindy…
Baleadas delicioso! Gracias Cind…
The market in Roatan
The market in Roatan
Thats how we roll
That's how we roll
enough said
enough said
all of the food is amazing
all of the food is amazing
Taco the parrot
Taco the parrot
Dogs and puppies are all over this…
Dogs and puppies are all over thi…
Our new home, Altons Dive Shop
Our new home, Altons Dive Shop
Lucy the shops pet turtle
Lucy the shops pet turtle
Crusin
Crusin'
life is good
life is good
So cute!
So cute!
yum eating avocados like apples
yum eating avocados like apples
Post dinner party jam session...li…
Post dinner party jam session...l…
Utila
photo by: Yoshu