La Ceiba & the island of Utila
13/05/2009 30 °C
'Oiga, Aqui por favor, AQUI!' steve shouts as our micro bus tears around the corner that has the Headman Alas bus terminal, well more like a little office with a sign in the middle of nowhere. The driver knew he had passengers with connect tickets here but would have gone straight through to Copan Centro if we didn't say something, and we'd have missed our bus which was due to depart in 5 mins! Headman Alas is a luxury service and we are treated with movies and chips and soft drink! We only just make the connecting bus from the border town Copan, destination La Ceiba. Its amazing, as soon as you cross a border the scenery and the people change. Just like that. The buildings are in slightly better nick than Guatamala and as we get closer to the ocean the road is flanked by palm plantations and jungle. Our tickets state that we should arrive at 4.30pm....however the reality is that the bus arrives in La Ceiba at 7.30pm. When its dark its always harder to decide where to go, what are the better hotels and really scope the place out. Luckily we score a friendly cabbie who shows us several accomdations thoughout downtown and we pick the better of the seedy rooms on offer. Watch out for the homless guy there, and there, and there.....
On the street we meet a local guy called Kenneth who is slightly too friendly offering us info about the Bay islands, accomodations and resturants. He was born on Roatan the most built up of the islands and spoke english as his first language. Alot of the locals are of African decent and speak english with that unmistakeable caribbean accent as a result of British settlement. He hassles us to buy some weed in the middle of the street, we decline and back away into our accom. Downtown La Cieba is a bit of a dive, there are many homeless blokes out the front of our hotel and the streets are sprinkled with rubbish. We wander towards the ocean and its a little nicer, with resturants and bars. We have our first feel of the Caribbean as we walk along the beach and dip our toes in the water. Very warm. WOOOO THE CARIBBEAN! So excited about swimming again after the inland stint!
Early rise to catch the ferry but we need to find an ATM first. As soon as we step out of the hotel Kenneth is ONTO us. Sheesh. AND then a little kid comes along, drops in on Kenneth and starts beging for money. WTF we haven't even had a coffee yet. Here have 10c and PISS off gromet!. Now Kenneth, what can I do for you? He offers to show us to an ATM that 'works properly'. Thanks but no thanks Kenneth and walk towards one with an armed guard. The first screen on the ATM said ¨do not let anyone show you to an ATM.......¨. Who knows what Kenneth was up to and we try and lose him but he keeps hassling us to buy weed. We decline over and over. Then he hits us up for some money for his brekkie. Its only a couple of bucks so we buy our freedom. Far out now where's the coffee!!!
The ferry (ours the smaller of the 2) is 10kms out of town, not really in walking range, so we catch a cab. Tie the boards on! After a debate with ferry staff on whether we paid money for the boards and if it was enough (they sting you wherever they can for the boards, everyone has a price!) the boat left on time at 9.30am half full. We cruised across the aqua water, there is a small 1-2ft swell along the way. A local, who was all dressed up from previous night out, and thought he was king ping, got sea sick and did a techni colour yawn off the side of the boat spraying a few unfortunates nearby. Hahahaha, it was coming out his nose and all! 1hr later and we pull into a palm tree lined island. Welcome to Utila. One of three bay islands, and the cheapest. We see some kids playing on the dock, jumping into the water. One of the kids notices our Australia flag on the backpacks and starts with 'you from Australia'. We have immediate friends. Two of the kids are from Aus, the other two from the states. Full of energy and very helpful the kids ask if they can carry our stuff (yeah sure here ya go!) and show us to 'the best accom on Utila' where they are staying which is cheap and cheerful, chewing our ears off ALL the way about surfing and travelling.
And what a story they had to tell! The two Aussie kids (Jessie and Sam) had dutch parents (Micheal and Ciska) and were riding on tandam bicycles from LA to Chile! They had been on the road for 10 months and had backpacked Asia prior to this trip. The other kids were American, Daryl and Davey, with parents John and Nancy. They were riding from Alaska to Argentina!!!!!!!! They had been on the road for 18 months!! The kids showed a level of maturity beyond their years, knowledgable about the world and had traveled far more than us. It was great to chat to both of the families who were friendly and a wealth of information. You can check out their blogs of insanity at: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/4438
After chilling with the crazy bike families IT WAS TIME TO HIT THE WATER for our first swim in who knows how long!
We hired some snorkling gear and hit the reef. A short walk away from our accom was a spectacular reef which had a mass of exquisite coral and fish. The coral reef continued for about 100m out from the shore before a steep coral wall dropped off into the abyss.
Early the next day we hired a kayak and snorkling gear and made our way from Oyster Bed Lagoon on the south shore through a 3km long esturary canal to the north side of the island, Rocky Harbour. The canal was narrow in the middle with the mangroves creating a tunnel. With paddles touching the sides Steve thinks its a good idea to stand on the kayak like a paddle board. He fell in the drink in no time, smacking Jess on the shoulder with his paddle on the way down! The canal widened when we reached Rocky Harbour at the other side. We explored the white sand beaches by foot where we bumped into a local from the iguana research station who was catching pregnant iguanas for their hatching program. After he dissapeared into the bush, there was no one else in sight.....
After a bite to eat the bay provided some more great snorkling. The coral was nicer on the southern side but the northern still had alot of beauty....
Back through the canal to the southern side we hand in the kayak but keep the snorkling gear and hit the reef again!
The town of Ultila is a sleepy caribbean villiage which has a tourism industry geared up for fishing, diving (apparentely some of the best diving in the world and the cheapest place to get certified), and killer whale spotting. There are an array of cute little shops and cafes and some killer cinnamin scrolls on offer.
Although you could loose yourself here our Caribbean island fix was complete after 3 days and we ferry it back to the mainland and attempt to split from Honuras to El Salvador in a day. Need waves. We timed the Bus from La Cieba to San Pedro Sula straight up and were hopefull of a connecting bus to San Salvador. Dreams shattered as we are informaed that only 1 bus leaves daily at 7.00am despite the Lonely Planet saying there is one at 1.00pm. PS - lonley planet provide great guide books, BUT, from our experience they are about 80% correct and out date much quicker than they are up dated....We have to spend the night in San Pedro Sula (which is a lil seedy). DAMIT, chomping at the bit Steve is unhappy as he knows there is a swell in El Salvador and we look like missing the first day of it now...
In San Pedro Sula we find oursleves staying in the lovely Hostel Tamerindo, on a nicer part in the outskirts of town, housed in an old mansion and run by a central american pop star! We enjoy our stay, make the most of the kitchen and TV room facilities, share stories with other travellers and make for the bus early the next day... El Salvador here we come!!!!