Thursday, 31 January 2013

Relaxed on Roatan

Sometimes getting to another piece of paradise requires a bit of effort. Roatan Island is one of those places.

We left Copan at 8 am and travelled about 6 hours on yet another bloody bus to get to the ferry. We waited for ages then struggled through the mad crowd to get a seat outside. The ocean was choppy, it was going to be a long and interesting trip.

Thank god I got a seat outside as it didn't take long for people to start to get sea sick. I put in my iPod, shut my eyes and tried to breathe the fresh salt air. After a couple of hours we had made it to Roatan. It took another age and a bit of rugby type tackling to get our bags then we climbed onto another bus for a 40 minute trip to West End.

We checked in to our very plush accommodation ... well plush by backpacker standards. There was a back deck with a hammock and views over the water. Now this is my kind of place.

I woke up the next morning and wandered off to see if this really was paradise. I wasn't disappointed.

Roatan has picture postcard beaches with the whitest of sand fringed by palm trees. It is a diving mecca with about 100km's of reef not far from shore. And it has an amazing little restaurant run by an Aussie girl .... amazing coffee overlooking the ocean. Ahhhhh.

The sandy track running along the ocean front is lined with cute little shops, bars and restaurants. This island has become a stop for many large cruise ships so the sleepy seaside village now caters to the demanding cruise ship clientele. But some of the traditions still remain .... I was looking at a dress in a shop when I turned around and saw the owner looking through a pile of iguanas. They were gutted and ready to be booked for dinner! Eeeeww I got out of there rather quickly.

I decided that if this place was a diving mecca I should take a look. We headed out with a local dude who is a dive master (and part fish) and his offsider who was about 12.

They took us along the coast to check out the dolphins before heading out to the reef.

We saw crabs and lobster, loads of small colorful fish and some amazing coral. The water was warm and so very clear.

Life on Roatan is relaxed and very chilled. No one is in a hurry, they can relax because they are already in paradise. It's my kinda place.

More pics
Honduras - Roatan Island

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Happy new year Honduras style

Writing about special occassions such as Christmas or New Year on the road is fun, but it is also a problem.... it let's you know how far behind I am with my blog.

Not to worry.

I was up at 4.30am on New Years Eve ... crazy, I know. I hopped onto the bus quite bleary eyed and ready to go back to sleep then realized I'd left my bloody passport in my back pack. I had to get off the bus (a struggle in the cold, dark morning), climb onto the roof of the bus, across all the bags, take the lock off my pack in the dark and find the bloody thing so I could get back inside and try to sleep. Some how I managed to get it quite quickly. Thank god.

The boarder crossing from Guatemala into Honduras is quite civilized. After some quick paperwork and a couple of passport stamps, it was back in the bus and off to Copan.

After the touristy town of Antigua I was a bit surprised by Copan. It is a bit of a one horse town with the common accessory seeming to be a gun or a very big knife. Oh well I'll give these dudes the benefit of the doubt and assume the weapons are for farming or hunting or some such normal type activity.

At least the police were friendly.

As I wandered around town I got the feeling that the locals didn't come across many travellers .... we seemed to get stared at A LOT. Getting stared at by people with weapons can be a little disconcerting.

Note: there are no pictures of people with weapons ... I'm not that foolish!

We headed out to a restaurant bar type place for our last dinner of 2012. The food was good, the strawberry margaritas even better and the tequilla shots kept appearing.

Then the band started up. I'd obviously had enough tequila to think I was a rock star because I soon found myself on stage belting out a tune or two.

Funny thing was the band kept inviting me back. Those of you who know me well will know how funny that actually is.

We saw in the New Year with fireworks over the town square. The men with guns were now throwing crackers .... I toddled off to bed before they really let fire.

Happy new year!

Pics of new year shenanigans

Honduras - Copan

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Soaking up the atmosphere in Antigua

I decided to take a few days to relax in Antigua. To ensure I made the most of this downtime, I checked in to a hotel with a pool for a few days. Well it isn't really relaxing if you don't have a pool now is it??

This place also had amazing bed linen ... well it was probably just basic 'nice' linen but I've been sleeping in such dodgy places for so long I'd forgotten what nice linen felt like. Oh, and the bed was so very comfy and so were the pillows. A few nights without lumpy rock hard pillows ..... paradise.

Antigua was founded in the mid 1500's and was the capital of Guatemala until it was devastated by the 1773 earthquake. The town was slowly rebuilt with much of it's original character retained. The town has been declared a national monument and is also a UNESCO world heritage site.

I spent my mornings by the pool or in the pool as it was bloody hot, and wandered in to town in the afternoon when the weather started to cool.

There are many Spanish language schools in the area so there is a constant stream of travelers hanging out. I probably should have checked into language school as my Spanish is really non-existent but decided my miming skills had done ok up until now so why spoil a good thing.

The influx of travelers in Antigua has led to a load of westernized restaurants and cafes opening. Now I'm all for eating the local fare but it was great to have a change from rice and beans.

I did indulge just a little in the great coffee and may have tasted key lime pie and chocolate cheesecake with my friend Senait. Well we needed to eat something while using the free wifi.

Wandering the streets there are some beautiful buildings and some crumbling ruins.

The streets in the centre of town are cobble stones .... large and very uneven cobble stones. I stumbled along not looking where I'm going, admiring the locals in traditional dress. Some of these people are dressed for the tourists and try and sell all kinds of tat, others are living the traditional life and love to have a chat with an English speaking crazy person (aka me).

These dudes aren't in traditional dress, they are just random street performers who really weren't at all entertaining.

The town sits at the base of three volcanoes, Acatenango, Fuego and Agua. I didn't climb any of them ... I preferred to admire the view from my poolside sun lounge. Well with views like this, who could blame me?

More photos
Guatemala - Antigua

Friday, 18 January 2013

Small group travel .... boozed up abroad

I'm not sure if I've told you, but I decided to do a small group tour through Central America. I'd met loads of travelers full of horror stories of being robbed, held up at knife point etc. I wanted to travel on chicken buses but I also wanted to remain alive.

Also my very poor (read that as non-existent) Spanish would impede my ability to travel from Mexico to Panama .... if I wanted to find a room, book a bus ticket or eat that is.

The six week tour I was on can be broken up into 3 x 2 week trips so I've had a few travel buddies with me since Playa, with others coming and going.

All was going well ... I'd met some amazing people and made some good friends. The basics trips with intrepid are usually made up of like minded people who often travel independently and like to have a bit of fun.




Then we picked up a few new people in San Jose.

A very random, mumbling anti-social mid 50s woman joined Vic and I in our room. I thought she was odd but tried to chat to make her feel welcome. My attempts were unsuccessful, but I thought whatevs.

During the night she had a bit of a screaming fit then early the next morning was mumbling 'don't throw me in the river' when Vic turned the shower on. I had a bit of a giggle but didn't think too much of it. I was also just a little bit disturbed by the aroma she was emitting but she didn't see the need to shower so who am I to judge.

We headed to the station and boarded the 6am bus bound for Puerto Viejo. Just my luck, I had to sit next to the unwashed one. I pulled out my iPod and settled in for the 4.5 hour trip, trying desperately not to breathe through my nose. At close range she smelt like a homeless, very unwashed wino .... kinda like the dudes living on the streets around my old neighborhood of Kings Cross.

All was going as well as could be expected when I noticed she was had started sipping out of a cask of wine .... then she started skulling loads of booze. At this stage it wasn't yet 8am.

Picture it .... it is really, really humid, the road is windy and the great unwashed one has turned into a mountain of jelly. Every time we went round a corner she ended up nearly on top of me. I was slightly disturbed.

We finally arrived in the amazing beachside town of Puerto Viejo and I scrambled off the bus. I thought the drama was over .... but the best was yet to come.

The great unwashed one was so drunk ... her eyes were glazed and rolling around in her head and she had trouble standing. She stumbled down the steps of the bus, pushed through everyone then toppled over as she tried to get her bag. She then stood in the path of a moving vehicle before being rescued by our group leader.

We headed down the sandy road to our accomm. We'd gone about 2 minutes when she bit the dust. Sprawled on the road she was helpless. She was so pissed she was a rag doll ... poor Mong had to use all her energy to try and get her on her feet.

I kept having a giggle .... well you need to keep your sense of humour or life would be very sad.

We got to the hotel and the great unwashed one fell into a chair, rolled her eyes and promptly went to sleep.

The bonus was she was in her own room ... there's no way I'll be bunking down with her again.

The last I saw of her she was walking around the hotel in her flowing leopard nightwear wearing a headlight on her head!?!

It is very sad really. I only hope she can pull herself together and she doesn't injure herself ... or one of us for that matter.

OMG the next two weeks are going to be interesting!

Update ... It's the next morning as I'm writing this post. She's been out for a walk. Mmmmm, seems she found the liquor store. Oh dear, she's now the proud owner of another stash of wine casks.

Please note: The people in the photos above are generally normal or only slightly crazy and are only found drinking at 6am if they haven't been to bed yet. There is no photographic evidence of the great unwashed in action as this would be uncharitable.