I still felt well enough in the morning, and we were scheduled to dock in Roatan, Honduras, around 11am, so I felt excited about being able to get back on land for a bit. We got up and went to get breakfast at the buffet, which was just as impressive as the lunch spread. I got some yogurt and light fare, so as not to upset my stomach and we sat and watched as the tropical hills rolled by as we moved into port. It took some time for the ship to move into position and we ate our breakfast leisurely until it was time to make our way downstairs and onto land.
I’d booked us an excursion that took us on a bus tour of the island, followed by a glass-bottomed semi-submarine tour of the reef. We were met by our guide when we disembarked the ship, and she led our group over to the bus. She was a nice woman, 41 years old, who had lived on the island her whole life and had worked in this job for 18 years. She seemed grateful for the job, but on breaks she also seemed bored or irritated with the tourists to some degree. We drove around, and she pointed out various things to look at: the cashew trees, the village near the port, houses for sale ($500,000 USD), etc. She gave us some history of the island and the people who live there, and some insight into life there. In looking out the window on the tour, most of the people seemed to be living in deep poverty. The guide said that there was a monopoly on the electric service on the island, so it was not uncommon for electric bills to be more than rent each month - $500 for electric per month was typical. Most of the goods and food in the markets are imported from mainland Honduras and Guatamala, and from the United States. She said the goods are very expensive. We stopped at a restaurant on stilts that stood out in the sea. A group of performers danced and sang for us, and the restaurant offered us free drinks and showed us the food menu, though since we had just eaten breakfast, we had our drinks and then walked around down by the water. We took off our shoes and walked in the waves, but after a bit, we saw broken glass and a hypodermic needle, so decided it was not a great place to do that. It was time to get back on the bus, anyway. We all got back on and they drove us to the glass-bottom submarine. We climbed down inside (I could see why they didn’t recommend this tour for people with claustrophobia – it was fairly cramped quarters). Our new guide climbed down with us. She was a certified reef diver and a biologist, a white woman whos main takeaway points for the tour were: Don’t step on the coral and don’t pee on the coral. Oh, and eat the lionfish.
The water was sort of murky. There’d been some storms in the area recently. In fact, a tourist boat had sunk a week ago and several tourists had drowned or had not been found. Not the kind of thing you want to think about while out in the water with your family and a heard of other people… We saw some groups of trigger fish and a needlefish, an angelfish, a parrotfish, and some huge corals and sponges, though the visibility was not great. It was still pretty spectacular to see, despite not seeing as far as we’d hoped.
We got back to the dock and got off the boat, then back on the bus. This time, we went around to the other side of the island and our guide showed us her house and where other family members lived in the area. Her grandmother, who was usually always outside on her porch, was inside because she was feeling sick. Passing a gas station, on of the only ones on the island. With gas at 5 to 6 dollars a gallon, it was guarded by a man in camo fatigues armed with an assault rifle. I tried to get a photo of him, but the bus went around a bend and the whole scene disappeared just as I began to take it in. We stopped at a cameo factory – the only working cameo factory in the Americas. It was interesting to see the artwork, though the pieces that I could afford were crudely made, and the pieces that were intricately carved were far out of my price range. We looked around a bit and then wandered outside across the road. We could see the ship in the distance. Once the other passengers were done at the factory, we got back on the bus and got dropped off at the port.
We still had four hours or so before the ship was set to leave, and Mike had his heart set on getting some lionfish to eat, so we wandered back out the gates to the nearby village. There were guards at the gate, but they didn’t really give us a second look. We walked out and were immediately taken by two local ‘guides’ who just hooked onto us and started walking with us. They were very pushy, so we went into a store to see if we could lose them. “No problem, we wait,” said one of them, so we fumbled around the store, then went back out where they started walking with us again, trying to get us to go to the shops and restaurants that they were affiliated with. We went into another building, this one a series of indoor booths, like a flea market, though mostly everything had all the same touristy stuff. We walked back out, and I was sick of the guys at this point, so I told them that we had just gotten off a tour, so didn’t need a tour. They started saying that we didn’t need to pay them, they would get paid if we went to the restaurant that they recommended, but they just gave me a bad feeling, so I told them again that we didn’t need a tour. They left us alone then. We walked a bit, along the main road in the town, and checked in every restaurant we saw if they had lionfish. None of them did. We were on the wrong side of the island for lionfish. These blue and yellow buildings were the view from a piss-smelling, graffiti-covered, falling apart pier jutting out into the water where we took a break to drink water from a coconut sliced open by a man selling them on the side of the road. There was a couple over in the corner who tried to keep an eye on all of us strange tourists in between making out, and a man passed out on one of the wooden benches. Comfy. Later, we walked down the street in the opposite direction, where we were picked up by our new fourteen-year-old guide. He definitely didn’t have the same creep vibe going as the other guys, so we stuck with him. He said he was excited to visit the US some day. I asked him what areas he wanted to visit. "Texas, Miami, and Florida," he replied. He had chosen to go to school at night so he can work as a guide during the daytime. He took us to "the best restaurant on the island" - where we could get iguana to eat, after the fruitless hunt for lionfish. There was a mini zoo near the restaurant where a spider monkey, some capuchins and a few macaws were kept. The only indigenous animal there was a sickly, sunburned white-tailed deer. Everything else was imported from the mainland, though it seemed to me that the monkeys would be more efficient at traveling to an island from the mainland than a deer, and the birds could probably fly the six miles, but who knows. The kid definitely enjoyed the monkey encounter. As we were leaving the zoo, our guide stopped over to talk to some of his cousins who were sitting on an old couch amidst a trash heap underneath a building. They were wrapping things around their hands – foam from old cushions followed by plastic bags, tied with twine. Boxing gloves. I asked if we could watch the boxing match, and they gleefully accepted and began boastful threats to each other, while the young girls giggled at the antics. “I’ma leave ‘im on da ground cryin’!” said one of them. Our guide borrowed one of my cameras to record a video of the match, encouraging the boys to come at the camera and show their moves. One of them needed a pee break early on, so had to have one of the gloves taken off to do so. His ‘opponent’ was shadow boxing at the camera while he waited. Eventually, victory was declared after one of the boys got dirt in his eye. We started walking back to the ship. We passed by a small store shack, where a boxing poster hung, these with older men, with real gloves. “Hey, your cousins!” I said to our guide, jokingly. He looked over at the poster. “Actually, that is my cousin! He lives up on the hill,” he said. We all laughed. He tried to keep us off the road and away from the cars on the narrow strip of grass alongside the pavement. He pointed out various trees and bushes with edible fruits on them while we walked. We gave him a good tip for his time, then re-boarded the ship.
We had a bit of time before dinner, so we got ready slowly, and I took another Dramamine as I’d started feeling sick again almost immediately upon our departure. The meds worked quickly though, luckily, and we made it up to dinner. I grabbed a green apple on the way, just in case, but I was able to eat a smallish meal and still feel fine afterwards. We were joined by a new, younger couple from Canada this evening. Apparently, they’d been assigned to our table and hadn’t been there the first night, but did arrive the second night, when we skipped dinner for obvious reasons. I sat next to the woman, who had done work in Honduras before and had a plethora of knowledge about Central America.
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