New Year’s Eve

I wake up with a raging hangover.. No that’s a lie. I’m still relatively drunk. And actually, for once, Cynthia’s alarm clock wakes me up.

It’s 8 a.m. she says, if you wanted to go diving.

Dammit, I say, and roll out of bed, strapping on a wet swimsuit. I silently curse my decision to begin my advanced certification course right away. I’m starting this morning with Monty.

When I get to the dive shop, everyone’s already there, ready and rowdy. I trudge.

We’ve grabbed your gear already, Monty says. Except your fins.

Great, I say, trudging into the store. I feel like pure ass.

When we load onto the boat, John candidly asks me how I am.

Oh Jesus, I say, You were there. How do you think I am?

He laughs. No worries, when you start breathing from the tank, you’ll feel better instantly.

Don’t worry, I say. I had the MOTHER of hangovers in Nicaragua and as soon as I hit the surf with my board, a few splashes of salt water. Kills the hangover.

The dive, I find out, is 110 feet into a ship wreck. The boat had sunk years ago, and in 2002, a hurricane had ripped through, thrashing the boat around. When it landed again, it had been corkscrewed, broken into 3. The stern now lay on its side, separated from the mid section and the bow.

We would dive around the stern, Monty says, for 11 minutes. We have 15 minutes total to be at that depth before our nitrogen levels would max out. We would have to do a multi-level dive and rise up along the naturally upward sloping coral.

I had thought the descent would be scary, but it was slow, smooth and easy. Continually equalizing you didn’t even notice the drop.

John told me there was a possibility that I would get hit with nitrogen narcosis, the martini effect, he said. Every 50 feet you go down, it’s like having 1 dry martini on an empty stomach.

Don’t worry, John, I said. I have martinis all the time and I operate great. I can still kick ass at Word Up completely wasted.

Likely because the water is so warm and clear 108 is a breeze. As we descend, we can even feel air bubbles coming up from below.

The ship wreck is the coolest (and only) that I’ve seen, massive and covered in a rusty, copper color. There is coral now growing out of various parts of it and groupers swim around angrily. It reminds me of a video game I once played depicting a sunken ship, although I don’t know which one. At the top of the helm, there is a huge moray eel living under a makeshift cave.

There are seven of us total in our diving group, a couple, two guys, me and our instructor/trainee team: Monty and John.

When we are down at the100 ft + mark, one of the guys begins to swim away from the group. Monty had warned that because there were many diving groups down there, we should take warning to stay close to our buddies and groups so that we wouldn’t accidentally follow another one. And since everyone pretty much looks like same underwater–covered in black exposure suits–it wouldn’t be difficult to go astray.

John pulls back a little bit, assuming the diver hover–suspended in mid-water with his legs crossed–keeping an eye on the two guys. One of them is slightly more conservative and trails Monty’s lead keeping on eye on his friend.

Behind his mask, John looks irritated. He rubs his two index fingers together to signal that they should swim right next to each other. The guys pay no attention. In fact, the one swims farther away to examine some hole in the floor of the wreck some 20 feet away.

John taps me and takes out his regulator. Assholes! He mouths over.

The 11 minutes we spend down there passes quickly and within the first 20 minutes of our multi-level dive, the two boys and the woman are low on air (at 750 or fewer PSI). John signals for me to join Monty’s group and takes the others up for a 3 minute safety stop.

The remaining three of us swim around the coral, slowly ascending from 80 feet to 60, then to 40. The coral is crawling with incredible life. When we surface, we have hit a bottom time of 52 minutes, and I have 800 PSI still left in my tank.

Unfortunately, when we surface as well, the boat is now gone.

It went to go pick up the other group of divers, Monty says. Dammit, why can’t they be like normal divers and just swim to the boat?

The three of us coast. You can’t complain about the view… a sunny day in Roatan, floating by the buoyancy of your BCD, moving with the Caribbean waves, amid a backdrop of a lush, tropical island.

DSC01994

Monty and his girlfriend have been living here for months, he says, and they pay $300 a month for rent. The hospitals are crap, though, he adds, but otherwise, the island is pretty self-sufficient. The West End/West Bay area can get a bit pricey, but if you do your grocery shopping out in Coxen Hole, it’s much more reasonable.

I contemplate living life out here… on a perfect island less the sand flies and mosquitoes that have eaten my legs alive, and then I feel a familiar warmth followed by a shock.

Oh, shit, I say. I think the swells have brought in jellyfish. I’m pretty sure I just got stung. Dammit, Dammit, Dammit, I hate those things. And all of a sudden, the swells that I had so wonderfully enjoyed are now my enemies, bringing in jellies with the cold water. I curl up into a ball, trying to lie like a dying bug, with limbs facing upward, BCD down. I curse myself for not getting a full exposure suit instead of a shorty.

When the boat arrives, I am the first to thrash out for the ladder. Get me the hell out of the water, I think. When I check out my legs, I see a wavy burn, about 2.5/3 inches long on the back of right leg.

Yep, you got stung, said Monty. There’s vinegar in the shop that you can put on it.

Our boat heads back to shore, where it’s time to change tanks. I run into the shop to ask PJ for some vinegar.

He hands me the bottle, sitting in a basket filled with sunscreen, bug juice and other goodies. Take it outside and put it on though, he says. We don’t want the shop to smell like shit.

We head back to Bikini Bottom now to test out peak performance buoyancies – PPB’s. I’ve been having some trouble with this neutral buoyancy thing. It seemed whenever I hit the water, I was either going up or going down, never just hovering perfectly still.

Monty sets up hula hoops all around the sandy bottom and demonstrates a swim through with perfect grace. There will be underwater caves and such that these hoops are simulating, he explains, and you’ll have to get through without thrashing your arms about.

After we “attain” our neutral buoyancies with fin pivots, I am the first to follow Monty through a hoop. Just as he had, I hover horizontally in front of the hoop, trying to judge how long I should begin my entry. Then I go for the swim through, and when I look back the hoop is nowhere to be seen.

What the hell? I think, looking up and down, and then Monty is next to me, pulling off the hoop that is stuck to my tank. Dammit, I fail, I think to myself, heading to the next hoop.

And it goes like that for half an hour, swimming through hoops, until I figure out to tuck in my gauges closer to my body and trust enough that if I let my arms drop to my sides, I will not sink. I manage to get through one hoop, then two, until I feel more confident that I can actually do this.

Monty checks that we are properly weighted by our diver hover, and then we are free to explore the coral at Bikini Bottom.

I have never seen since brilliant colors underwater in my life, and it feels as though the fish don’t even notice that you are not a natural part of their ecosystem. The swim above, below and all around you. It’s not until you stir the current that they dart–as a group– in another direction. I am wishing that I brought my camera along for the ride.

We are back to shore by 1:30 and the diving is done for the day. I head back to the room and grab a shower, readying myself to meet Jason at the Beach House to grab some lunch. I am catching up with Cynthia and Gemma, who are preparing for their afternoon dive when there is a knock on the door and two young girls peer through the glass.

The one girl had come by yesterday asking if we wanted massages or our hair braided. Remembering the awesome massage I had gotten in Nica, I said maybe to a massage, but no, not today because we are about to go diving. Come back tomorrow, I had said. Who knew that they would actually come back the next day at a time I was home.

Feeling guilty, in particular because they both looked so incredibly young and one was about 7 months pregnant, I felt obligated to honor my word, and let them in.

Are you ready, they asked, except now their rates had changed. Yesterday, they had told me $10 for an hour. Now the going rate seemed to be $30 an hour. No, that’s not what you told me, I said.

Half an hour then, I say. Okay, $10 for half an hour.

Gemma looks at me. How does that bloody make sense? $10 for half an hour and $30 for an hour.

I reluctantly say okay, still feeling my American guilt, and they tell me to strip down.

Awkward, I think, particularly since Cyn and Gemma are still in the room, but here are the girls waiting, so I reluctantly pull off my shorts and shirt.

Sorry girls, I say.

Ah, no worries. Then I look at the girls again. This too, one says, tugging at my sports bra.

Oh crap, I think, and apologize again, pulling that off and plopping facedown into the bed.

What follows thereafter is perhaps the most peculiar massage I have ever received in my life. They squeeze baby oil all over my naked backside. Then, while on girl literally runs her palm up and down my back, a “rub” I suppose, the pregnant girl is behind me, lifting one leg over her pregnant belly and rubbing the backs of my legs. Whoa there, I think, getting a little too close to the crotch.

I half think that when Gemma and Cynthia leave the room, these girls are going to drug me and steal all our valuables. I am thankful that both have another 20 minutes or so before their dive.

I am mostly relieved when the half an hour is up. I have been mostly uncomfortable the entire time and thank God that I didn’t get an hour of this nonsense. I pay them their 200 lempiras and shoo them out. Good riddance.

I quickly redress over my baby oiled body, now starving and walk over to the Beach House to see if Jason is still there. I find him sitting in the hammock, finishing up his book, Drink, Play Fuck. There’s some leftover stirfry there if you want it, he says.

My best friend Doug is outside in a couple of minutes, however. Heeeey! He slurs and I instantly know that he’s drunk again. When he edges closer, the familiar smell of rum and vodka reek from his pores.

What’s good today, my friend, I ask, and Doug describes how he’s just got a fresh order of snapper and lobster from the sea. I can make you a whooole fish and a lobster tail, with some rice and vegetables, he says.

How much will that cost me, I ask.

200 lempiras.

Hmm, I say. 200 lempiras. I don’t know. Can I just have half of that order?

What, he says, you can’t spend 10 bucks on lunch?

No, I say, I don’t think I can finish an entire fish and lobster.

Doug agrees to share lunch with me and knock off some of the price perhaps. He goes back inside and reappears later, holding up a fresh fish in one hand, and a lobster tail that looks like it’s been freshly ripped off its owner, in the other.

Doug's fresh fish and lobster tail
Doug's fresh fish and lobster tail

You can tell the fish is fresh because its eyes are clear, he says. If it’s been frozen or kept a long time, the eyes get cloudy. Then pointing at the lobster tail with tufts of bright meat exploding from the red shell, he adds that you can the lobster is fresh because the meat is still bright white.

Daniel, who had been ready to smoke a splif, is sent to the kitchen to cook the meal. Add some rice and vegetables to it, Doug says.

Then he turns to me.

My cooks didn’t show up this morning, he says. I’ve been up since six a.m. I haven’t sat down all day. I’ve had to bring in customers, be a waiter and a cook. I’m only ONE man! I haven’t had any time to sit down or eat.

Apparently he also had found plenty of time to squeeze in a few cocktails in there,

Since food is slow to cook in this country, and particularly on this island, I find time to run back to Coconut Tree Divers to get my dive book filled out. When I am back, I catch a glimpse of Daniel in the kitchen finishing up my fish and lobster.

He calls to Doug, who has long since disappeared, saying that the plate is ready. And it did not disappoint. The entire fish, fried to crispy perfection. The lobster is still gleaming white, presented with a perfectly shaped heap of rice and tropically colored vegetables on platter that is the size of something you would put on a thanksgiving day table.

When I go to snap a picture, Doug stops me. No wait! He says, dashing back into his room, returning with a bright red tropical flower. He places the flower delicately along the rice and gleams proudly. Nooow, go ahead.

after!
after!

When I am finished snapping, he places the flower in my ear and grabs another set of silverware for himself and dousing my rice in some strange ‘multi-spice seasoning fluid.”

It’s soy sauce, his explains.

It sure doesn’t look like soy sauce, but I forgive him because he looks even drunker than before.

Thanks for reminding me to eat, he says, digging into the delicate fish, breaking its bones. I haven’t sat down since 6 o’clock.

I somehow feel as though he has sat down next to me at least three times since I’ve arrived, but I’m too busy eating to care. He eats about three bites, drops his knife and the floor, and then leaves. Oh Jesus, I think.

I call back to Doug, Where’s the vodka in my orange juice? I am almost kidding, but half an hour later he returns with a bottle of what looks like the cheapest bottle of vodka you can pick up at the convenience store. He replaces my goblet of orange juice with his own dangerous liquid concoction. I’ve never known bad vodka to destroy the taste of orange juice quite so delicious. If he’s been drinking these suckers all day, no wonder he’s so hammered all the time.

Doug's glass of dangerous fluids
Doug's glass of dangerous fluids

Even though I had told Doug I wouldn’t be able to eat an entire fish and lobster tail, I destroyed everything on the plate. Literally. Everything. Even the flower looked limp when I was done.

I pull out my computer to write for a bit and before I know it, there is a strange ringing sound emitting from the speakers. What the… I think to myself and suddenly I realize it’s my Skype. Yeye’s calling.

Doug and I try unsuccessfully to communicate with her for a good thirty minutes, but each time that we think that we just maaay have found a connection, the line goes silent and she is gone again. I try four times to tell her about my fish and lobster. Utter failure.

Jason returns to the Beach House several times over the time that I am there. I’m not quite so certain where he wanders back and forth from, but it seems he has still not quite figured out whether the ferry from Roatan to La Ceiba will or will not run.

While I still have somewhat of an internet connection, I call the number the ferry company has listed.

Alo? The voice says over the speakers.

Yes, is there a ferry tomorrow? I ask repeatedly.

There are crackles in the speakers and then the line goes dead. I have no idea what’s going on.

Doug, I call out, is there a ferry tomorrow?

Yea, I think so.

Ok.. Daniel! Is there a ferry tomorrow?

I don’t know. Maybe.

All right, well, I guess it’s settled.

Jason wanders back to our hotel so he can pack up his things, and Doug goes back to playing his three favorite songs on repeat again and again: African Queen, Shaggy “Angel” and you’re so beautiful.

Doug, I think you only like three songs. Can we PLEASE play something else?

Doug goes to change the music and returns with a garifuna who stands in the corridor waiting for something.

Do you want to settle out now, Doug says to me. In the corridor, the rasta looking man looks impatient. 300 lemps, he adds.

Even with my buzz, I’m marginally irritated. He had told me 200 lemps and now the price had gone up because he owed this dude 300 lemps, no doubt. But then you figure in an OJ and 2 screwdrivers.. and yea, even 300 lemps seems like a good deal.

I am writing for two hours when I look up and realize that we have missed yet another opportunity to see our sunset in the West Bay. I look up and start snapping pictures of the sunset to dusk before me at West End.

close to sunset
close to sunset
nowwww it's sunset
nowwww it's sunset

‘There’s every color of the rainbow here right now” Doug says to me. He had been lying in a hammock for the past hour or two, slapping Daniel and anyone else who dared approaching, screaming at them to “leave me alone for JUST AN HOUR!” He manages to pop up out of his fetal position to lower one of the umbrellas on the porch.

The music from one of his song dwindles and before it can roll into the next one, we listen to the sound of tiny waves lapping at the sand.

Can we play your favorite songs again?

I have a lot of favorite songs, but I know which ones you’re talking about. He runs to the back and suddenly African Queen begins to blast again from the speakers.

I had emailed Omega Tours earlier in the day to reschedule my river walk. I saw now, in the dusk, that they had emailed me back. Sorry, they said, they would love to help but the ferry was not running tomorrow. Enjoy the parties tonight.

Shit, I think, I have to tell Jason. He had planned to take the first ferry back to La Ceiba to catch a bus or taxi to San Pedro Sula. That would undoubtedly crap out his plans.

Ah, but the big goblet of vodka orange sitting in front of me. I couldn’t let that go to waste. Hastily, I take a few gulps.

Settling up, I gather my things and walk back to the cabins to tell Jason that he plans have been shot to hell.

Shit, he says when I tell Jason the news, are you serious? But you told me we were good.

How would I know any better than you? I say. You were there when we asked Doug and Daniel if there was a ferry and they said yes. I just believed what they said.

Christ, I think. Don’t pass the blame to me.

Oh my God, he says. I don’t believe this.

His face, which is already slightly sun bright and glowing red, gets even redder. Well shit, what am I going to do? Can I borrow your computer?

There’s the internet café down the street. You can use it, but go down there. Their internet is really fast. I would just get it sorted out.

Argh, he says, reaching for my computer and charges out the door.

I am irritated. Is it my responsibility to take care of your shit? I say outloud to Cyn and Gemma.

They look at each other and shrug. NOT GETTING INVOLVED.

Ok, I’ll shut up and stop, I say. Just ignore me for me a minute. I need to get over my stupid temper tantrums.

We had all decided to dress up that night. I had tucked a frilly gold and black dress into the bottom of my suitcase where the pressure and weight of all my other belongings would surely act as a Eurovac and push out all the air that hid in the poufs. Cynthia had her black dress, adorned with silver sparkles, and Gemma was rummaging through her things trying to find an adequately dressy outfit to wear with her heels.

Jason returns an hour later saying that he had found out of Roatan to Ceiba with Taca. It’s like $100 though, he adds.

Oh good, we say. Glad you found a way off.

Yea, he says. It just sucks, you know. I planned on taking the ferry.

For the love of God, it’s New Year’s Eve. Just get on with it.

Did you book it? Gemma asks

No, not yet. I have to go back.

No, not yet. I have to go back.

I am irritated again. Jesus, you found a solution. Just get it over with and enjoy the rest of the night.  Most of us (myself probably the most..) manage to fuck ourselves over at some point in time while traveling. No need to dwell if it didn’t go exactly your way.

Well, I’d like to lock my computer back up when you’re finished, I say.  I can feel myself turning bratty. Ack, Lisa, stop.

But, our little cabin has become the hangout spot for our little group, as well as some of the trainees from Coconut Tree. No need to have computers thrown about or lost in the afterhours of New Year’s debauchery.

Jason leaves again, we assume to finally get his shit sorted, and with Gemma and Cyn dying to eat, we all collectively decide to head out as well.

Sundowners is our first stop, a usual for the diver masters and instructors at Coconut Tree. Monty had mentioned when we had first arrived that “everyone started drinking on the Coconut Tree porch at 4:30 (cheapest beers in town! He said) and then headed to Sundowners. We had been to Sundowners twice before and neither time had we ever seen anyone with a recognizable face. Then again, we had only stopped in for a minute each time because the bar was always full.

group at sundowners
group at sundowners

Our group, sans Jason, sit around a big round table in the center of the dirt “restaurant” portion of the bar. Port Royal and Salva Vidas all around until in the corner of our eye, we see Bisch and his buddy by the bar. Bisssch! We scream, and then John appears. It is time for the first round of shots of the night.

Someone decides that jagerbombs are the call of the night and everyone seems to be in unison until the bartender informs us that no, there is no Red Bull here. Then Bisch says the unimaginable: just jager then!

Nooo, I retort. Tequila.

Bisch starts counting out shots.. 1..2..3.. Ok.. 8 shots. Half jager, half tequila.

I can still feel the goblets of vodka oj’s that I’ve consumed and the thought of either makes me want to hurl.

No, no, 10 shots. Half jager, half tequila. He begins to throw hundies (of lemps) on the table. Ok, I’ll throw in 3. And then there are a few more hundies thrown out. A 10 dollar US bill. And somewhere in the mish mash, we have the 1000 lempiras on the table for our shots.

ballin'
ballin'

I decide that tequila is the lesser of two evils, but my original instinct of being sick is partially correct and I have to take my shot in 2 gos.

SHOTS!
SHOTS!

There is some more chit chat by the bar, and John informs us, three times it must have been, that he does not date anyone younger than his kids, the youngest of whom is 28.

We sit back down at the table where Gemma’s “chips” and Cynthia’s wrap have now appeared. And bless her heat, she orders an extra order of chicken fingers.

In case you want any, she says, handing me over the basket.

No thanks, I say, I still have a baby fish and lobster swimming in my stomach. Then I take a chicken strip anyway and the spicy buffalo sauce tastes like heaven in my mouth.

The sand flies and mosquitoes are feasting tonight. For days, I had resigned myself to wearing jeans and long sweatpants, but in an effort to celebrate New Year’s, I left my legs exposed. Man, I’m getting killed, I think, and my mind instantly goes to the DEET spray that Jason has in the room.

I’ll be right back, I say, and before anyone can retort, I run back to the hotel.

I get up as well and sneak out the front, promising to return shortly. I find Jason in the room, sitting alone on the bed flipping through channels.

Did you get your shit sorted, I ask cheerily, thinking darn, I was going to steal your DEET and bring it back to the bar.

Yea, he says, but it cost like $120. It’s just money that I didn’t have to spend, you know.

You need to get ovvvver it, I slur.

He hands over my computer and I lock it into my suitcase.

Now come on, I add, it’s New Year’s Eve. Let’s go out and meet the others.

No, just give me a minute, he says, still flipping through the channels. I’ll be fine. I just know myself and I need to be alone for a while. I know I’m going to be in a bad mood if I go out like this. I’ll meet you guys later.

Fine, I say, shrugging it off, and I’m back to the bar again.

Well, Jason’s still brooding, I say when I see the others. But now, everyone looks marginally bored. Jason shows up after a bit, and when I realize that Gemma and Cyn, having finished their dinners, are already back to the room, I get up to the leave as well.

I’ll be right back, I say in usual fashion, and return to our room to find Cyn and Gemma smoking a splif instead. Within 20 minutes, everyone’s back in our room once more, and we regroup with another battle plan.

Someone suggests Blue Marlin, so down our group goes, me in stilettos, along the pothole filled dirt road to our first bar of the evening. The place is packed with jovial people, and in front flame throwers perform bright-lit dances.

blue marlin
blue marlin

Nova is next on the agenda apparently, and we all head over, John now in tow. There is a raunchy stripper pole at the bar, and we all seem to have some sort of sick, magnetic tendency toward the pole. We all take turns jumping and spinning onto the thing, and somewhere along the way, Jason’s shirt manages to unbutton itself (ah-hem.. Or he unbuttoned it) all the way down.

DSC02077

I am in the bathroom when suddenly, I hear, 7…6…5…, oh shit, I think and run out as just as the sparklers are flying and the countdown hits 3..2…and 1. Happy New Year we scream, and I hug random people, duck kisses, and even deliver a few carefully placed on cheeks.

DSC02072
new year's! ... two minutes early

I yell to go to Perry’s and soon we’re with Captain Perry aboard his floating bar, smoking a splif up at the DJ booth and dancing with a few Guatemalans. When I became painfully aware that I am out of a beer, I head down the treacherous ladder to the bar, where both Perry and his sole bartender are busy tending to other clients.

Perrrrry! I slur, through an arm around his neck and stepping behind the bar. Let’s take a picture!

let's take a picture, I slur
let's take a picture

So Perry poses with me for a picture, and I ask him if I can bartend.

I bartended in the States, Perry. Can I help out?

Sure, he says, and I am behind the bar figuring out which bottles of cheap liquor are which and serving up Barenas and Salvas for 50 lemps, 80 lemps and 100 lemps. I’m making up prices as I go along.

bartending for drinks
bartending for drinks

Tim and Bisch are sitting at the bar.

Oh, so you’re a bartender now, Tim says.

Shots! I scream and ask Perry if I can line up a round of shots for my friends. I can’t remember if it was whiskey or tequila, but I count 10 people in front of me and Perry lines up 10 shots.

more shots!
more shots!

Who’s paying for that? Perry asks me.

Shit, I thought they were free, I thought to myself, but my beers have been paid for all night, so I hand Perry 500 lemps.

Yea, that’ll cover it for you, he says, and we round up the crew to take some nasty shots of Cuervo (to my best guess).

I work for a few more beers before I line up another couple of whiskey shots.

Who’s paying for these, Perry asks.

I will! I say. But then I stop, wait Perry, shouldn’t I get paid something for bartending? I’m not taking tips.

All right, he says, and takes another shot of with us.

By now my friends are bored and starting to head out. Although I want to say, I sadly say goodbye to the good captain and the cute Honduran boy I’ve been dancing with behind the bar.

The Dive is next on this list and by now, it’s somewhere hovering close to 3 o’clock. The crowd has started to somewhat thin, but we dance like assholes.

dancing like assholes
dancing like assholes
how do you spell debauchery? reid.
how do you spell debauchery? reid.

4 o’clock rolls around, and not ready to go home, I convince a sleepy Cynthia, who is the last remaining soldier, as everyone else as already headed home, to go to Johnny’s for afties.

Johnny’s place is just across from the Beach House, a little house tucked behind a yard and an inconspicuous fence. Ian is nice enough to walk us to the fence, but ditches us at the gate.  When we barge in, we see Marco and his girlfriend looking dazed, sitting at the kitchen table.

Johnny! I yell, barging into the place.

Heey! He says, looking up from his computer behind a pair of sunglasses. What do you guys want to drink.

We stay at Johnny’s for another hour. Marco’s all sorts of fucked up and his girlfriend is trying to drag him home.
She is almost successful until we decide that we have to find him on facebook.

Marco, I can’t find you, I say. I’ve looked everywhere. So Marco, unwilling to be unfound on facebook, plops himself in front of the computer and sets out on a mission to find his own profile. For 10 minutes, he is unsuccessful, as his girlfriend impatiently taps her foot, waiting for him to finish up. Come onnn, Marco, she says.

But alas, success if finally reached, and it’s time for us all to drag our tired asses home. It’s 5 a.

Roatan – Day 4

I wake up at 6:20. It looks as though the rain has cleared.

I head over to the Beach House to see if I can get onto their internet today.

The sky is a couple of shades of pink and purple.

early morning sky
early morning sky

I snap a few photos, setting up my computer, but suddenly, within 20 minutes, it is pouring again. The large rain drops splatter quickly and heavily across the porch and sand. I look to the horizon and see nothing but angry, deep grey clouds. The waves look choppy again, surf crashing out into reefs 200 or so meters off shore.

NooOoOoO... raining on Roatan
NooOoOoO... raining on Roatan

Shit, I think, there’s no way we’ll be able to dive today. I’m devastated that it’s going to rain all day.

Doug’s head suddenly pops out of a sliding door, slowly and curiously at first, until the head extends into a full body and he steps out. I’m surprised he is up at 6:20.

What time do you start drinking? I say. I have no schedule, he says. I didn’t drink for 3 weeks this month. Some days I never start.

I have a hard time believing him.

He offers to go inside to check the weather, but when it rains, all technology tends to be a wild card. There is no cable, no telephone, no internet. Give it some time, he says.

Ugh, I said. I just really wanted to dive today.

I write for about an hour, and when I look up again, the only sound of water is the sound of the waves crashing across the beach. The sun is starting to clear, and the dark clouds have given way to fluffy cumulus clouds. It is clear again and I can see at the second dock, Coconut Tree Diver instructors rolling vats of something onto the boats, preparing them for the day.

See I told you, just give it half an hour, Doug says, appearing again, out of the many adjacent sliding glass doors. Figuring out where Doug will stick his head out of next is a bit like playing that arcade games with moles that pop out of holes. You know his head will pop out somewhere, sometimes slowly or quickly, but you’re never really too sure where. Sometimes, he even psyches you out.

Doug can pop out of any sliding door. It's always a mystery.
Doug can pop out of any sliding door. It's always a mystery.

Doug brings me a glass of the amazing orange juice, explaining that he likes to put it into the goblet because it’s the shape of the orange.

Doug brings me OJ and insists on being in the pic
Doug brings me OJ and insists on being in the pic

Wow, I say, taking a deep sip of the refreshing nectar, there’s not even vodka in it this time.

Did you want some? He asks.

No! Not. At. All.

We head to the Blue Channel with Jose in the morning and finish off our certifications with some more mask clearing exercises.  Jose practices blowing water rings and we swim about The Channel, abundant with coral an life.

water rings
water rings

 

fishies!
fishies!

We get back to shore around 2:30, and finally conquer our fears of jumping off the pier.  If six year-olds can do it, so can we!

wooo hooo
wooo hooo

Famished but armed with a sense of accomplishment, Jason and I end up for lunch at undoubtedly the island‘s most touristy place: Eagle Ray.

The restaurant looks like a huge lodge sitting on stilts above the water. And, because it happens to be yet another cruise ship day, while Jason and I sit waiting on fish fajitas and a cheeseburger, we see at least two groups of tourists, identified with the numbered stickers on their shirts or neck lanyards, move through, taking a shot of undoubtedly cheap ass rum and watching a “native dance” out on the deck. Some poor local is wearing a headdress and mask, dancing to a beating drum.

If the cabby was right, then this is absolute bullshit. There are no indigenous cultures on Roatan now period. What the hell was this supposed to be?

But the tourists, in brightly colored button downs, tube socks and sneakers (some sandals) and straw hats clap gleefully.

Outside, the sun is gleaming on the water. I can’t believe that it was torrentially down pouring just that morning.

it turned out to be a beautiful day
it turned out to be a beautiful day

I order a diet coke and am surprised when they bring me a coke zero.

Wow, I didn’t even know they had that here, I say to Jason. I look down at the glass bottle and see rust stains down the side. Apparently no one orders this.

I’m supposed to be back at the dive shop by 4:30 for my night dive, but when we leave the Eagle Ray, we walk past a small floating bar… “the only mobile bar” the sign on the street says, with an arrow pointing to the bar. Underneath, it reads “1 lempira shots of rum”

Sold.

Let’s go! I yell to Jason, trotting down the pier leading to the floating bar pontoon. It literally looks like a 2-story raft, complete with port-a-potties (safely tucked away) behind wooden doors, and a dj booth on the 2nd level.

Jason and I sit down. What’s the deal with these 1 lempira shots? We ask the bartender, an older dude with crazy blonde shoulder-length curly hair and a left nipple ring. He only wears shorts, no shoes and his shirt hangs wide open.

Captain Perry at your service!
Captain Perry at your service!

Captain Perry at your service! he says cheerfully and tells us there are 1 lempira shots when you buy a drink. Sweet, we say, and order 2 Port Royals and 2 shots of rum

I don’t even know what the shit they poured was, but it looked beyond cheap.. Completely clear. I hadn’t seen clear rum since… the states perhaps. The stuff is terrible and burns the entire way down for a nickel…again.. You can’t complain.

Where are you from, an older Indian dude yells from across the bar. Judging by his sticker and tube socks, I assume he’s from the cruise ship.

Chicago, I yell.

That’s funny, Jason says. They only get half a day to explore the island and these guys say fuck it and go to a bar.

Have you got the time, I say, and I glance at a watch nearby. It’s already 4:15. Shit, I say. I have to be back to the shop in 15 minutes to watch a night diving video.

The walk down the pot-hole filled dirty road is bumpy at best. Actually, it sucks, and my buzz doesn’t help to stabilize anything.

I roll into the dive shop dressed in jeans and a tank (at least my swimsuit is underneath).

Monty, I’m ready to watch that video.

He takes me upstairs to the airconditioned offices and we see that 3 people are already watching the video.

Am I late, I ask.

What time did I tell you to come here, like 5:30? No. Then he glances down at his watch. Well, it’s’ 5:40.. Okay yea, you are, he says.

I am 20 minutes into the 23 minute video about night diving when a British fellow working for the dive shop runs up the stairs.

Do you have laundry? He asks.

Yea, I say, breathing a sigh of relief that it is here. We had dropped it off the morning before and it should have been here long ago.

Do I need to go get it now?

Yea, it’d be best, he says, she we pause the video and I run downstairs only to realize that I gave 300 lempiras to Jason for drinks and my lunch and had about 40 lemps left… 2 dollars.

Shit, I say, when I go down there, identifying the trash bag of laundry that belongs to me. Will you hold tight for a minute so I can run back, I say.

Sure, he says, so I take off in a full sprint for my room, grabbing Jason, my camera and 500 lemps along the way

Even though it is only across the street, by the time I am back, they are already loading gear into the boat. I quickly pay the man and run upstairs to finish the video.

It’s a jerk off general.. Just an overall review. When I get back downstairs, EVERYONE is already in the boat. Oh, not this shit again, I think to myself and execute the world’s fastest strip down and gear gathering.

It is dusk when we head out to the water. John hands me a flashlight and Monty tells me he will be my buddy tonight. Thank God. John is an instructor. I feel better instantly.

As we coast out to the Blue Channel, the night quickly falls dark. It always surprises me how damn quickly the sun sets.

It’s going to be nearly a full moon tonight, John says. Man, look at that thing.

failed attempts at taking night shots through a Dicapac
failed attempts at taking night shots through a Dicapac

We look up to see that moon is indeed nearly completely full.. Only a small crescent remains unlit. It casts a bright glow on the now-black water.

Don’t turn the lights on, warns Monty. I know your video tells you to do it but it attracts the jellys.

From his shaved head and his ‘arrgh-y’ accent, you can almost picture him as a pirate. Aye matey.

We plunge into the dark water together, and with the light of 8 or so flashlights, it’s not so scary going down. When we hit the sandy bottom, I can see everyone, as well as the coral formations surrounding the sand.

Monty calls that it’s time to practice using our compasses. In the dark, I am terrified and can’t find my way to north. John grabs the back of my BCD and guides me. Dammit, I think. I fail.

We explore the Blue Channel as a group. Illuminated by nearly a full moon the colors underwater are bright, made even brighter still by our flashlight beams. A woman in our group is equipped with an underwater camera and she is furiously snapping photos while both kicking us.. And coral.. In the face.

John pulls me back by my BCD, signaling that we should let the crazy woman pass. Idiot, he writes on his board, shining his flashlight over the letters. I try to let out a laugh on my bubbly exhale.

There are lobsters at night, crawling out of holes. The lights reflect off shiny spots on their shells and we can see into their little beady eyes. The fish are busy swarming, feeding, swimming.

We swim around coral, underneath it, and just when I start to feel comfortable, I look below to the upward sloping coral and suddenly notice that we are ascending…. And fast. I see coral all beneath me. The water gets shallower and shallower and I have no idea how or where to descend. I see John’s light underneath me. We need to descent. I can almost see the moon through the water overhead

Crap I think. I try to let all the air out of my BCD, following John’s descent to the bottom. I see his bright lit flashlight sink deeper and deeper into the water. Soon I don’t see it all all.

Fuck! I think. I am panicking and hyperventilating. I shine my flashlight below. All I see is coral beneath my feet.

Fuck fuck fuck! Where do I even descend?! I can’t descend into a bed of coral.

I am gasping into my ventilator, full blown freaking out and before I know it, I feel my tank surface. I jerk my head up and suddenly, I am above water, staring at the boat in the distance and black water lapping against me.

Remembering what Monty had said about jellyfish and attracting them with lights, I shine my flashlight to the sky and wave it about furiously. Shit! I think. And I’m probably going to get stung. Where the hell is John.

Panick subsiding, I float on the surface, unwilling to descend on my own. I figure, after all, that your dive manual tells you that when you lose your buddy, you should surface and find each other on the surface instead.

Within a few minutes, I see the glow of his flashlight grow brighter and brighter. As I feel more bubbles surfacing, I finally begin to relax. He is coming for me.

To my surprise, two heads pop up on the surface. Hello

Is everything okay, John checks. Are we ready to descend?

Yea, I think so, I say.

Is it cool if I just go with you guys, the other guy says.

Of course, John says and the three of us descend comfortably into a swirling mass of bubbles.

I check my air. Still at 1300 PSI, so I am good, but the other guy it seems is low on air, so after a 3 minute safety stop, all three of us surface and swim for the boat. I am only thankful that I haven’t been stung by a jelly.

Jason is the only one left at the dive shop when we get back to shore. He is chatting with Reid’s parents, smoking a cigarette.

Give me a drag of that, please, I say.

How was it? Would you do it again?

Yea, I think so.

That’s funny. I think that’s the first time I’ve heard that tonight.

To be sure, I add, I did have a panic attack halfway through.

Finally, after many a lame night, tonight’s a night for some bonafide drinking. We pregame a bit in our party cabana and hit up Captain Perry’s floating bar, the Reef Rider, for more 1 lemp shots.

At Captain Perry's reef rider
At Captain Perry's reef rider

Captain Perry has a deal with Shark Cave and the Noodle Shack where you can order food and they’ll deliver it straight onto Perry’s floating bar. Excellent. We get three orders of noodles with curry and peanut sauces and take a few shots of cheap rum with a Port Royal back. The noodles are the most delicious that I’ve ever tasted.

excellent noodles
excellent noodles

Bisch shows up for a minute on his way down to Sundowners.

Hey Bisch, what does your face book say?

Earlier in the day, when Tree had logged into face book to check on some pictures, the account had logged straight into Bisch’s.

Hmm, what to write, Tree asks, and we all shout suggestions. Finally he settles on David M “is loving life.. Diving.. Sucking cock.” Apparently P.J. was not so amused when Bisch asked to log into facebook because apparently, he liked penis. What’s more, when Bisch had gone to log out a couple days ago, P.J. had pulled the plug on the computer before he had an opportunity.

It’s fine, P.J. had said. You’re signed out.

Are you sure, Bisch had asked.

Yea, P.J. assured, and lo and behold, he hadn’t been signed out after all.

Since the big boss was to blame, the big boss announced that moving forward, there was no more facebooking.. or any personal usage of the work computer.. anymore.

Bisch has a beer and says he needs to head to Sundowners for a few. I ask him to tell John to get here so I can buy him shots. As far as I’m concerned, John has saved my life tonight.

Cheers John. Thanks for saving me on the night dive!
Cheers John. Thanks for saving me on the night dive!

When the crew returns to Perry’s, the torrential rainfall returns, and we all climb the ladder up to the second story lounge behind Perry’s DJ booth to light up a splif.

Eventually we head to Nova and the Dive. Each time my beer is gone or my rum empty, Alex offers a refill. Within 20 minutes at the Dive, Reid is dancing like an asshole and I am spilling rum left and right.

Reid breakin down
Reid breakin down

 

who remembers this one?
who remembers this one?

Cyn, please walk me home, I say, and she holds onto me as we make our way back amid puddles of potholes.

Back at the cabana, I somehow manage to pull out my contacts and change into PJs. To my surprise, Alex also shows up at our cabana 20 minutes later.

I asked you not to go anywhere, Alex says.

I know, I say, that’s why I left.

I am asleep within 10 minutes but he stays for a splif with some of the others. Or so I am told.

Roatan – Days 2 and 3

12/28

Around 8:30 in the morning, Cyn, Jason and I head out for dives only slightly late.

While Cyn and everyone else sitting on the porch scoop up gear and head for the boat, Jason and I sit dumbfounded on the bench. Every now and then a staffer walks past and mentions that we are “George’s e-learners”

What the fuck is going on? Jason shrugs.

Everyone’s gone on the boat, I say to him, starting to panick. I don’t want to miss another day. Are we supposed to be elsewhere? Are we supposed to get on the boat? Who’s George?

Jason assures me that he’s sure we are not supposed to be on the boat this morning.

When everyone leaves, Tim, an older white guy–not unattractive, tan, with a shock of short, white hair–comes down and introduces us to our instructor George.

Do you think he’ll care that I actually haven’t finished my PADI course yet? I whisper to Jason. I clearly had not passed that exam last night. Jason shrugs.

George takes us upstairs to watch a short review video narrated by P.J., the dive shop owner, and we run through a quick review before setting up our gear and beginning our confined water course in the shallow bar area.

Jason is apprehensive at first, but soon we are clearing our masks (by far the most irritating exercise), doing fin pivots, and practicing buddy breathing.

Our first real dive begins at around 25 feet at Bikini Bottom, and we execute some drills swimming through coral and clearing our masks.

first dive evvvverrr
first dive everrrr

 Surprisingly, executing exercises at 25 feet feels similar to executing things at 10 feet. However, Jason, who had grabbed Gatorade and Munchies as a makeshift lunch, began to feel sick soon after the first dive.

I think it’s the junk food, I tell him. You’ve been feeding your body too much healthy, good stuff. You haven’t trained it properly.

We initially decide that we will not dive any more today, but when George insists that tomorrow is extremely busy and we may not be able to wrap our Open Water course for another 2 days, Jason runs back to take a shot of Peptobismol, and he is back on the boat for the 40 feet dive that follows.

finished day's dives
finished day's dives

I’m glad I did that, he says afterwards. During that first dive, I really felt like I was going to throw up.

We congratulate ourselves with one of Cynthia’s prepaid beers at the dive shop and head back to the room, where we run into Gemma lighting up a splif of Roatan oregano. The shit is terrible, hardly any better than dirt. Some guy down the street sold her a bag of ganga for $20 and threw in a bag of tobacco for good measure. She rolls the two together into a rolling paper and the sweet mix of ganga and tobacco fills the air.

I scratch furiously at the hundreds of bites from the sand flies that have eaten me alive.

destroyed legs
destroyed legs

Around 7:30, we head back to the dive shop to see if Cynthia, who was on a night dive as part of her advanced diving course was back yet. We’ve promised to all have dinner together.

We couldn’t have planned for better timing, because as we approach the dive shop, we can see the Coconut Tree Divers boat in the distance, pulling up with her fellow night divers.

How was it? I ask.

She immediately takes a draw of Jason’s lit cigarette. Holy shit, she says. I’m glad I did it because now I can say I’ve done it. But I’m never doing that again.

Terrifying, she says. We were only down about 20 feet or so but you can’t fucking see annnything! We were diving down a wall, and then all of a sudden, I turned around, and all you can see is water. You can’t even see the sand beneath you.

Gemma, who is quasi-studying to become a dive master (she is already certified as an emergency rescue diver and has 40 or the 60 required dives to become a dive master) shudders at night diving. I don’t bloody want to do it, she says, and tells us about all the other training she had to do, including getting her valves shut off, equipment knocked out, etc., as part of her training as a rescue diver.

They want to see how you react, she says. I guess it’s quite useful, but it’s bloody scary, just having your tube yanked out like that.

We head with Reid and his brother, Daniel, to Shark Cave, and two delicious pizzas, two beers and an 1000 lempira bill later, we all head back to our cabana with the intention of going out.

Dinner at Shark Cave
Dinner at Shark Cave

Motion failed: we all end up passing out to bad TV.

really, really bad TV
really, really bad TV

12/29
In the morning, we finish confined water sessions 4 and 5. Damn, we thought we had completely finished confined water skills tests the day before.

There are cruise ships coming in today, the staff tells us. It’s about to be a mad house. And soon, the microbuses filled with tourists in tube socks and backpacks pull up.

Jason and I are set to finish up our certification courses on the 1 p.m. boat but by 11 a.m., the rain is pouring down.

Where’s all your paperwork from your e-learning, Marco asks us as we chill on the dive shop porch, waiting for the rain to die down.

Is it a problem that I haven’t exactly finished my course, I ask.

What? He says. You’re not done?

Not exactly, I say meekly. I’ve finished 99% of it. It’s just the last exam. I didn’t know how to read dive charts! I can do it now…

You better do it now, he says. Then, looking sternly at George, he adds, you should have made sure they had it first! We can get in trouble for this.

Honestly, I try to add, I thought it just had to be finished by the END of the course. I figured the final exam comes at the end. I’ve finished all the coursework for the individual sections.

I feel incredibly guilty for possibly getting George in trouble. After all, I had kind of tried to finish it the night at the Chicken Shack.

Marco lends me his jacket, and I run to the internet café down the street amid the pouring rain. A 5-minute walk, he had told me, but only a 1-minute run. The streets are congested with microbuses filled with cruise go-ers and potholes, now water-filled. Mud splashes up onto the back of my calves..

The internet is fast but their computers are slow. Fortunately, with the power of my laptop, I pass with a 90 and sprint back to Coconut Tree Divers for the 1 p.m. boat. I make it at 12:50, huffing and puffing, only to be told that all afternoon dives have been canceled because the waves are too choppy, so choppy, in fact, that a Spanish woman says she puked on the boat earlier in the day.

In that case, I suppose there’s nothing to do but drink. We all head back to the room and drift in and out of sleep. After a dinner of chicken sandwiches at the Coconut Tree restaurant, we return to the cabana to wait out the rain yet again.

We make plans yet again to go out but never make it.

chill time in our cabin
chill time in our cabin

Roatan

Upon disembarking, you enter a room that serves as a luggage claim. Bags, stuffed full on carts, are pulled out from under the boat, one unloaded after another. It seems like they will be unloading forever. Soon, other boxes and bags come out stuffed with exports from the mainland to the island.

When I retrieve my bag, marked by the green luggage tag, I am relieved. For a minute, I was sure that someone would have made off with it. Jason and I head outside, and unable to find Cyn, Jason heads back in while cab drivers swarm around me offering rides to West End and West Bay for $20.

Ok, I say, but I have to find my friends.

Jason and Cyn eventually hit the ATM there and head out. I go to the bathroom to blow the congestion out of my nose, and when I return, I find that they’ve bargained the price down to $15. Not bad, I think, and we head to a taxi.

Again, in somewhat usual fashion, I begin trying to speak to the cab driver in my broken ass Spanish.

You know, on Roatan, we are English-speaking, the cabbie tells me.

Oh shit, I think. No way.

The cabbie, originally from the mainland, explains that up until 145 years ago, Roatan had been an English colony–and all the three surrounding islands infact. As a result, the officially language of the islands is English, but there are 4 types of people that live here: the white people (descendants of the Europeans), the garifuna, the black people of the Caribes, and the Hondurans that come from the mainland.

As we head up the dirt road among the lush greenery placed among multimillion dollar homes, he tells us many of the people from the US like to retire here. It drives the prices of land way up. That parcel, he says, pointing, goes for about $90,000. It doesn’t even face the ocean.

We drive past the airport, then Coxen Hole, a small town known for its one shopping mall and a few discotheques.

West Bay is the most beautiful edge on the island, he tells us, and in West Bay, there is a high-ish ridge that you can climb where it’s possible to see both sides of the island. It’s only about 3 kilometers across at that point, he says.

Sometimes, he adds with a twinkle in his eye, tourists go up there and are amazed. “Wow, they say, so that side is the Atlantic Ocean, and that side is the Pacific Ocean! Amazing!”

We all laugh. Roatan is obviously an island tucked into the Caribbean Sea. The Pacific Ocean is hours away across the Honduran country.

We get to the West End around noon, and amid a little bit of confusion (there is a Coconut Tree Divers restaurant, grocery store, cabins, dorm and dive shop — the Dive Shop only owns the dorm cabins) — we pay our cab and check in.

Cynthia is going to dive a refresher in the afternoon, and a staff member leads us back behind a long row of picturesque cabins to the dorm cabin.

The place is slightly dingy, six beds and incredibly humid. But it’s $5 a night, so again, we are in no place to complain. I think Jason may be a bit mortified… he’s never stayed at a hostel-type deal before. Can I put my things in one of your lockers, maybe? He asks nervously. I only have a padlock and I don’t want to be out swimming and lose the key.

After filling out some additional PADI paperwork, we try to find a place to eat lunch. Aside from the package of Ritz Crackers Cynthia had tucked away in her bag, we haven’t eaten since dinner the night before.

We walk around for a place to eat, and walking north, we don’t find much. Sundowners on one side, chicken shack on the right side, adjacent to the Coconut Tree Cabins. Although the chicken shack had been recommended to us, I don’t want to tell Jason and Cyn that I am DYING to go to the bathroom, and the one in our dorm with no toilet seat, will simply not do.

There is a little yellow house sitting adjacent to the beach, with Bakery and Café emblazoned on the window. I do a little peeking and find a boardwalk entrance to the back of the place where there are a half dozen round and wooden tables scattered about a back porch. In the background, there are about a half dozen boats bobbing in about 15 feet out in the water. Another board walk connects the Beach House (the name of the little yellow house) to a long pier where a dozen young boys take turns jumping off a 2-story dock.

Our orders are simple, chicken fingers and a lobster salad.

The waitress comes back rather woefully. Sorry, the boat didn’t come in today. There is no fish.

Ok, I say, then 3 chicken fingers.

We sit for a while, watching stray (or perhaps pets?) dogs splash and lay in the water. Every now and then, someone throws a half chewed coconut out into the water, and the dogs chase it blissfully, gnawing at the things when they return to shore.

In forty minutes, the chicken fingers have still not arrived. Cynthia begins to get nervous because she has been told she needs to head back to the dive shop around at 2 for her refresher course.

Please, I say in Spanish, my friend may have to go soon. How much longer. I’m sorry for asking.

Just a few minutes, our waitress says, she’s cooking it. I look inside the kitchen to find a tall, beautiful African woman cooking our meals carefully, one by one.

Cynthia runs back to the dive shop for her course, and within minutes, a steaming plate of stir-fry chicken and rice and a plate of chicken fingers arrives on the table. Hmm, maybe they got it wrong, but I don’t quite care, and I dig into the succulent chicken and rice. There’s just something about the tenderness of the chicken here, I say to Jason. Maybe it’s because they probably killed the thing this morning and didn’t kill it, package it, freeze it, and ship it 2,000 miles, he says.

He’s about to dig into his chicken fingers, when there is some hushed talk in the kitchen, and our waitress arrives again, swooping the chicken fingers off our table and delivering it to the table next to ours. I am digging into my rice even harder to prevent any such atrocity to happen to my plate. Surely they wouldn’t serve a half-eaten meal.

We watch helplessly as another order of stir fried chicken and rice and chicken fingers are delivered to a table further down. Dammit, where on earth is our food?

When Cynthia comes back, we still have no food, but we are talking to Doug, a good looking 40-something gringo, wasted beyond belief, who is telling us that he owns the BeachHouse.

What are they drinking? I ask, pointing to the table next to us. In front of everyone sit’s a glass goblet filled with an orange fluid, garnished with orange and grapefruit wedges. I am hoping it is some delicious tropical rum concoction.

Orange juice, he says. Dammit, I think.

“Well, what’s good to drink here?” I ask. “WIth alcohol?” he says. “Yes, I say, but something good.” Well, you could have a screwdriver, he says.

No, no, it’s too early for that.

But before I know it, Doug plops down a goblet of orange juice in front of me.

The orange juice is sweet, delicious and slightly pulpy.

It’s made from the local oranges, Doug tells us. I think it’s quite possibly the most delicious orange juice I’ve ever experienced in my life.

But there’s something funny about the flavor, amid the sweetness. A slightly grainy taste. And then I know. Vodka.

Doug meanders around, going between tourists, the kitchen, and a hammock that hangs at the edge of the porch property.

He wanders back into the kitchen and comes back to our table with a plate of pulpy, fresh grapefruit coated with fresh sugar. Try it, he says, it’s the best grapefruit I’ve ever had. I’ve been ordering it for a month now.

We bite into the juicy flesh, and it is delicious. Not a single hint of bitterness, but flavorful, juicy and delicious. It’s just covered in sugar. We have a few chunks and Doug tells us about his travels through the years from Nantucket to Vail to New York, and eventually here, where he’s been hanging for a while. He is in the business of opening up restaurants. We believe him… mostly… but we’re unsure judging by the amount of rum and vodka that seeps from his breath.

Another waitress, an African girl barely 15 from the looks of it, tells us that he is only friends with the owner. And that he’s crazy, always drunk or high somehow. We look over, and now Doug, whose piercing blue eyes are glazed over, is stumbling and pushing another African guy walking from the beach, up his porch, selling two coconuts.

Get away, Doug yells, get outta here! He adds, stumbling over his feet a bit. He pushes the African carrying the coconuts.

Come on, man, just give me some water, the African says. Check out these coconuts. He sets the coconuts on the floor of the porch and Doug picks each one of them up carefully. He examines them, shakes them and sets them gently down on the ground. Then, with a swift motion, he picks them up again and chucks them over the balcony, into the sand.

“Get outta here!” he screams, and stumbles back into the kitchen.

Jason, Cyn and I are absolutely bewildered. What the hell is going on?

We look at the African. Are you okay? We say.

Yea, he says, smiling. I know Doug a long time. We are friends. He is crazy!

Doug comes out of the kitchen with a plastic cup of water. Here, he says, and hands the African the cup. He is smiling and for a minute we think that things are going to be okay after all.

Now get out of here! Doug screams, stumbling and trying to push the African down the porch steps.

Don’t push me man! Don’t push me! The African swears, pushing back. They shove each other back and forth along the porch (luckily, we are the only patrons for the moment), and Doug digs his heels in, shoving the man against the back steps.

Don’t push me man, the African repeats. You’re making me angry.

He turns around and storms down the steps with his coconuts.

You makin’ me REAL angry. Don’t PUSH me man. You makin’ me real angry. I outta break these coconuts on your head man.

He looks menacing, bracing the coconut in his hand, looking as though he is about to chuck the coconuts at Doug. Then he walks about screaming out at no one in general, Fuckin’ I outta throw these coconuts at you. FUCK! You makin’ me REAL Angry.

All of a sudden we hear the kitchen door from the side swing open.

Oh crap, we think. There is going to be another brawl.

“Come on, give me a hug man.” It’s Doug’s voice.

FUCK YOU! Screams the African.

“Give me a hug, give me a hug.”

Doug comes back to our table. Oh well, crazy guy, he says, and grabs my hand to start leading me to the hammock.

No, no, I say. I’m all right, I’m still eating, I tell Doug and shove myself back into my seat, pretending to concentrate on the plate of chicken fingers.

Doug somehow dozes off in the hammock, and the young African girl reappears, giving me a kiss on the cheek.

It’s been a slow season, she says. I’ve been soooo bored. And then you came!

Although she had stormed out on Doug earlier in the day, screaming that if he ‘ever did that again, she would not come back!’, but here she was again with a large goblet of orange juice (or vodka/orange juice) and a splif tucked behind her ear.

Daniel, an older Honduran man, not unattractive, with a slightly hunched back shuffles out of the kitchen. Oh, just ignore him, he says. Do you like ganga?

The girl brings me another vodka/orange juice and the young girl lights the splif for herself and passes it to Daniel.

It’s too hot here, she says, come on, let’s go to the pier.

We are apprehensive. It is already strange enough with ganga free flowing outside on a public porch sitting on top of a public beach… but out in the pier? All around, there are children as young as 5 or 6 perhaps, and 20-somethings taking off from both the first- and second-story ridges.

Is it ok? I ask.

Of course, they say, and the young girl skips down the boardwalk to the pier, climbing up the ladder to the second story, carefully balancing her drink. I follow in suit, cradling my goblet of vodka/orange and together, the four of us sit underneath the blazing sun. It is definitely hotter here than on the porch of the Beach House and I wonder what the hell she was thinking.

Daniel lights a splif and takes a few long drags. Do you want some of this, he asks the girl. She says yes and takes the roll from him. He shakes his head and slowly lowers himself down the steps and returns to the Beach House.

Across from us, there is a group of local teenage boys doing the 25/30-foot jump. One of the boys looking terribly nervous, walks to and from the edge, climbing up onto the bench, then slowly lowering himself again. The African girl approaches him, wraps her arms around him in a big hug and whispers into his ear.

She comes back to me and hugs me. I told him that if he jumps, I would kiss him! She laughs. I think that he is shy. She takes a long drag.

Jason is looking down as well, contemplating the jump. I don’t know. I think I’ll do it eventually, but not now, he says.

The African girl’s eyes light up. Unbutton his shirt and say, please baby, please, she whispers to me.

Oh, God I think, and laugh… awkwardly. I say nothing.

As the afternoon lingers, we finally head over to the Beach House. It’s been nearly 4 hours since we’ve first arrived there, and now, we’re not altogether sure if we’re patrons, friends, or perhaps a bit of both. The woman working in the kitchen and our waitress are long gone and Doug is no where to be seen. We wonder if we actually have a bill or if we should even ask for it.

In a moment of conscience, I tell Jason, yes, we should ask, so I tell the African girl that we’ll take the bill. She is disappointed. Oh, you’re leaving already?

Yes, I say, we have to. But we’ll try to be back later.

Okay, she says reluctantly, and runs inside to grab a piece of paper. What did you have again? She asks.

I look at Jason. Maybe we shouldn’t have even asked.

Umm.. A chicken stir fry and two chicken fingers, I say. Oh, and two cokes.

She writes it down on the notepad in almost childish handwriting, with large, loopy, crooked letters.

Did you have an orange juice, she asks me.

Well, kind of, I say. It’s more like he gave it to me. I didn’t exactly order it.

She rolls her eyes in the direction of Doug’s room and doesn’t include the orange juice on our bill. The total comes to $30 US.

Jason and I are laughing all the way down to the main road. Wow, he says, what just happened?

I have no idea.

We start walking down the main road, a dusty, pothole-filled dirt road lined with restaurants, fast food-type shacks, bars and a few souvenir/gift shop type places. There are some restaurants that stand up on stilts on top of the sea that is merely 2 or 3 meters away from the road. There is every type of world cuisine–Thai, Vietnamese, pizza, Ali Baba’s Mediterranean…

Around the bend, the dirt road gives into a parking lot, another thatch-roofed bar and into a more remote beach that is lined only on one side with small hotels and resorts. Jason and I continue to walk down the beach along the water, and I want to kick him for making fun of me for wanting to grab the camera.

Along the way, we pick up two beers from the Coconut Tree grocery store. We drink it walking down the street and some store owners give us a look of surprise when we show up in their shops with beers in hand.

We later learn from Reid that apparently, it is illegal to carry open beer in the street (in bottles, apparently, you can carry it in plastic cups), and is enforceable by a fine of 500 lemps ($25).

When we walk nearly to the end of the second strip of beach, Jason feels inspired to open a coconut. He jumps several times, aiming to knock one of the suckers down, and finally, when banging the fresh coconuts with sticks seems to fail, he scales the tree by his bare feet. Clinging to the bark with his knees, he chooses the coconut closest to him and twists it by its stem until it finally falls away from the tree.

Victory.

He is ecstatic and holds his prize, trying to find a way to rip it open.

At the edge of the beach strip, there is a rock wall made of soft sediment and several larger stones that jut into the water. Thus begins Jason’s half an hour attempt to break open the coconut by banging it into stationary objects.

A couple walks by after a bit, and seeing Jason sweating and pounding, the man advises that he should use a stick and bang it up around the top. You have to break it open from the top and peel away the fibrous skin, the man advises.

Jason thanks him and resumes his pounding, only this time, he aims the top of the coconut at the rocks.

Unfortunately, he is fighting against sedimentary rock, which is soft and breaks away with every 10 or so blows. When he’s finally broken enough of the skin to peel back the fiber, there are at least 5 spots in the rock wall that have crumbled away under his abuse.

Leaving Jason to his business, I walk along a narrow boardwalk that wraps around the stone wall that leads to yet another beach, across a stone walkway. There is a tree that grows there wrapped in cactus blooming with purple flowers.

When I cross back to Jason’s side, I see he is somewhat triumphant and slightly disappointed.

I was about to give up, he says, and then I looked inside and realized I cracked the coconut. He is sweating bullets through his long sleeve button-down. He tosses his prize into the sea.

It is sunset when we start heading back. Cynthia must be finished with her refresher course by now and we ought to have dinner together, after all.

We are halfway back when we literally nearly run into a sign that reads happy hour special, $25 lempira beer. We can’t say no to just ONE $25 lempira beer, so Jason and I step under the cool shade of the thatch roof bar only to see our friend Daniel from the Beach House.

Hey, friends, he calls out, and we join him to have just one round of Port Royals. One more? I say to Jason once the first round is finished. Yea, I could do one more, he says, so we sit for another round of beers.

We are about to wrap up, again preparing ourselves to pick Cynthia up from the dive shop, when Daniel’s friend buys us a round of beers. It would naturally only be rude not to oblige, so we sit for another beer, chatting over the basket of tortilla chips and salsa they lay out on the bar.

I nudge Jason. We at least buy the guy a beer back, I say. I know, he says back, but instead of ordering the guy a beer, he orders another round for everyone and so we sit for one more. Then, perhaps in a gesture of Caribbean hospitality, Daniel’s friend orders us yet another round and before I know it, I am slightly drunk.

Ok, that’s it, I say to Jason. We have to cut ourselves off. We say our thank yous and goodbyes, promising to be back later, and head back down the road, except now, the sky is already dark.

Shit, I wonder what time it is, I say to Jason. She’s going to hate us.

But instead we find Cynthia sitting with others on the dive shop bench, drinking a Port Royal herself. Two of her friends are living in our dingy dorm.

Sooooo, she begins slowly, I talked to the dive shop about how the bathroom doesn’t have a lid, and they gave me a key to the cabin.

Just to use the bathroom, she adds, but I took a look inside and it’s really nice. It’s only like $35 a night. If there’s 4 of us, that’s only a little more.

She introduces us to Gemma, a cute, thin, dark-haired British girl who sits close by with a Salva Vida. She’ll stay with us too. Do you want to just look at it.

I am unconvinced ($5 a night was so attractive), but we promise that we’ll take a look. Jason and I follow Cynthia into the gated Coconut Tree Cabin area, and we walk down the stone pathway to the last little cottage. Upon seeing the hammock hanging from the front porch, we are already almost sold. Then Cyn swings open the door and we stand amid a spacious room with two double beds, a TV, air conditioning, a breakfast table, kitchenette and hot shower.

Sold, I say. I don’t care how much this place is.

Well technically, we’re just supposed to use the bathroom here tonight. We can talk to them tomorrow.

Fuck it, I say. Let’s move our shit.

We are ecstatic with our room until it is time for us to head to the Chicken Shack for dinner.

Cyn is first to use the bathroom. When Jason follows, he nervously calls out from the open roof bathroom that it seems that the water level has risen quite a bit.

It’s ok, I yell over. I am dying to pee. So I mosey on into the bathroom and do my business. I am staring down into the toilet at the water that is close to reaching the toilet brim. In my Port Royal stupor, I convince myself that maaaaybe if I just flush it one more time, all the water will drain. I hit the lever.

The water starts flowing, and..oh… oh shit, the water and piss mixture quickly flows over the toilet seat and spills onto the bathroom floor.

Shit! I scream, running out of the bathroom Shit, shit shit!

Why did you do that! Jason groans. LISA!

Let’s steal the plunger from the dorm and get out of here, I say. It’s just liquid. It probably evaporates right?

Gemma, who has now moved her things into our room, joins us in a groan and we all collectively decide to leave it be and head off for some chicken plates.

We had heard the Coconut Tree staff talking about the Chicken Shack all day. Perhaps our expectations were too high, but we were moderately disappointed in the food. I was however ecstatic that there was adequate signal from the Beach House wifi that I could get online to finish my PADI course. I had not yet taken the final exam.

It was a good plan and a valiant effort but the Port Royals prevailed. Utter failure. I could not pass 3 consecutive questions, let alone see the screen straight on. I quit and dig my head into my extended arm, taking a short nap on the table while Cynthia skypes Citibank.

We go back to our spacious cabin, where the urine/water has now evaporated. I sink into a sleeping stupor.

La Ceiba to Roatan

The next morning, surprisingly get up at 8:20. l oh shit, will we make it? Should we even try?

But we make a collective decision to just gun for it (since there’s nothing in La Ceiba), and I wake up Jason. We all pack up quickly.

Since there is no one else staying at the hotel, apparently, check-out is a breeze and are in a cab to Roatan by 9:15.

The pier is not the one that we saw down the stretch of beach, but another one, further north. It is quite sophisticated, with a long line of taxis, cars and trucks moving in and out of the harbor gates. This is the main harbor, the cabbie says, where everything goes in and out of Roatan.

We pay our taxi $15 US, and spread out among two of the four lines of ticket purchasers. I look down at my blackberry, noting that it’s now 9:23, and I wonder if that 9:30 departure time is a hard or soft deadline.

I tap my feet impatiently, leaning back and forth seeing if the line is moving. There are only about 6 or 7 people in front of me, and in theory, my line should be moving the fastest–there are two ticket offices serving it. But to my irritation, I see an old man standing at one box office and a balding old lady standing at another. And. They. Will. Not. Move. Their. Asses.

For the love of GOD, I think, how long does it take to buy a fucking ticket. Stop asking about the weather and move on granny!

Jason and Cynthia have moved out of the fourth line and are spread between lines 1 and 3. Finally the old granny moves and by the time my line starts moving, Cynthia is already buying her ticket.

When I finally buy my ticket, it’s 9:29. We hand off our suitcases, dash through security and up the ramp to the boat. Phew, I think, we made it, but as soon as I settle into a chair in front of the TV in the main room, I realize that it’s not a hard deadline. It’s 9:34, and we have not yet started to move.

As soon as I hear the rumble of the engine, I head outside to explore, and discover that clase normal is actually two stories high, and the second story is basked in sunshine. I head up.

from the top deck, looking back from La Ceiba
from the top deck, looking back from La Ceiba

The hour and twenty minute ride over is beautiful and pristine. The ferry is swift. A couple of nights before, we had been puzzled hour an hour long ferry ride could get us to an island that we couldn’t even see. Now we realize that the island is actually in another direction from the one we were facing, and the ride itself is actually 4 to 5 hours. Several years ago, they had created this new ferry that was much faster in the water. Along the way, we see a string of surrounding islands. Several dark spots in the water turn out to be schools of fish. As we near them, we can see dozens of fish flipping in and out of the water. And, before you know it, a lush, green island approaches.

Roatan approaching
Roatan approaching

La Ceiba – Part 2

When we pull into the hotel, it is nearly 8 o’clock at night. The reception area is completely empty.

Checking in, I say to the front desk. A bellhop has already insisted on taking our bags. Is Jason here? Has he already checked in, I ask. Jason? Jason?

Ah yes, he says, there is someone at the bar. Maybe that is him
I walk over and am surprised to see that that the entire pool area is empty. There are only two people who sit at the bar. Wow, maybe the Dutchman was right, no one actually stays here.

One of the figures rises with a backback and heads over, beer in hand, and gives me a hug.

Lisa!! He says. Hey!

I’m so sorry, I say. I tried to send you an email. We got stuck up the mountain. There was literally nothing we could do.

Yea, he says. I got here around 4:30/5. I waited for a while.

Why didn’t you just check in, I asked. Have you been at the bar all this time?

Yes, he tells me. This is his 7th beer. I’m surprised it’s not more full, he says.

Did you eat? I ask. I am starving.

Dammit, he says, I just ate. A bowl of fries. I ordered right before it occurred to me to check my phone to see if there was wifi. Thank you for sending that email, by the way.

Well, good thing fries don’t count as food, and you’re going to eat again! I say gleefully. He looks at me suspiciously. We’ll see.

We all head back to the front desk where Cynthia is already done filling out her information and checking us in. Room 210, they say, and send us up.

The room is fresh and clean, although the sheets look like they hadn’t been updated since the 80s — the thin quilt, covered in pastel colored flowers. The balcony is incredible though, a stone ledge jutting out over the pool, facing the ocean.

DSC01845

We settle into our beds briefly. We feel like it’s been forever since we’ve slept in a real bed (since Granada really… those cots at Santo Domingo hardly felt like hotel quality anything.)

Jason and I jump into one. I lean back, relaxing. Whoa.. Whoa.. The bed scoots forward when we lean against headboard.

“Wait.. Is this a the same as a La Quinta Inn?”

No, I think it’s different, I say laughing.

I think we can lock the wheels on the mattress, Jason says. He jumps off and “locks” the wheels. I test out his mechanical saavy but leaning back into the headboard again. The bed slides again.

raining lempiras on the la quinta bed
raining lempiras on the la quinta bed

 

Dammit, he says.

Psh… mechanical engineer.

Go to La Palapa next door for dinner. The place is huge, two stories built in solid wood, with large plasma Tvs situated blasting everything from Hooters competitions to sports to music videos. There are disco lights, disco balls, music blaring, and outside, there loads of pictures of people looking like they are having a good time (sponsored by Barena). Although it looks like there are quite a few people eating, it doesn’t quite look like anyone’s in the mood to party.

We order a round of beers (Cyn gets a diet coke), and order some salad, fried chicken and pescado frito for dinner. We find out there is a bucket beer special, so we order a bucket of beers. Can’t say no to a good deal!

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Initially we think we’ll stay– after all, the location adjacent to our hotel is undeniably convenient, but the longer we stay, the more people that get up and leave. As it gets later, La Palapa gets more tired, not busier.

Jason and I decide we need to check out the town. Cyn leaves after dinner (we find out later it’s already midnight)

Upon asking around, our waitress writes down the name of a cool discotec named Hibou, just two blocks past our hotel off the main road.

Jason and I walk over, past the street of the Rotterdam Hostel, past an open lot, past a huge tent with blaring lights, and finally to Hibou, a discotec with equally bright disco lights.

In regular fashion, I see a line outside, leading up to a ticketing window. I decide waiting in line would be a complete buzz kill, so I decide that I would prefer not to wait, and I step in line, ahead of the security guards. One door, check, two doors, check, and it’s only at the checkpoint at the third door that I realize they will not let us in.

Where are your tickets? they say, and when I say I don’t have any, they say I have to get in line outside. Unwilling to do so, I mill around in the middle of everything, until the finally, a small man approaches from the ticketing office and offers to allow us to buy our tickets inside.

How much, I ask. 260 lempiras for both you, he says. Fine, I say, handing him 300. We are scotch free!

The club is massive and bumping, two stories, with VIP bars by the entrance and upstairs. In the center, there is a huge dance floor where scores of people–probably 85% locals–grind and dance. The music is largely reggae-tone, but every now and then I hear a song I recognize and get excited, singing along to the words (or pretending as though I know it).

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Jason and I head over to buy a round of drinks.

Is credit card okay? He asks, and the bartender nods. He orders a Port Royal beer, and I have a cuba libre. I had just taken my first sip of the refreshing drink, when Jason hands over his card.

ID? Says the bartender.

Oh crap, I say. You know, we’ve left our Ids at home tonight, but I swear that’s us. I’ll even give you my credit card as collateral. I even try to offer her my hotel key card as collateral, as if somehow, staying at the best hotel would help give us credibility.

The stone faced bartender still says no, so we are SOL with the 250 lempira combined that we have left in our pockets.

Luckily, as we find out, cuba libres are 35 lempiras, but shots of rum are only 30, so we spend the remainder of the night taking shots of cheap CA rum and dancing on the dance floor.

What time is it? I ask a girl standing next to me at the bar. She glances down at her watch and holds up 3 fingers.

Can we leave? Jason asks.

Yes, I say and I wonder how on earth we’re going to get up the next morning and make the 9:30 ferry to Roatan. I guess we’ll play it by ear, I say.

La Cangrejal – Honduras

I awake at 6:15 the next morning, eager to get on my way for the day. I start moving around, packing my things. The cab will be here at 7 to take us to Cangrejal.

The road is long and bumpy, although scenic and beau

 

tiful. I am a bit groggy but in the clearings, when you can see the valleys

 

 open up into a wide river splashing amid rock beds in the sunshine, I am blown away.

Rio Cangrejal
Rio Cangrejal The Omega Tours headquarters is up a steep-ish hill, past a charming bed and breakfast. We instantly see dogs running around, a rack of helmets. Hello! A German looking fellow says to me cheerfully as he runs down barefoot. You’re pretty early! He says. He takes us to Room 2 and shows us around the property, although we quite regretfully tell him that no, unfortunately, we will not be able to stay the night tonight. Oh, no worries, he says, and we move our luggage to the main office room.Cyn and I have a quick typical breakfast of a burrito with eggs, beans, cheese and an avocado. I give my avocado to her. We mill around until about 8:30 when another couple arrives and we are ready to do our rafting tour adventure. We have three guides -- Cam, Dena and Al, who take us on a 10-minute hike to the bottom of the river where the two boys meet us, carrying huge rafts over their heads.We’re going to do a hiking session first, they tell us, and then we’ll get into the rafts.debrief session

Around the river we march, occasionally splashing in the cold, crystal clear water. (When you ask they locals if it’s clean, they say that it’s clear). They lead us around rocks, showing us the plant life (there is a little plant that curls up when you flick it or splash water onto it–defense mechanism) and pointing out rapids we will raft past.

amazing little plant that curls up with water contact amazing little plant that curls up with water contact

This river was apparently discovered by some Germans who had wanted to find a place to train kayakers in the winter. When they found this river, they were ecstatic. It is the best river for rafting in Central America, apparently.

They take us up, climbing onto boulders and we jump into lagoons. There is a river hike where we do all this, they say, and I instantly want to do it.

boulder jump
boulder jump

We eventually float our ways downstream again to where the rafts are waiting for us, buoyed up by our life vests, we freestyle against currents, and rest on our bums, feet out, floating with the water flow. It is incredibly relaxing. Here and there, we’ll see locals out, washing clothes and swimming. “Hola!” we yell over.

DSC01764

Getting into the raft for the first time is rather tricky. You sit (on the right side), with your right leg bent over a circular “bench”, butt pulled back to the side of the raft, left leg at a perpendicular angle tucked underneath the bench. The only ‘raft’ I’d ever been in is that circular one you sit in at Six Flags on the White Water rafting ride… or the inflatable kind you buy at walmart, which resembles more of a canoe than an actual raft, less the fact that it’s inflatable.

Al gets into our raft and teaches us a thing or two about forward paddling, backpaddling, hold on and a hold on, lean in.

We pull out about 30 feet and they stop again to practice some safety skills, like man overboard. I jump out of the raft and Al dunks me and pulls me up into the boat. He turns to Cynthia — your turn! She jumps out of the boat and Al turns to me to pull her up. I grab her by the vest and tried to pull her up. I rammed her face right into the raft.

Ahhh! She says. Lisa!

Try again, Al tells me, and I try to pull her up, ramming her face into the raft. Al gives up on me and pulls Cynthia up himself.

The scene is unreal and we wind down rapids, hitting a few low grades, maneuvering through rocks along the way. It’s not nearly as fast as I think we’re going to cruise (certainly not like Disney World), but it’s fun nonetheless.

coming down a grade 3 rapid
coming down a grade 3 rapid

Left, Left! Al yells and I go in for a hard left and the raft tilts, tilts, tilts and flips. Shit! I scream and fall into the water under the raft. Al is laughing. He did it on purpose.

We climb up a hill and return to camp for a heaping lunch of pasta, with a side of pesto and sauce. We chat with a few new friends and by 1:15, Cynthia and I are in the truck, heading up to a higher level of the river where we’ll begin our descent.

The rapids vary in length and drops. We hit some tough ones, a grade 5 at best, and watch the water cascade down a grade 6 that we cannot raft.

DSC01804

They point out the water swirling under the rock, sucking down into a hole and spitting back out on the other side. Al tells me that once, a boat guided by Jungle River Tours took a group that wasn’t experienced for the conditions, and a boy had drowned with the group. Omega was called in to do the body recovery. The water just sucks you down, they say, and when it spits you back up, it knocks you against the rocks. You have 38 seconds of air.

Nearly wholly down the mountain, we are all of a sudden asked to stop. We look further down river and our safety boat, with Cam and Alfredo, is stuck in a rapid. Upon closer look, the water from the rapid is pouring over the raft and its force weighs down the raft. Cam and Alfredo pull on ropes tied to the raft, but the thing doesn’t budge.

DSC01825

Al docks our raft and jumps out to help. For a full hour, they are assembling a wide range of pulleys, wrapping rope around rocks, connecting them to one another, pulling, one, two, then all three together through the river. None of it works.

DSC01816

Somehow, through a mixture of pulling from different vantage points on two different rocks, the three boys manage to budge the raft, just an inch or two. For just an inch. An then, inch by inch, they manage to pull the thing out. It takes one hour.

Cyn and I are terrified that we have to hit the same rapid, but Al assures us that we’ll hit the rapid from the left side. There are two close calls when I think the water is going to flow over the raft and we’ll get stuck as well, but by dark, we are pulling back into shore and we head up the hill for the cabin. Cam offers to buy us a drink.

When we get back to Omega Tours, we realize that it’s already nearly 7. Shit, I think to myself, Jason got into San Pedro Sula hours ago. I’m SURE he’s going to be at La Quinta by now and he probably hates me. I run over to the computer, desperate to send him an email about how we’ll be there soon.

Omega calls a taxi. Half an hour I say, wanting to take a shower first. No worries, she says, it takes a taxi half an hour to get up here anyway.

Before we leave, Dee asks us if we’ve consumed the local medicinal drink yet– a mixture of rum infused with local herbs, roots, medicinal plants really. No, I said, although my Dutchman had told me about the garifuna drink (“they’ll tell you that there’s no marijuana in it, he had said, oh but there is..)

giffitty
giffitty

No, I tell Dee. Will you take a shot of it with me?

She laughs and says yes, pulling out a bottle of the potent shit stuffed into an old glass bottle. There are sticks (I assume roots) sticking out of it. She unscrews the top and Cyn and I take a whiff. I cringe. It smells like my grandmother’s Chinese medicine.

Dee and I bravely take shots of the stuff, and the taste is so awful, I instantly reach for Cynthia’s rum and coke to buffer the pain.

DSC01829

Cam then swings by the bar, telling Dee, whatever we want, we’ve got a drink on him. For the rafting incident, he says, but no top shelf! He adds with a wink as he heads over to the communal dinner table for his supper with the others.

I had just ordered a half Flor de Cana when they tell us our cab has arrived.

Oh crap, has it been half an hour already?” I say to Cyn. Crap, let’s get the bill.

No, it’s okay, the staff tells us, if we want to hang out, the taxi will wait. No problem.

We pay our bill, about 24$ US, and head to our cab, asking him to bring us to La Quinta. Half way down the mountain, he goes, you know at night, it costs more! He says.

Dammit, we’re already halfway down this damn thing. I forgot that in Honduras, you should always negotiate a price before you go in, although hell, we were coming down from a mountain. Not a huge bargaining opportunity considering we had wait half an hour for THIS cab to even get up there. Let’s be serious. We were going to pay whatever he was asking, period.

For $20, he takes us on the half hour trek down to La Quinta Real in the pitch darkness. The only glimmers of color down the long, winding road are the beams of our taxi’s headlights.

La Ceiba

La Ceiba is slightly cooler when we arrive. In the distance to the south, we see a hoard of clouds descending upon the mountain peaks. The flight had been beautiful but bumpy, although it is the first I’ve taken without air con.

DSC01719

We walk out to the main street in efforts to hail down a taxi. My tour book has told me this is much cheaper, but you must go colectivo.

The failure in the plan is that it is the Sunday on Christmas day and there is no one out.

Within a few minutes, a taxi passes by with one white guy in the back.

Taxi to where? The guy in the passenger seat asks.

Zona Viva, I say.

Twenty dollars.

No, forget, I say, and start turning around.

Okay, 10 dollars, he says, for both, and we get into the cab.

Our cabbie cannot find the Rotterdam Hotel, and it’s only when he overshoots it and I see Amsterdam 2001 that I tell him to please stop. We are here.

I pull into my fanny wallet and pull out a $20 to pay my friend.

You don’t have anything else, he says. Slightly irate. No, I say, and hand him the $20.

Then it’s good, he says, taking a look at the $20.

No, it’s not good, I say. You told me $10.

Ah, but I have no change he says, handing me back my $20. Maybe one of these hotels.

I search for the entrance to Rotterdam and/or Amsterdam and find nothing really. I walk through the gate at Rotterdam and see a beautiful Honduran girl sitting behind the reception desk. Cambio? I see meekly, holding up my $20. I have to pay the taxi.

Noo, she says. Try the restaurant.

I walk past my cabbie to the little dutch restaurant that is adjacent. There are two tables of locals fanning themselves. In front, a Honduran man plays with a young child. What do you need? After I explain the situation, he says, ok, maybe you talk to my aunt.

Cynthia had 500 lempiras and I had a $20 in hand. We could either break the 500 lemps or she could exchange my $20. Whichever is easier, she says, and I hand over my $20. When she gives me back 370, I am pissed.

That’s it?. I say. That’s not the exchange rate.

I’ll show you, she says, going back to retrieve her calculator. 20×18.5.…

It’s not that I don’t trust your math (idiot…), you’re screwing me on the rate you’re exchanging my money, I think to myself.

No, no, I say. The exchange rate is 18.8. (And even then, I am somewhat irritated because the guys at the airport that forced me to change with their rates had given me an 18.8 rate or so. And I was convinced they were already screwing me. This granny was taking it even further.)

No, it‘s because I have to take it to the bank and then change them… she says. I call bullshit.

I pay the cab 180, and she relents and gives me a 18.8 rate.. Or 7 lemps more. And I feel stupid for making such a big deal out of such little money. It’s in the principal, I say to myself, trying to justify the situation.

We go Hotel Rotterdam to check in. The young Honduran girl logs us into the guest book and leads us our room and opens the door. We are apparently the only guests there. We are surprised.

When we peer inside Room 4, we are slightly disgusted. The place is… somewhat dump. The colors are dingy and the rooms are simple but relatively clean. The paint peels from the walls, amid an overhanging fan and uniquely bulby, circular lamp that is connected a wall behind one of the beds. The windows are slatted open, and the air is humid and slightly moldy. I see a exoskeleton bug crawl up the wall behind a bed. But what can you really say? It’s only 13 dollars for both of us.

We had hoped there would at least be a dorm to meet other travelers, and I find out later that there is… at Amsterdam 2001 (not that it would have mattered since we were the only patrons.

I run back outside to talk to the girl. I want to make sure that I book my rafting tour with Omega Tours tomorrow, I say to the girl in my awful Spanish. Can I please use your phone. It will only be for a few minutes.

She looks at the phone and then to me again, unsure if she should let me use it. Please, I beg, It’s only for a very short while, I say. You’re sure, she says. Yes, yes, I say eagerly. Just a few minutes. So she gives me the phone, and I ring Omega Tours, certain that no one will pick up. But someone does (thank God), and whoever it is speaks amazing English. We confirm a day-long rafting tour for the next day, and a shuttle to come at 7 a.m. to get us from the hotel.

Cynthia and I settle in for some showers after a long day of traveling. We already know that there will be no hot water. The water is so cold, I can’t even bring myself to wash my hair. Sorry, Cyn, you’ll have to deal with my stinky.

With no tv or internet connection to speak of, we decide to check out the town of La Ceiba.. At least in the Zona Viva area. We walk west two blocks and turn onto a street with a beautiful sprawling hotel built in a grandiose, almost Spanish style. From the pictures I had seen before, I know right away that it is La Quinta, the hotel we have booked for tomorrow night.

Oh, look, it’s beautiful! We say to ourselves, and admire the chandeliers in the lobby and full service staff milling around in the front. In between the hotel and the conference center, there is an entrance to the beach, so we walk along the sand, past the La Quinta swimming pool, bar, and patio. Families play, couples drink, and we can’t wait to stay there.

This is where everyone must be staying, I say to Cynthia. And tomorrow, we will too.

We walk down the strips of sand, not entirely clean, but not bad. The water color is bluish-grey, pretty, but nothing to write home about.

La Ceiba beach
La Ceiba beach

We walk a few hundred meters before the beach starts to look kind of sketch and the beachside hotels and bars disappear nearly altogether. We loop back onto the main street to check out the bars, clubs and restaurants in this neightborhood. Most are open air places, a few large restaurants flanked by rows of shanty-looking structures converted to restaurants. Smoke pours outside of grills set out onto the street where local cooks are grilling pollo and carne.

Basically the problem is that everything is closed because a Sunday/Christmas Day combination couldn’t be worse for trying to find an activity. When we get back to the La Quinta street, we decide to go to a restaurant by the beach to catch the sunset. When in doubt: eat.

We end up at Snake Bar, a little bit further up the beach, where we had seen four tables sat, drinking beers and chatting.

Cyn and I come up from the beach entrance and struggle for a good 10 minutes to find staff. We at least want to let them know we’re here.

The place is a huge…a main bar, restaurant area, a large patio with tables and a 2nd floor patio with more tables. We sit at a table on the 2nd floor between a group of boys drinking beers and a couple drinking some fruity drinks, kissing in the sunset.

An older man, perhaps in his fifties, the only waiter there, brings us a couple of menus. Que tome, he asks us, and I struggle to ask him what the local beers from Honduras are.

He says something unintelligible.

Quiero una cerveza de Honduras…. Hay las cervezas de Honduras? I ask again.

He says something unintelligible again, so I order a Barena and move on. Cynthia tries to ask if there is diet coke.

What? He says. Fanta? Sprite? Fresca?

No, we say., Diet coke.

Coca cola sin azucar, I try to explain.

Ahhh, he says. Okay. And leaves. We’re not so sure we’ve actually ordered anything.

He comes back 10 minutes later with a Barena for me and nothing for Cynthia. We don’t have, he says, after all.

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Cynthia looks crestfallen at the loss of her favorite drink, but settles on a juice made from mixed fruits. She points to it, and he says okay, preparing to leave.

Wait! I say, we’re ready to order!

On the menu, there are several photos of food that look delicious. Cynthia wants the fried chicken looking photo with fries, and I am eager to try something that looks like a salad with calamari and lobster.

We would like to order the photos, we say. Que en la lista estan los fotografias? We try to say?

Our waiter begins to list everything listed under the chicken header on the menu.

Ah, no, we don’t want all of it, I say. Just the photo.

He again begins to list everything under the chicken section. Frustrated, we say, ok, just that then, pointing to a pollo frito.

It is equally difficult trying to order my salad looking thing, because we absolutely have no idea what number it is on the menu. We are at his mercy. He lists everything under the Mariscos section of the menu again and again, and I point repeatedly at the photo of mixed seafood.

When he leaves, I turn to Cynthia. I have never had so much trouble trying to order! I say. My God. I really hope he doesn’t bring us back an order of everything.

Half an hour later, the boys at the next table leave. Great, it’s getting dark, and Cynthia’s fruit juice is no where to be found.

We move down to a table closer to the beach, and closer to the lights that light up the strip of beach we are at. We had heard, because the beach was so dark, it was not safe at night to move around the grounds. Inside, eventually, someone flips a switch and we are sitting underneath the warm glow of Christmas lights. The bigger green bulbs look old and dusty… many of them are a scratchy mix of green and yellow.

An hour later, Cynthia has no drinks still, but the waiter brings back two salads with lettuce, a beet, a slice of carrot, two tomatoes and some beans.. All covered in a leche type dressing. Interesting, we think, and Cynthia swipes a sip of my beer because she still is thirsty as hell.

The waiter comes back to collect our plates 20 minutes later, and by now, nearly all the tables that had been seated when we sat down are gone.

Sprite? Cynthia says. She will drink anything at this point.

The waiter tries to stay and talk to us for a minute, but it is useless. We cannot understand his Spanish for the life of us. We simply dig into the food when it comes–two amazing plates of fried chicken with plantains and two lobster tails cooked in a bubbly, rich creamy sauce in a makeshift lettuce bowl. We dig into the chicken, coated in a layer of cumin and peppery spice. We are always amazed by the tenderness of the chicken. It is incredible, I think.

When dinner’s done, we have little else to do and head back to the hotel, walking past several bars that Lonely Planet has mentioned. It looks like every where’s empty and no one is out.

When we get back to Rotterdam, there are two men sitting across the street from the hotel, leaning back and chatting in white lawn chairs. The garifuna that we had seen pacing up and down the streets earlier, and the other–a Dutchman whose belly stretches out his red polo–rises out of another.

“Hey, my friends,” he says. How are you? You are the new guests. I wasn’t expecting anyone today because the buses weren’t running. I think you still have to pay he says.

Well, I said, we had wanted to go out to eat to make change for paying the place. We were trying to break our 500s (I didn’t even want to ask next door because of the experience from earlier). But we ate too much.. I said.. 488 worth.. And now we still don’t have change to pay.

No worries, he says, and introduces himself as the owner.

He tells us that this place, this whole block in fact, had been owned by his mother who had passed away earlier in the year. His sister owns the dutch restaurant down the street and rents out some of the spaces to the two bars/restaurants flanking the hotels on either side. He runs this place.

I stop him for a moment. Do you drink rum? I say.

Well yes, he says. I was rather hungover from last night, but I’m quite well now. Why not?

I run back to my room where Cynthia has headed because she is getting eaten alive by the mosquitos. I grab the two bottles of Flor de Cana that I have carried from Nica and set them down at the bar.

Pouring through a (very small) bottle of rum, we talk about the history of the country, the politics and the growth of the tourism industry in La Ceiba… all with a little drug trafficking thrown in for the mix.

These big hotels have sprung up all over the last five years. Huge hotels that always sit empty. I get all the business around here, I am full every night. But these big hotels with huge staffs.. How do they make money?

I asked my friend if he was interested in going into investing in a hotel like that once. My friend told me to build a hotel like La Quinta, it costs 60 million lempiras. If you were quite full and charged over $100 a night, you still wouldn’t make back your investment for 30-40 years.

That hotel is NEVER full, he says. I look over and it’s always empty. So they have 2 for 1 happy hours and invite people in just so they look full (Shit, I think to myself. The people milling there was just a cover).

You know what it is, he says. Money laundering.

That hotel down the street, the Villa Paraiso, just went up. It’s always empty. When you do some research, it’s held in the name of a guerilla fighter, and you wonder, how does a guerilla fighter have the money to own a hotel.

He is backed by a drug lord who cannot have his name on anything. So I’m sure he says, ok, I’ll put this hotel in your name and you give me the money every month.

I sometimes thin to myself, why doesn’t this guy just sell the hotel and turn a profit and run. But he will be killed.

Not only him, but his mother, his kids, his aunts and uncles.

Yes, my Dutch friend nods. That is true.

I want to save some of my Flor de Cana for when Jason comes to try it, so I explain and we head down to the two 24-hour liquor stores that are open to get some more rum.

When we hop into his car, the streets are road blocked by police.

They do this every night, he say, to check on drunk drivers. He had wanted to show me a discotec down the street that looked like a castle, he said, but looking at the road blocks, he changes his mind, and we settle on a small bottle of rum from the DR.

He tells me of a run-in he’s had with the Honduran police at one of these checkpoints.

They stop me in the street and ask me to blow in their faces, he says. Instead of blowing in their faces, I open my mouth and suck in. Usually they let me go.

Except on time, I hit another car and knocked the light off. So the police come, and as soon as they smell me, they say, are you drunk? I don’t even try to argue. Yes, I’m drunk! I declared and they escort me out of the car. Someone has to drive your car somewhere, and you have to spend the night in jail, pay a 5000 lempira fine and go to court.

I’ll pay the fine, I say, but I am not going to jail. I have to go to an Atm to get money. So the police drive me to an ATM and I get out 1000 lempiras and roll it up in a wad so that they cannot see how much money it is easily. I give it to the leutenient. There you go. That’s enough for the fine and the damages to the car, but I am not going to jail. The LT slips the money into his pocket and tells me now, we have to find someone to drive my car home.

See, says the Dutchman. They don’t care about safety. They just want the money.

He continues to tell me about the travelers that he’s seen from all over the world… that Americans are often the rowdiest and drunkest. He had once caught a Canadian couple naked on the roof. Caught being that they had climbed up butt naked and could not get down. The bomberos had to be called to let them down, and a maid had to provide the couple with towels.

That’s why I had to build the staircase up to the second floor, says the Dutchman gleefully.

There is another story about a gay couple and a flashlight, and yet another about an American girl who managed to get addicted to crack and came around telling travelers that a cab had driven away with her backpack and she needed only $50 to get to Tegus to find the US embassy. She told the same story for months, he said, until I found out she was an American living with a local Garifuna, and they were both addicted to crack.

There were stories about an American who was making counterfeit bills and paying for prostitutes with them. And another about a child molester who was staying at a local hotel. He had convinced 5 kids from Tegus to come down for a holiday weekend and when the police found him, there were children in his room and more than 1000 photos on his hard drive of child pornography. Within a few days, the man had been released and the hard drive had somehow disappeared.

I suspect there was money involved, the Dutchman says. Because all of a sudden, the media are asking about the photos and the police are saying, no we are mistaken. We thought there was evidence but there wasn’t.

He tells me about how Honduras is ruled by 10 large families, almost like a mafia, and the large discrepancies between the rich and the poor. How everyone was suffering because the government is not recognized by most of the world, but is supported by the United States.

Honduras is a country of beggars, he says. When UNICEF or other organizations have money for supporting certain diseases, Honduras always asks for handouts. When AIDS became popular, the Honduran government said, AIDS? Yes, we have that here. Ohhhh, big AIDS problem in Honduras, so that they get the UNICEF money. Then all the people talk to each other and go, have you heard about this AIDS thing? What is this AIDS thing? They have no idea. And the media swarms and everyone thinks there is a big AIDS problem in Honduras. When I came back from working on a shipping vessel, I find a box of condoms at my reception. UNICEF rules, they say. I have to give condoms to all my guests. WHAT? I said. There IS no problem in my hotel.

I suspect the U.S. is behind the most recent coup, he says to me. And then tells me about the airstrips all over the Honduran jungle where US military craft regularly go to refuel. He suspects the government is involved in the drug trafficking trade on an institutional level. George Bush apparently had an office in Tegus years ago, and it was always empty, but things were going on, he says.

The stories keep pouring out for hours. About how he manages to not pay taxes, and how the Dutch government is getting more strict about paying out pensions. And by the time we are done talking, I am quite a bit drunk and it is after midnight. He leaves to drive home, in a round-about way to avoid the road blocks he says, and I debate going out to D’Vey for a minute before I finally decide to go to bed instead. I am lulled to sleep by his stories.

Managua, Tegucigalpa to La Ceiba

As soon as the bus starts moving, I am passed the hell out. I am out, drooling into my shoulder as they play an 80s movie until we reach the Nica/Honduras border. We all hand over the passports and exit the bus into the street. Across the street, a quiet duty free store sits, empty and closed.

We are out only about 20 minutes, with locals trying to bargain lempiras and dollars with us, arguing that it is was more necessary than ever to exchange our dollars today because it’s a holiday and banks are closed.

Nicaragua/Honduras border
Nicaragua/Honduras border

I’ve never even been to a bank, I whisper to Cynthia. And bullshit to these people. ATMs are open 24/7 everywhere. They’re sure to screw you with their exchange rates.

We are back on the bus again and I am confused we don’t have our passports back. Then in another 15 minutes, we are forced to exit again and again we refuse more people offering to exchange dollars/cords for lempiras.

We had heard many times over that it took mutliple hours to cross borders. Apparently, we had picked a good day. It turns out that it’s likely Central American countries have a strong attachment to religious holidays. No one else was traveling.

Although our itinerary had said we would arrive in Tegus around 1, we are in Tegus around 11 a.m., in the middle of a showing of Rush Hour 2 on the Tvs.

Upon negotiating an 80 lemp cab to the airport, I decide I want the cabbie to take us on a tour of downtown Tegus before. After all, I have only hear negative things and I Just want to see it once, as I doubt I’ll ever return.

Tegus
Tegus

The downtown is quiet, but packed in the markets and by the park, where there is a huge Christmas tree lit in the corner.

DSC01697

As our cabbie tell us about the park, another car slams into his hind side. BOOM! The car goes, and the cabbie shakes his head and exit’s the car.

Fuck, I think. This is a setup. We’re going to get robbed.

But the cabbie takes a swift look and the damage and comes back into the car.

It’s ok.? I say.

Yea, yea, he says. He slams the door, causing it to pop out of its holder.

He rams the door back in. No problems!

He takes us everywhere around the city, pointing things out along the way. When we arrive in the Tegus airport, the old man with the Santa belly looks at me solomenly. “250 lempiras por todo” he says.

Shit, I think I just screwed, I think to myself but I don’t even know what to say., And, $13 is not so bad for a tour around the city. F-it, I think and try to pay him with my $20. He has no cambio, he says, and I have to trade my money with some of the shifty-eyes guys trying to change money at an 18-to-1 cut. Funny thing was that on the border, they traded cords for lemps on a 1:1 basis. The whole time in Nica, it was a 20:1 exchange rate. Now, we felt as though we were getting screwed.

But what can you do?

For a while we cannot find our flight out. It is not showing up on the displays and I am flipping a gigantic shit. I am ALMOST POSITIVE that I booked a ticket for today, I say. I don’t get it.  Around us, armed guards pace by.

DSC01712

A Taca agent eventually points us in the right direction.  On the way to the security checkpoint, I find the beer that Martin purchased me on our ride up from San Juan still tucked away in my purse.  Sweet bananas, I think, I have one more Tona!

found a Tona!
found a Tona!

Getting out of San Juan del Sur

Cynthia is up soon and hanging out with the hostel crew, drinking a big vat of mojitos that Cooper has cooked up with Chelo. Instead of the Flor de Cana, they use some cheap local rum that costs $1.80 a bottle.

I relax and catch up on writing until 9 or so, where upon Cyn and I head to the ATM so I can get some cash. I literally have 0 cordobas.

We hit two ATMs that only take Visa cards before we finally get to one that functions with Mastercard along the beach strip, across the street from El Timon where we had dinner. I make a note to myself about Visa’s superiority.

I get $140 US, and head to the grocery store to pick up some Doritos and Coca cola. When we return to the hostel, I reach into my back pocket to put my card back into my wallet belt when I realize the back butt button on my pants is open and my card is gone.

Shit, I think. I can’t believe someone stole it. How did this happen?

Cyn is outside smoking with Nina and Florine and is startled when I start cursing into my bag.

Are you sure you took it out of the machine? She asks.

Of course! I say. I can’t believe someone stole my card.

I didn’t see anyone even get close enough to you to take it, she said. Are you positive?

Yes, I say. And then I begin to have mental doubts.

Cyn and I retrace our steps from the ATM to the grocery store. At the ATM, we see another fellow inside the room,.

Crap, I think to myself, and when he exits and we ask him if he’s seen my card, his answer is just as expected: No.

But this, a British fellow, seems awfully honest and endearing. He even pulls out his wallet, offering to show us his debit card to prove he doesn’t have mine.

That’s ok, I say. It’s not necessary.

“This happened to me in Costa Rica,” he said. “Because in the UK, you take your card first before your money and I left my card in the machine. I think it just eats it afterwards. There was nothing here when I got here, but maybe you can call the number and they can open it up.”

We thank him for his help, but it is no use. We are leaving tonight at 2 a.m.

Listelessly and angry at only myself, we saunter back to the hostel..

The night drags on as I call Citibank and talk to India. His only suggestion is that I should make my way to a Citi branch as soon as possible so that I can obtain a new card.

I’m looking at your site now, sir, I say, and I can see for a FACT that you do not have branches in any of the countries that I am going to be in.

Well, ma’am, he says. If you were to go to Mexico, we have a branch in…

No, I won’t be able to get to Mexico this trip. I would love to hear your recommendations on the best way to handle this problem.

Well ma’am.. The best way is to go to a Citibank station and speak..

Yes, but I believe I’ve already made it clear that that is impossible. I cannot get to an.

Well ma’am, if you could get to a Citibank branch, we can issue you the new card if you have a passport.

Or, I say… I’ve already let you know that there isn’t a single branch in any of these countries.

But in the end, I still lose, because the supervisor I talk to tells me that the best they can do is ship it to me overnight.. But with the holiday season, I likely won’t get my card until January 4. And I don’t even know where in Belize I’ll be in on January 4. I thank him reluctantly, feeling a bit naked.

We hang out at the hostel for a few more hours, trying to decide whether we’re going to go out, hanging out with Nina, Florine and Daniel.

At 11:30, the lights completely turn off. Black out. Terrified of the dark, I am screaming. Apparently, people are partying so hard that it short circuits the electricity. When it is back up 15 minutes later, I am eager to see what the excitement is about.

Cyn and I head out to the strip around midnight. We pass a group of children on the walk down from the hostel playing with a Santa Clause pinata. They are screaming, whacking the figurine with a gigantic stick. I cannot believe they’re all out and hanging out so late. In the distance, we can still the sound of firecrackers exploding.

People in the street are rowdy, half the gringos donning Santa hats. We go to the Pier first and see some of the guys we’d been boating with earlier. The bar is packed and the music is blasting. On the beach, a few locals are doing fire dances, twirling a stick torched on both sides with fire.

We have a drink with some of our amigos and then another.

“My friends are going to the Iguana,” Cyn tells me, so with an extra beer in hand, I decide to head out with her, finishing the beer along the way.

The Iguana is pumping and we weed through the crowds to get up there. People are everywhere, dancing like crazy. Girls in short skirts dance on chairs in the bar. I am in heaven.

Cynthia leaves me somewhere and find Daniel. While I try to order a beer, the bar turns completely dark. Another blackout.

Are you joking?!! I say to Cynthia, who eventually manages to surface by my side offering me a beer. I can’t believe this shit.

I expect people to start heading out, but instead, they stay, continuing to order drinks although the bartenders are no longer serving drinks.

Can I have a beer? I yell over the crowd.

We’re not serving, the bartnder says back to me, shining a flashlight with the image of a naked woman onto my wrist.

Son of a bitch, I think to myself… and then Cynthia, my angel, offers me a sip of her drink.

Within twenty minutes, the lights are back up again. The crowd screams and I fist pump, ecstatic that the party will continue. I order another Tona and we dance like assholes.

I lose Cynthia for some time and when I see her again, she is grinding against a local. Oh God , I think to myself, and head to the bathroom When I come out, it is 1:45 and we have Martin, our cabbie friend, coming at 2.

Cynthia and I reluctantly leave the excellent party, surprised to find that at the door, they have locked everything and are no longer letting people in. Chelo and Daniel stick their fingers through the barred door, trying to explain their ways in. The bouncer is unrelenting.

As we start walking down the strip, it becomes painfully clear that there is another blackout. There are no light illuminating from other buildings, and the only light illuminating into the streets are from the cars that drive by every now and then. We can’t believe that it’s dark again!

All of a sudden, looking up at the sky, we see stars. Brilliant, bright, covering the sky like a sequined blanket. They were never there before and we can’t believe that in a country with such few lights, the effect of so few from a small town would be so bright.

When we feel our way slowly back to the hotel, it is 2 minutes to 2 and there is a light in the front of the hostel I squint a little closer and I realize that it is Martin. I can’t believe he is actually here.

We run back in the hostel and it is pitch fucking black. No other way to put it. We stumble around our things, trying to find where are stuff is stashed. I sit on my suitcase firmly, zipping and locking it.

As I walk to the front of the hostel, I remain a bit apprehensive as Martin stands behind the hostel door. The security guard refuses to let him in and for a brief moment I feel sketched out. Then I buy two Victorias, feel my way back to the bench in the common area where I have stashed a bottle of Flor de Cana, and head back to exit out the doors.

This is my brother, Martin says as Cynthia and I exit the hostel. Again, for a brief moment, I think that he AND his brother are planning to drive Cyn and I to the middle of the jungle and screw us.

What do you have, he asks, as I sit down into the front seat. A Tona, I say, Do you mind if I drink in here?

Cynthia is apprehensive that we fall asleep in the cab because despite that we kiiiiiind of know Marin, you never know. She thinks it would be good that at least one of us stay up during the ride up. Up until she had three beers, we had always assumed it would be her.

So in the effort to stay awake, I take my beers and drink in the front seat while she passes out within the first five minutes. I take a picture.

zonked out
zonked out

We stop at three gas stations before Martin finally stops to get out and get something from inside. I have no idea what he is doing and while I semi-trust Martin, I don’t really. Until he comes back with two Coca-colas for him and his brother… and a Tona for me.

While we hit a police checkpoint–not knowing the rules in Nica– I quickly tuck the beer I am drinking in the front seat along my foot. The police force Martin to exit and show his information. I think that just mayyybe, I have to bribe him for 10 dolares. Not so, it seemed. We went on our way.

While Cynthia snores, I jam to reggae tone until 3:15, when I become painfully aware that I cannot make it another minute. My eyes are more closed than open.

Thankfully, Cyn is awake and she chills with them until we arrive at Managua aiport. Cynthia is tapping me hard.

Aeropuerto! Airport! She keeps yelling and I am so confused. What the hell is she talking about. She looks at me helplessly. Tell them we’re not supposed to be at the airport, she yells.

I take a look up and prepare to exit the door when I realize that Martin has taken us to the airport.

NO! NO! I say. Necesto ir al escation de Ticabus.

Ayyye, Ticabus, martin groans. It is all the way on the other side of town!

But he takes us noentheless and within 20 minutes, at 4:30 (we were supposed to be there by 4:15), we are there, unloading our things. We pay him $70 for his excellent servies and say good bye. A local boy grabs our bags before we can realize and takes him to the door.

He looks at us, expectant for cash.

Ugh. I am pissed that this little asshole..unsolicited.. dragged my luggage 10 feet (literally) and wants a tip. I hand him 10 cordobas.

Mas? He says.

I walk on, even more pissed. Get away from me, you little shit can, I think.

We go up to the main desk and show our documents. With a short verification, we have our tickets and we are ready to go.

I order an empanada, and by the time we are finished, we are already the last to load the bus for Tegus. On a bus that can fit 80 perhaps, there are only 15 or so of us.

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The bus is freezing cold and I am suddenly aware that my Lonely Planet has warned me about this.

Do you think we can run down and grab our sweatpants and things from underneath? I ask Cyn. Maybe, she says.. And I jump up to grab stuff. No way I’m freezing my ass off for 8 hours.