Friday, March 30, 2007

Adventure on Roatan, Honduras, March 2007

So…yes, it was very difficult leaving this place…
Meet Petie the bird – an Amazon parrot who can’t fly but this doesn’t stop him from causing trouble and getting around. He sleeps somewhere in the trees tops by the house. Come morning he comes down and starts whistling for some company, but at 6 am he’s not likely to find any. I get up at 6:30 to do my yoga practice and open the door. He considers this an invitation to come in and makes his way down the rail, across the deck and right into the middle of the room. All along chanting in many voices: “Hello, hello,” “Come here little bird,” “@&$%” (Something in a language I can’t make out). He wants a scratch on the head and wants to chew on a wicker chair in the room. If you try to get him out, her runs sideways trying to escape you, if he likes you, or charges at you to bite you, if he doesn’t like you. Luckily he likes me. After he’s made sure everything is to his liking in room 3, he strolls down to the first floor and tries to get the attention of one of the cooking ladies to give him some breakfast – pancakes, eggs, fruit, whatever they have, after all Petie owns this place!

West End is where we are staying. The paved road that goes long ways through the island ends here. You have a choice of turning Right and going to one of the few “hotels” – houses is more accurate of a description. Some are nicer than others – vacation rental style, others are B&B island style, a couple of “resorts” with nice views to the water. If you turn left you will end up on the strip – the heart of the action! Down this bumpy sandy road is about a mile and a half of restaurants, palapas, bars island style, funky hotels, hostels, colorful vendors, match box size grocery stores, dive shops on every corner, a really nice church. All day and night this place is full of life. During the day, burnt tourists in bathing suites and/or diving gear clutter the street looking for a place to have a bite, a street phone that works, an internet cafĂ© that may be open – if the power is on, someone to take them out for a dive. Around lunch the fruit trucks come by and fresh papayas, mangoes, watermelons and green oranges (they are ripe, they just have a green rind) are offered at whatever price you can negotiate. Taxi drivers/tour guides are cooling it in the shade of palm trees with a beer in hand. If you listen you will hear more languages than you thought you knew. The locals for the most part speak English and Spanish, plenty of them speak Italian as well. There are “new” locals form every country in Europe, tourists from every part of the world. All get along. Everyone’s happy to talk to you, tell you where they come from, why they are here, what they’ve done so far.

At night, the place is even busier. The fruit trucks are gone and the church goers have gone home, changed their proper Sunday best, for the flirty, colorful, lots-of-skin-everywhere dancing clothes. But first a drink at Sundowners, watch the sunset…ah…this is what life is all about. Than get a bite to eat – the choices are from good to great and really exceptional, but definitely not what you would expect. Just because it’s called a veggie burrito it doesn’t mean it’s the same thing in every restaurant. Some places it comes with onions, peppers and milky tomato sauce that tastes more like Hungarian mish-mash. Some times it’s more like a cross between a fresh veggies wrap and a pita bread with cheese…So, keep your mind open and you will have a great time. It’s all good. Just don’t try to rush it. Expect a meal to last at least a couple of hours. What’s the hurry anyhow, the Purple Turtle doesn’t really starts happening until after 9 pm. And if you miss this action, the Twisted Toucan will welcome you with open arms. If you stay there long enough, and get hungry again, right next to it is a local lady making “baliadas” on a grill made out of a car wheel and a rack from a refrigerator. She’s there until midnight! For a $1 each, you must give in to the wonderful smell of fresh made tortillas, which are more like pita bread, and grilled meat, or if you prefer, for half price you can have it vegetarian. Dancing starts around 10:30 pm. And dancing is what everyone does… lustful Caribbean rhythms, Spanish hip-hop, blues, the Punta – a dance of the local Garifuna Indians, even your favorite hits from the USA. You’ll loose some weight, I guarantee!

If you are a beach bum and just want to bake in the sun and swim until your heart desires – West Bay is your place. The most beautiful beach on the island, according to many. White sand melting into liquid turquoise. Palm trees gracefully decorating the blue sky. The water is always calm because it is protected by the barrier reef. Grab a book and hang out, or stroll around people watching. For a place this beautiful, even in the heart of the busy season, it is surprisingly not crowded. Local ladies come by asking you if you want to have your hair braided, or how about a massage on the beach. Some balance buckets of ice cold drinks on their heads. The ice cream guy announces his presence ringing little bells as he pushes his cart down the beach. A groovy song arrives on the wings of the breeze from the nearest beach bar where a few people are chatting about living and loving it with a cool drink in hand under the palapa roof made out of palm leafs. Life can’t get any better. If it does, you may be dead and gone to heaven.
West Bay is where you see the really nice but still charming and unobtrusive upscale resorts, where one can find everything just like in the USA.
Yet the best part for me was getting up in the morning and doing my yoga practice. The warmth of the air, the sounds of the birds, the feeling of the breeze and the peacefulness this place radiates made an inspirational backdrop. Than with a heart full of joy, I went through the days soaking up the charm of the island, it’s people and the surprises that came our way, just to make things even more interesting. I can’t wait to go back.