09.04.2011 - 21.04.2011 34 °C
We reached the Bay Islands via a ferry from the mainland, after a punishing series of bus rides from Nicaragua. Including one in which a small boy (not a baby), screamed like a banshee for several hours, setting a number of new world records for the greatest amount of noise produced by human being in the process.
The Bay Islands are made up of three main islands, all of which are known for their amazing diving. We headed to Roatan, as we had heard that out of the three islands it had the best beaches. The ferry itself was the first sign that Roatan was a little flasher than the typical Central American tourist destination. Rather than a rickety old pile of driftwood and planks, which we now expect as a matter of course, it was a sleek looking 150ft catamaran capable of travelling at 34 knots with 450 people on board. We arrived at our hotel in Roatan's West End around lunchtime and lay around on the beach waiting for Carly and Ben's flight from the UK to arrive.
The beach at West End is not quite as nice as neighbouring West Bay but the pro is that the beach front is not dominated by time shares and condominiums. Instead the little township stretches out beside the beach, the main road remains unpaved and the entire place has a very laid back vibe. The only negative were the sand flies, which although preferable to mosquitoes, absolutely smashed us over the course of the week.
We had booked a two bedroom apartment for the four of us and had our own kitchen facilities where we could cook some of our own meals. We were able to buy fish and vegetables directly from fishermen at the beach or out of the back of utes parked on the street. Tuna, lobster, conch and prawns all featured on our apartments menu over the course of the week.
Although the four of us were intending to find a dive outfit as soon as possible, this mammoth task proved too much for us on the first day and we were unable to move far from our sun loungers outside our hotel.
When we finally organised ourselves, we decided to start out with an easy refresher dive to make sure we could all still control our buoyancy and breathing. Then we did a deepish dive down through a hole in the coral wall, a night dive with heaps of lobsters and luminescent fish, a nice drift dive and then finished the week off with a wreck dive. The wreck dive in particular was amazing, and we saw huge grouper, which would come right up to your face as well as plenty of sea turtles.
We spread the 5 dives over 4 days, a very lazy schedule, and took things pretty easy. The pace was actually perfect, as we were able to do a little bit of diving each day and also fit in some swimming, snorkelling in the bay and plenty of eating and drinking each afternoon. By the end of the week we had fallen in love with the place and it was a bit sad to leave.
The next destination in Honduras was La Ceiba, where we were planning to do some white water rafting at a jungle lodge where Jess and Carly's brother had worked. The river runs through a beautiful valley filled with massive rocks and surrounded by steep jungle slopes on both sides. The water level was pretty low, so the rafting wasn't that intense but we were able to supplement it with some swimming and rock jumping. All in all it was pretty good fun, there was a lot of wildlife and not many mosquitoes, which was a relief after the damage done the previous week by the Roatan sand flies.
After the rafting we jumped on a bus to Copan, near the Guatemalan border. We thought we had booked a reasonably decent coach (rather than a chicken bus) so were surprised when we boarded and found that all the seats were full. Not to worry however, as the bus company had a plan in place, for just such an occurrence and the four of us, along with 6 or 7 others, were able to spend the next three hours sitting in the aisle on small plastic preschool style stools.
Copan is the site of some fairly significant Mayan ruins which are a must see if you are heading across the border. Jess and I had found southern Central America to have limited history before Spanish Colonialism and were excited to be nearing countries such as Guatemala and southern Mexico, where indigenous culture and traditions are still strong. The ruins are filled with amazingly detailed statues of powerful Mayan kings, considered to be the best examples of this type of stone work in the Mayan world.
As well as the statues there are a number of impressive ruined buildings serviced by steep stairways rising out of the jungle. There were also plenty of huge resident red Macaws flying around who were would happily pose for photos.
After Copan we all headed across the border to Guatemala. Semana Santa (Easter) was just a couple of days away and apparently if you are in this part of the world the annual celebrations in Antigua can not be beaten.