Honduras: Water, water everywhere!

As the title suggests, it has been a very watery week! To begin with, we have experienced the first signs of Central America’s rainy season with some short-lived but torrential downpours, often at very inconvenient moments. One night we were staying in an awful hotel room where the ceiling leaked and the wall turned into a waterfall! Other than that incident, since it’s been hot for so many weeks, the rains have seemed refreshing and haven’t caused us too many problems.

Enough about the weather though.

Monday was exciting because we had the opportunity to go white water rafting, thanks to Ruth, Alex and Greta Guise. We last did it properly about 3 years ago in Peru and loved it so much that including it in this trip was a given.

At 1:30pm, we were collected in a completely clapped out old jeep and bumped along, out of the city to the jungle. On our arrival, one of the aforementioned downfalls provided us with a very slippery downhill trudge to our accommodation. It was basically a stone house with a sheltered seating area (to call ita restaurant would be too grand) in which we were directed to wait.

Whilst we did so, we noticed a small wooden bedside table and mattresses being ferried down the hill and over into the trees. It materialised that these were in fact to be ours when we were directed to a distant orange tent. Following a path of sorts we wound our way through the trees, over a brook to our muddy but spacious room for the night.

Furnished with life jackets, helmets and oars, we were given a brief reminder of the safety guidelines and rowing commands by Victor, our instructor, before we descended the rocks to the river.

The best rapids were early on in the trip – two grade IVs. Although the river was low due to it being the end of the dry season, the rapids were still really invigorating. Victor would yell ‘forward, forward, forward, stop’ a few times, guiding us to the top of the drop, and then, at the last minute, ‘get down!’ At this point we all had to slide from our positions perched on the edge of the raft to the floor, as the vessel shot down over the rocks and generally created a big splash. Doing this quickly enough prevents the raft from capsizing/anyone falling out! Unlike in Peru where Dean fell out (very scary for us both!), we all managed to stay in this time.

The rest of the route consisted of grade II and III rapids which were fun but didn’t get our pulses racing quite so dramatically. In between we were able to kick back and enjoy the beautiful mountainous, forested scenery. We saw plenty of birds including a toucan, and also a long, thin, bright green snake on some rocks.

There were lots of locals swimming too, or jumping off the rocks from great heights. Victor stopped us part way along so that we could do the same. Once we’d reached the end of the stretch of river, we climbed out and headed back ‘home’ for iced tea and fresh pineapple. An awesome afternoon and hopefully not our last rafting trip! Sorry there are no photos!

This week we’ve also spent four days on Roatan which is one of the Caribbean Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras. It has involved us really splashing out (no pun intended!) and it’s safe to say we definitely would not have even contemplated visiting had it not been for our wedding gifts. Forgive the list but I don’t want to miss out thanking anyone: June Patrick and Fran Edwards, Andy Cogdon, Joe Malik, Jon Tarris and Becky Styles, Dave Summers and Kerenza Williams, and all of Ashgate Primary School… we’re very grateful!

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On Wednesday we took a water taxi around the coast a little way to West Bay for a lovely relaxing day of sun, sea, sand and snorkelling. We’ve been carrying round our snorkels and masks since the start of the trip so it’s always nice to get some use out of them but I would say the snorkelling here was the best we’ve seen independently.

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Only a short swim out and we were met by hundreds of different and interesting reef fish swimming around colourful coral at just the right depth for us to be able to see everything clearly.

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The water was really calm too meaning that, even without fins, we were able to stay out for a long time without tiring. I really love parrot fish so we’ll get those out of the way first! The reddish ones are the females.

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And these tiny vibrantly-coloured sharpnose pufferfish were everywhere.

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I don’t really know the names of any of these others, despite regularly flicking through fish books these days.

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Afterwards we rented sun loungers by buying food and drinks from the beach bar and lay in the shade for the rest of the day. There were constant streams of people trying to sell us candyfloss, copied DVDs and CDs, coconuts, banana donuts, massages, sunglasses… All we acquired was some serious sunburn though!

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Watery-ness continued on Thursday and Friday as we took three dives with the brilliant Native Sons dive school. The barrier reef here is the world’s second longest (after Australia) and is the same as what we snorkelled on in Belize a few weeks ago.

First we dived Pablo’s Place and Texas which was possibly the most beautiful reef I’ve seen with so many corals and sponges in so many different shapes, sizes and colours. The visibility was amazing too. Because it was a deep dive we couldn’t take our camera so you’ll have to use your imagination (or Google!). We saw similar fish to the snorkelling plus shrimp, a juvenile spotted drum fish, yellowhead jaw fish (that pop out of the their holes like whack-a-moles), fairy basslets, trumpet fish and a sharp tailed moray eel. The best moment, although it was only a very short one, was seeing an octopus just before it retreated into its rocky crevice. It’s very rare to see one in the day time apparently.

Dive two (the Fish Den) was very much out of my comfort zone – a night dive! Fortunately our dive master was really thorough and she briefed us in great detail about what to expect. We headed out on the boat as the sun was setting.

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In addition to our usual kit, we each had a torch which was literally the only way of knowing where anyone was since it was soon pitch black. Navigating, keeping track of the dive master and your buddy were challenging but it all went swimmingly. Although not that deep a dive, it was so much more surreal, isolating and alien than during the day.

Mostly we chased sleepy fish heading to bed but I also saw a king crab, several lobsters, lion fish, a green moray eel, brittle stars and the blue-green head of my second octopus of the day! Sometimes we found the torch swarmed by red worms – gross but harmless! Here’s the token successful photograph!

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The absolute highlight was quite possibly magic! On the divemaster’s signal, we gathered on our knees on a sandy patch and all turned off our torches. Little by little, all around us appeared glowing bright white spots, like stars in the night sky but reaching down to the ground too. Many formed vertical ‘strings of pearls’ as they’re referred to here, but really it was like an enormous string had snapped and strewn its precious pieces far and wide. Swishing your hands around created more tiny sparks and reaching out to touch one seemed to make it disintegrate into faint white wisps. Yes, I’m pretty sure it was ten minutes of magic.

Either that or it was microscopic male shrimp emitting bioluminescent particles as a mating call. One or the other.

The third dive was amazing too. Ever since considering learning to dive, I’ve dreamed of visiting a wreck. Finally the day came! El Aguila was intentionally sunk in 1997 then its underwater arrangement was made more dramatic by hurricane Mitch and others. Swimming around, it was impossible not to think about the recent South Korean ferry accident and to imagine how terrifying it must have been.

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We borrowed a camera from one of the dive masters as the wreck was at 33m, too deep for ours and deep enough that blue was the only colour left!

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There were massive, friendly groupers all around us, as well as a few other fish.

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Sponges and corals covered all the metal. The second photo below is of a field of sand eels which day like reeds then disappear when you swim up to them!

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The most challenging part, mentally, was gearing myself up for the optional short swim-through, entering a cabin via a door and exiting through a hatch in the ceiling. It was quite a narrow passage and definitely not somewhere you’d want to get stuck! I’m full of admiration for rescue divers; they must have nerves of steel.

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An unforgettable experience!

I’ll leave you with a few pictures from the gardens surrounding the cute little cabin we’ve stayed in for our last couple of Honduran nights (since attempting and failing to embrace money-saving dormitory living the first two nights!). Additionally there were lots of butterflies, hermit crabs, hummingbirds and a large, bright green iguana!

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My favourite: a colour changing lizard which went from this to all green to all black!

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The reason for this post-weekend-ness of this post is that we’ve had a fairly intense couple of days of wifi-free travelling to Nicaragua: minibus (30 mins), ferry (1.5 hrs), taxi, bus (7 hrs), taxi, bus (3 hrs), taxi, a night in a very gross hotel, taxi, bus (2 hrs), bus (15 mins), slightly frustrating, long, hot, expensive border crossing and a final taxi (30 mins)! Nicaragua seems nice so far though – we’re off to explore a canyon tomorrow and then it’s Dean’s birthday on Thursday 🙂

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