Trip Start Aug 01, 2003
16Trip End Jan 27, 2004
As promised I am furiously trying to catch up with my emails. You may have noticed that my last email (Belize and Guatemala) was cut short - a bit missing off the end. Not sure how that happened. So I pick up from Antigua which was our final stop in Guatemala. Did I miss anything out? Only that I had a haircut there and had great fun trying to explain in Spanish that I wanted a trim and really didn`t want much taken off at all. In the end we talked in ┤fingers┤(as in holding two fingers together and the width of the two together is what gets taken off). She still cut it too short but it wasn`t a bad thing. Felt great anyway having not had a cut for three months.
So that was around the 23rd of October and another border crossing took place to get into Honduras
At the second window we received a form on which we had to divulge where we had come from (Guatemala duh!) and where we were headed (Honduras duh!). Then to the third window, with our forms and another dollar to have our entry stamp into our passports. As stamps go our passports are looking pretty impressive at the moment and I hope for it to be chocca by the time I get home.
The other element to border crossings is always the important exchange from one currency to the next. Honduran Limperas, Nicaraguan Cordobas, Costa Rican Colones... there is nothing sophisticated about these transactions, there is no concern over the exchange rate, there are no receipts... the procedure goes like this. We arrive in our little white minibus and park next to a fence on one side of the border. Sitting under a tree on the other side of the fence are some local guys with handfuls of cash and calculators at the ready.
Once the van is spotted they jump up from their languishing positions and rush over to the fence and excitedly call over us 12 white tourists to the fence. There are more of them than us so they are jostling each other to be the ones to do the deal
That`s pretty much how borders go. Throughout Mexico, Belize and Guatemala there was a heavy presence of weapons being brandished around by young boys in army fatigues. They are too young to be carrying guns. And all of the major banks have armed guards posted outside who are very friendly but I am not sure if they make me feel safe or unsettled.
So into Honduras we go on the 24th of October to Copan. We spend two days here, just on the other side of the border, with the purpose of seeing some more Mayan ruins. However, having had a fantastic, albeit slightly boozy, meal the night before I decide to have a day off from sight seeing and stay in bed most of the day, rise for a bottle of wine and some lunch and spend the evening watching trashy movies on TV. Just like a regular Sunday at home! Superb!
Next day we are back onto an island. Roatan - the big scuba diving event has arrived. We have a really nice ferry crossing in the sun across beautiful deep blue sea. The weather is still fantastically hot all of the time and has been since we came into Mexico. We seem to be following the summers but I am sure it will start to cool down when we get to South America. At the moment it couldn`t be sweeter.
Our hotel is just fantastic. Wooden cabins right on the beach with big spacious beds, white sheets and cooling ceiling fans. We are spoilt but an abundance of incredibly good restaurants again and spend a lot of time enjoying lobster, jumbo shrimp, conch and crab. I just can`t get enough. But this four days are going to be serious hard work if not to say disappointing. My course came to an end half way through as we were hit by a bad storm. We were rushing through the course and I had a freaky moment in the sea. With no time to catch up I had to bail out. I`ll explain.
We arrive in the early evening and head straight to the dive school. We`re told that although we only have three days to complete to PADI course we might be able to do it if we study in the evenings and work our asses off. They say the minimum time required is four days so we had contingency time to play with. We take home the PADI manual that night and stay up for four hours reading the first two chapters. Dive school at 9am where we watch three videos, are tutored and complete the tests required of the first three elements of the theory course. Then it is a quick run down on how to use the gear, into the boat and out to sea for our first of four confined water dives!
There are four of us students, one qualified dive master and a girl who is there to help out who is training to become a dive master. We put all of our gear on and jump out of the boat into the swelling sea which is breaking off a reef not far from where we are. We all panic, put our regulators in our mouths, stick our heads in the water and try to get used to breathing under the water. The noise I hear when trying to breathe makes me sound like Darth Vader! There are bubbles shooting up past my face and I look down to the bottom, try to compose myself and start pressing the button which takes the air out of my inflated vest and makes me sink down to the bottom.
There I sit, on my knees, weighted down with lumps of iron in my waist belt, listening to Darth Vader, eyes nearly jumping out of their sockets as I look through my mask with terror and try to make eye contact with the others in order to feel more calm. Our instructor lines us all up and then one by one takes us through a set of skills that he has shown us on dry land. One by one who kneels face to face with each of us and signals us to commence the skill.
Now let`s see, these ranged from, taking my regulator OUT OF MY MOUTH, slowly blowing a trickle of bubbles out whilst I drop my regulator and scoop it from behind my tank on my back as this is where I am supposed to let it drift. Then, remaining completely calm throughout and doing all of this in one breath, put the regular back into my mouth, shoot out the water that has collected in it with a spitting action and then breathe like Darth Vader again triumphantly.
Ok, so that`s that done. Next? Oh yes! TAKE MY MASK OFF MY HEAD! And put it back on again but of course it is full of water so I have to tip my head back, push the top of the mask to loosen the part which is covering my nose, breathe out violently through my nose and hey presto it`s empty again. Except we`re in salt water and my eyes are stinging.
You get the picture. But hey, I did it and was down there for twenty minutes frightening the life out of myself. All of this whilst the current of the sea is rocking my from side to side, the water is blurred, I can hear a boat somewhere above and a fish is swimming around me laughing!
I knew it wasn┤t going to be easy and that it was rushed but I came out of the water feeling pleased that I was on schedule and doing okay. Back to the dive school. A quick bite to eat and back into the classroom for the evening for more study. The next day all hell broke loose and a storm brewed up. Another round of classroom study then back into the water. There I am bobbing up and down, rain pelting down, put my regulator in my mouth, mask on, waves splashing all over me, put my face in the water and panic. Can┤t bring, see is too choppy, visibility really poor, no instructor around as he has gone down with the others. No time to compose myself and with no spare time for a one on one I pull out and get back into the boat. I sit there on my own in the rain whilst the others are down below, feeling a bit sorry for myself but decide not to get upset about it. It wasn┤t practical to get it done in three days as there was no time for anything that went wrong. It just wasn┤t my time.
So I will not be deterred and will find somewhere to complete my PADI and become a diver. Besides I know I can do it. I have been given a referral so I get money off my next course and my completion of skills and coursework will be recognised so I don┤t have to do it again. You win some, you lose some.
Now then, I am way behind on these emails. As we speak I am in Panama but am flying on with Andrew to Panama City three days early. We have decided that we want some R&R before we join our new group in a few days time and start the South America leg. So I will be able to catch up with the rest of the countries that have gone before now.
Until then, adios amigos.
Peace & Love
Back to the important stuff... Roatan, Honduras was where I was doing the scuba course. So with one spare day left I made the most of the beautiful bay we were in (Half Moon Bay) and swam, read and lay about. After the storm the day before we were blessed with the calmest of waters and the clearest of skies. You win some, you lose some.
Got up at 6am the next morning and took a taxi to the ferry to get back to the mainland but it was closed for maintenance. Quick as a flash Kevin asked for us to be taken to the, very small, airport where we caught a plane that seated about 15 people and made the 15 minute flight to the mainland. Hardly seemed worth it for such a short trip but it put us ahead of schedule (the ferry would have taken a couple of hours).
A long drive that day to a fairly bland town called Danli which is just a stop off point for crossing the border into Nicaragua. Non eventful.