Sunday, February 27, 2011

Honduras - Day 1

Police trike in Atlanta airport
Staying overnight in the Atlanta airport. I don't dare sleep. Without a partner, I feel too vulnerable. I sit huddled with my camera bag and backpack locked together and clipped to my leg. I have a cup of coffee, pay 6$.95 for wifi access and do some writing and place a Skype call to Wendy. In the morning I through security again around 7am and then feel a bit safer. I manage to doze, though I never really sleep.

Brad arrive mid morning. We launch a failed attempt to have our seats put next to one another (after the airline messed them up when changing planes earlier in the week). We will have to sit five rows apart. Not really chatting distance on a plane, but the consolation is I get to eat breakfast with him. I'm hungry after refusing to eat yesterday, save a few wine gums and some coffee. We manage to find a place where the food looks good and the sign promises “healthy food.” There are even a few vegetarian options. It may be the worst quiche that the concourse had to offer. I hope so. It was the worst I've ever eaten. I'm disgusted, but don't quite retch. I was just trying to have a companionable meal, but I should have waited until we got to Roatan. At least hunger doesn't taste bad.

The flight is pleasant. I'm seated next to a healthy looking retired couple who have been coming to Roatan for the last 5 years. They've just purchased a home there where they plan to spend the the cold Californian winters. We have a little chat about cold. The man has a brother who lives in Calgary, so he did actually have some concept of what Canadian cold is all about. The pilot announces it is currently 84F in Roatan. Only 120ish degree temperature change from my last night in Saskatoon.

The sky begins clear, but grows increasingly cloudy. I enjoy the occasional smudge of a luxury liner skimming the ocean below or the whimsical smattering of islands that we pass over. But the landing is my favourite part. Approaching from the far side, we nearly circle the whole island on the approach giving me a terrific sense of the kind of land it is. I thought it would be sandy and flat. As it turns out, Roatan is extremely rugged. Sharp slopes and forested valleys. Nothing we'd call a mountain --Just hilly. As we land my first feeling is that this is a banana republic. I guess movies are good for something after all; They help me make stereo-typed snap judgements about places I've never before.

Roatan Airport
The runway is not in the finest of repair and our large plane bounces and totters fiercely on landing. The airport smells strongly of poorly burned fuel, but the surroundings are lush, jungley and a little wild. Varieties of palm and indeed banana are in evidence as well as many trees with which I am totally unfamiliar. Strange black birds with long tail feathers call a welcome.

The airport is small and cramped. Basically a warehouse. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in noise. The immigration staff of 4 are quiet, but there are a dozen men and women wandering about with signs and hollering for the various tour groups, individuals and resorts. It seems very chaotic. I sit by and wait patiently. Someone is there collecting people and baggage for our resort, so I just wait and make sure the pile of pink tags that represent our luggage doesn't go anywhere without us.

A single x-ray machine sits to one side –the gateway to the outside world. Every piece of luggage must go through. The screen faces into the crowd where we can all try to read the odd colours on the screen. The man in green just past the door who carries a combat shotgun lends a certain authority to the situation. However, is a tropical paradise and no one lets diligence get in the way of our vacation. Not only was the x-ray machine often unmanned with luggage just passing through for the sheer experience, but I watched as our luggage (after waiting forever for it to come off the plane) was taken to the machine, the pile and time considered by it's handler and then just pushed around the machine and out to our waiting van.

The van ride is about 20 minutes. We snake our way through the island. The streets are narrow, but not suicidally so. Motorcycles honk and pass with the entitlement of royalty. The buildings are a tumble of styles, sizes and colours. Sellers of all descriptions line the streets. We pass in and out of towns, countryside and estates. With the dense vegetation and steep slopes, it's hard to tell if we are in a village or just some sort of rest-stop. Perhaps there is no distinction.

Eventually we arrive at a dock. Another short wait and our boat arrives. Coco view is on a tiny island in a bay. Though still a bit rough around the edges, it looks manicured compared to the countryside we have just driven through. There is bare wood, rope and sand everywhere. Everyone here appears to know everyone else. I feel a little out of place, but not any more than usual. The real contrast is that everyone else seems jubilant compared to home. Why shouldn't they be. They are in a diver's heaven, have been coming for years and locals don't know what winter is. Except for Brad and I, every group from 4 to 8 individuals has a number of veterans. Some look like they've been coming since before the Coco view opened, more than 20 years ago.

We have been settled in Bungalow B. It's on stilts right in the bay. Tonight I will sleep right over the water. The view is... ridiculous. Describing it might be insulting. It's going to be easy to fall in love with the surroundings.
...with a view
Having arrived too late to start our certification dives today, Brad and I have some left-overs from lunch. There is pasta, rice and beans, garlic toast and a few orphan cookies left. Simple fare, but delicious.

A live band is playing in the common area. This is the only place where supper and the internet are available and I hope the band doesn't play too late. They are fine, but not really my taste. I can't manage a Skype call to Wendy and the girls until they stop. It gets dark early and people are going off to bed. I overhear comments about being up early and diving tiring people out. Brad and I stay up until 9:30pm playing a card game and driking Coke from glass bottles. Later, in bed, I type the days events furiously trying to capture all the flavour to send home.

Pictures are hard to deal with on my mini. I'll give you what I can when I can.