The island of Utila is located off the eastern coast of Honduras. It is right next door to the bigger, more popular (and more expensive) island of Roatan. Their ferry terminals are located next door as well, with the Roatan bound travelers waiting in an air conditioned terminal with their wheeled suitcases for their robust ferry while the Utila travelers wait on a wooden platform, backpacks at their feet for the tiny, wave-skipping ferry. We did not go to both islands, but we heard Roatan has better beaches, more infrastructure and is more of a resort destination. People go for all sorts of purposes, with an overarching theme of spending time in island paradise. On Utila, you’ll be hard pressed to find a backpacker who is not there to dive. So did I dive? Did I accomplish the main purpose for any trip to the tiny island? No. I did not.
I woke up the morning of my pool excursion feeling pretty confident in my lack of ability to scuba dive. I just felt so uncomfortable with the “no way out” feeling of the sport. I wanted to give it one last try so we headed up to one of the only pools on the island to give it a go. After about 15 minutes I knew that scuba was just not in the cards for me. All I kept thinking was “great, I am going to have to go deeper!” which is literally the opposite thing you should be thinking as a scuba diver. So, scuba certified I am not. However, while I was epic failing on my attempt, Logan was finishing his dives and later that afternoon took the test and became scuba certified! His instructor Laurent asked if he wanted to go a step further and get his advanced open water certification, which allows you to go deeper (up to 30 meters vs. going to 18 meters). It required only five more dives and came with three free nights in the dorm (where we already felt at home, even with the insane humidity that comes from sleeping in a room on a Caribbean island with 5 people), and two more fun dives. So, we decided to stay.
Pretty much the rest of the week consisted of Logan heading out on the boat to dive, me reading or watching YouTube while laying in a hammock or snorkeling, lots of beer and baleadas and lots of hanging out with the scuba crowd at the hotel. The weather was beautiful (except for the two days I tried to dive, a sign from the gods maybe?) and even though I was not diving I had a really wonderful time relaxing. One day I went out on the boat and went snorkeling again. It was a very nice reef, but there were THOUSANDS of tiny jelly fish, so I got out of the water. On that boat ride we found a baby sea turtle. It was floating out in the ocean all alone and its fins were not in good shape. We took him back to the hotel and they are hoping to find him (or her) a safe home.
One night we went Foo King for dinner, a thai restaurant owed by an American ex-pat. We waited almost two hours for food, as our order had once again been forgotten. (We are starting to feel a little forgettable…) The food was pretty good, although expensive, and we had leftovers for two days, which helped offset the fact that we spent half our daily budget on one meal. We ended up buying some oatmeal to make for breakfast to save a little on food costs, but we made up for it with the rum, beer and wine we bought. We did not drink in excess (as in drunk) but we did drink in excess (as in everyday). Grabbing a beer after a dive is apparently pretty much essential.
On Super Bowl Sunday I did some major scouting to find a bar to enjoy what I hoped would be a Broncos victory. I decided on Buccaneers and got there nice and early to make sure I had a great view of the tv. Needless to say, it was a horrible day and I actually totally blocked it out of my memory for a while, to the point that when I was trying to remember how many days we spent on the island I honestly skipped that day in my head. I still love Peyton (duh!) and all I can say about the game is that it was the worst one I have ever seen. Back at the hotel all the scuba enthusiasts and island dwellers were watching the game and trying to wrap their non-American brains around the sport of football. (Just a quick note that there are VERY few Americans on this backpacker trail we are on. There are LOTS of Canadians, Australians, Brits, Germans and Dutch. We have also met quite a few French and Swedish people and one South African.) For most it was their first football game. All seemed perplexed as to what we Americans see in the sport (“there is so much stop and go” being the chief complaint) and none were swayed to change their generally negative opinion of football. Excuse me… American football.
We loved Utila and we were so sad to leave. We met so many wonderful people at our hotel and were constantly commenting on how easy it would be to “get stuck” there. If I dove (maybe one day I will…) it would probably top my list of places to live internationally (it really helps that most people speak some English). However, if you do not dive or cook (and if you don’t know, I DON’T cook) there are really no job opportunities. Sure, the island is a little rough around the edges and it does not have any “pristine” beaches to speak of, but it is a mish-mash of international 20-somethings, local families, and over 60 ex-pats enjoying their golden years (or at least their golden winters) soaking up the sun and making absolutely no plans.
Goodbye Utila! And goodbye Honduras!
Next time… read about our 13 hour travel day through two of the most dangerous cities in Central America!! And don’t forget to follow us… and have your friends follow us… and your co-workers… and your dog… just kidding… mostly…