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Saturday, May 3, 2014,

This morning we chowed down on baleadas, oatmeal, and bacon again. I could eat this breakfast daily. I don’t know how they make the refried beans for the baleadas, but they are fantastic! I finally asked how they prepare the oatmeal, and they boil it in whole milk! I will have to try that at home.

When I walked over to the dive shop to ask Dani for a shallow dive with a lot of marine life and where we might see a turtle, he exclaimed, “Your back! You look like you fell onto a cactus.” Being from Spain, he had quite the command of the English language because that was funny! Yes, my back is a patch of red welts. I don’t know what else to say except I’m terribly allergic to sand flies!!! I may have to cancel my massage on Monday. I’m not sure my therapist will want to touch my back!

Back to diving, boy did Dani succeed at picking an amazing final dive for us. It was custom to just what we wanted. We started out at Overheat Reef which we dove at night (but a different section), and swam in the direction of Green Outhouse, so it was an area we haven’t covered despite having been at both sites. Here we found bass, a filefish, an eel, triggerfish, angelfish, a large grouper, two turtles, a king crab, blue tang, lovely coral, neat sea urchins, a cow fish, a crazy sting ray and more!

Our encounter with one of the turtles was fantastic. Many times a soon as a turtle feels surrounded by divers it swims off. This one swam just a little to the top of the reef. We followed it at a distance across the sandy patch and waited for it to settle. Each time it began to settle a fish pecked it in the nose. The turtle seemed so surprised and afraid of this pecking fish. It’s expression was priceless as it would lift up from the coral, circle, and try to settle again only to be startled by the territorial, pecking fish. After a few attempts, the turtle moved to another location. It was just funny to see this little fish win the battle against the giant turtle.

After our dive, we prepared for a drive to the east end of the 48 mile long island which is made up of mangroves. Ricardo, our boat driver for the week, is from the area and arranged for his uncle Ernes to drive us to Oak Ridge where we hired a dory driver, Emeril, to tour us through the mangroves. On our way to Oak Ridge, Ernes pointed out a variety of sites, including an old shipwreck, different towns, the cruise ship dock, the iguana park, the zip line park, the fire station, the electric company, schools, etc. He also told us Roatan is the largest of the three Bay Islands owned by Honduras. It was once owned by the English. And it is home to over 50,000 people, maybe more as it is difficult to get work on the mainland. From my perspective, it seems like most everyone that owns a car on Roatan turns it into a taxi and tour guide service. We were offered a tour by several drivers. The going rate is around $40/person, but Danielle negotiated our rate to $100 for the three of us…go Danielle! It may have helped that we started a few hours later than normal too, as many tourists like to zip line or see the iguanas and butterflies, but we wanted to dive instead.

The dory rental for a few hours is about $60. We were charged $20/person and Vanessa and Keith with their group totaling seven were charged $10/person. Ernes told us he got us the best boat available, and I think he did. Boy was it full of character. Hand painted signs explaining the history of Roatan lined the hull of the boat, cinder blocks supported the wood seats that were softened by cushions covered in a waterproof material like a beachball, stuffed animals hung from the bamboo roof, and there was a choice of a trash can or a trash basket! We climbed aboard carefully, and Ernes and his wife Olga joined us.

Those who live in Oak Ridge survive on the water as they travel from house to house via boat. Many work on shrimp boats, lobster boats that set traps, or diver lobster boats. The fishing season is from July to February. The boats stay out for the whole season and change crews every 90 days when a large supply cargo boat transports their catch to the processing plant in town. The shrimp boats carry a captain and around seven crew. The lobster boat is about double and the diver boats hold about 60 members, but they change crew more frequently. Roatan’s fishing industry ships to the USA and more.

IMG_4221 shrimp boats

We really enjoyed seeing the houses on stilts and the gas station right on the dock. After checking out the houses, we motored through a few narrow canals to a circular area where they collect all their boats to protect them from hurricanes. The pirates also hid their boats here many years ago. We made it out to a point where some fancy houses were built, a rock wall of caves once sheltered the Payan Indians from the pirates, and a dilapidated dock stood sturdy enough for us to tie off and snorkel for a bit. There wasn’t much fish life on this end of the island which was to be expected as the marine park rules did not extend to this area. We did luck into seeing a couple of fireworms, some small green cleaning crabs, and an octopus out in the daylight! I didn’t bring my underwater case with me, so I have no photos of these guys.

We continued on to lunch. I ordered fried fish. For some reason it didn’t expect to get the whole fish on my plate, but I probably should have! The local lunch spot also had pet alligators, turtles, and a parrot. We ate our lunch with Olga and practiced our Spanish, while she practiced her English. She was from the mainland, and felt she didn’t know English well, but I thought she did. She told us, we knew a lot of Spanish! She was happy she could speak with us. Ernes and Olga have four kids. Two, in their twenties, live on the mainland and two, in their teens, live on the island. They have had a variety of jobs too. Ernes once maintained a turtle farm in the Cayman Islands, and Olga was an accountant for an energy company on the mainland.

From the restaurant, we returned to the main bay through the main channel that the shrimp boats use. Emeril pointed out the lighthouse. I was looking all over for it until Cat realized it was the free standing column aside the channel without a light! Upon finishing the mangrove tour, we took the hour plus ride back to Sandy Bay past multiple Futbol pitches (well mowed, dirt and weeds, and sandy beaches); past roadside fruit stands; and through Punta Gorda another interesting town with the three wheel carts from China similar to Tuk Tuk’s, old thatch houses which are now being converted, and Pulperia Beth. It was a little easier to snap roadside photos on the way back, because we drove with the doors open to cool the van down until we reached the “highway”. We made one short stop to admire the sunset on a roadside hill overlooking the lagoon before we finally pulled into the Blue Bahia after 6.

For our final night out, we ventured to West End again. We the discovered the best way to get a taxi is to walk out to the road and stand there. They honk if they are free. If they are going the same direction we are, a deal is struck. Danielle is excellent at this. We ended our week at getting a taxi for $6 at night for 3 people. We ate at Pisco tonight. It was Peruvian. Kent recommended that we order several appetizers. I thought the chicken stuffed avocado was the best. We also had the Peruvian corn which was hominy; a yellow potato, crab and avocado dish; and stuffed fried Yucca. Of course we couldn’t leave without Pisco Sours and Cat and Danielle had dessert. Stuffed, we walked off our food, found a place that promised no sand flies at the end of the strip (wish I knew about the sooner), and slowly strolled back to the taxi line. Only tonight, since we were out much later, we really contended with the traffic jams on the two lane roads. Occasionally cops directed traffic, but in Roatan there are no speed limits, stop signs, or stop lights…only a few topes (or speed bumps made of cement or rope).

We have a 1pm flight tomorrow, so we’ll see what we find to do in the morning. Dani told us we could swim across the channel to Anthony Key’s dolphin center, and we could play with the dolphins through the fence if we got there before the trainers who arrive at 7am. That won’t be a problem for me…the light comes in the window by 5 am…ETB

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