Getting from Belize to Honduras was a little more difficult than I’d anticipated. I managed to get two chicken buses from Hopkins down to a Punto Gorda, a VERY uncomfortable boat ride from Punto Gorda to Puerto Barrios, where I unfortunately got stuck for the night. I left as early as possible the following day, taking some kind of chicken bus / shuttle to the border. I felt like a bit of a criminal crossing into Honduras with the finger printing, but was soon on my way, only to find…nothing. Eventually a man loading carpets into a van told me I had to walk for 10min to find another chicken bus. En route to said chicken bus I was stopped by a group of police. ‘Venga,venga’ (come here essentially), they called and waved over as I was passing by. I walked over and was asked for my passport, bit strange as I’d just come through passport control but they were the police… Next thing I know I’m being asked where I’m going, am I travelling alone, do I have a husband? No? Then why am I wearing rings? It got very uncomfortable very quickly. I got my passport back and just walked off towards the bus to calls of ‘hey guapa’ – sexy lady – as I walked away. Thankfully the guy that handles the money, helps people with their bags on the chicken bus met me halfway and grabbed my bags, helping me on to the bus. Never been so happy to get away from police. I only had dollars but was able to pay with those. I had to change buses at Puerto Cortés and assumed I’d have time to get off the bus, find an ATM and pull out Lempira before my next bus, only as we reached Puerto Cortés another man jumped on yelling ‘San Pedro Sula’, to which I said ‘yes’ and next thing I know he’s hauling my bags off this bus straight on to a shuttle bus. So again I need to pay in dollars, but it takes myself, the conductor, and 5 other men to translate everything and exchange the correct money and change – absolute legends. I finally reach the bus station and the ATM’s aren’t working, a taxi driver agrees to drive me to my hostel and stop on the way so I can get out some money – at last! I check in and quickly make my way down to the mall (a 20min walk away) as at this point I’m ravenous. Never in my life have I encountered so much cat calling in such a short amount of time. The night before I’d read how San Pedro Sula was 2015’s most dangerous city outside of a war zone, so I’m feeling a bit skittish. On my way back to the hostel a truck on the other side of the street stops, and, in Spanish, the man asks me where I’m going and if I’d like a lift. I assure him I’m fine, and thanks for the offer, but I’ll make my own way back. I think that’s the end of it, then suddenly the same man / truck is now on my side of the road and again ‘venga, venga’ he tells me, it’s too hot to walk, let me give you a lift. Again, I politely decline and eventually he drives off. Back at the hostel I ask the owner if this is normal behaviour. ‘Definitely not’ he says ‘absolutely do not get into anyone’s car’. Deciding I don’t want to venture out anymore he lets me have full control of the Netflix, puts on the AC and I start binge watching my way through 13 Reasons Why.
The next day I feel nervous about trying to find breakfast. There’s not much around so I feel I need to venture out but after yesterday’s confrontations I feel apprehensive. I meet a girl in the morning and explain the previous days encounters and she immediately invites me to breakfast. She’s from Honduras, and is in San Pedro for the day with her mate, picking up her car her mum has sent over from the states. So the three of us drive into town and they take me to a lovely spot for breakfast, which they then pay for! After which they drop me back at the hostel and are on their way. Later a pair of girls arrive and I decide I still don’t want to venture the streets of San Pedro for food, so ask if anyone is interested in ordering pizza. One of the girls says yes so we ask the owner to help us. He asks if he can join in then suggests a mammoth combo order which we get while binge watching (and discussing) the rest of 13 Reasons Why. It was an interesting introduction to Honduras.
The following morning I take a cab through near flooded streets to the bus stop and immediately on arrival jump on a bus to La Ceiba, where I wait at the port for Courtney to arrive. I have never been so happy to see someone get out of a taxi. We had three weeks of adventuring to catch up on as we crossed over to Utila and checked into Underwater Vision Dive Center. I signed up to do my Open Water diving licence but Courtney soon had me convinced to continue to my Advanced. It seemed like I was going to be one of three on the course, until the day before it began five recently graduated doctors from England showed up, four of whom were on my course.
Day one of the course involved lots of video watching in the only air conditioned place of under water vision – the classroom, which is also often taken over by a cat who will lay where he wants, when he wants. During the classroom sessions I was usually sat by Tom as he always had food. (If you have snacks I’ll love you forever). Dan was responsible and ate on time, Gary was probably drinking, Charlie didn’t really eat and Tom always ordered food too late. Extra chips for me.
More often then not the boys were in trouble for mucking around in the water, mostly because they were bored and trying to make bubble shapes, wasting their oxygen tanks, while they waited for other people to complete exercises. I’m sure I wasted a fair amount of mine laughing at them. After one dive where I’d had some trouble equalizing and a lot of pain in one ear I surfaced, only to have Tom (one of the doctors) ask me if I was ok. ‘Uhh yes?’ I replied, ‘I’m having problems with my ear’… ‘well your face is covered in blood.’ My first few dives were fine but every dive after that I’d have a nose bleed, as did Dan, another of the doctors, so it just became a running joke.
During our first actual open water dives, on the way to the second site, someone starts yelling for us to get our snorkels and fins on and then we’re told to jump into the water. I didn’t see anything but eventually found out there had been a whale shark. We were told to keep our fins and snorkels on, and this time I was sat right at the end of the boat. Again we were told to jump in and again I see nothing. Thinking something along the lines of ‘what a load of…’ I decide to turn around and head back to the boat, and as I do there’s a whale shark right in front of me. I’m not sure if you can make out ‘holy shit’ through a snorkel but that’s what was meant to come out of my mouth as I stared at it and then tried to follow it. Absolutely stunning!
To celebrate getting our Open Water licenses we all went out and got hammered. At one point, Tom, some Dutch guy and I went to check out some beach parties which were shockingly bad and on the way back encountered quite possibly the drunkest person I have ever seen. We tried to be helpful and get him back to his hostel while interpreting the absolute garbled garbage coming out of his mouth, when we eventually realized we’d walked him completely past his hostel and he was going to have to back track. We ended up having to leave him to his own devices and although we partied to celebrate none of us hit that level.
One of my favourite lines the following day came from Gary, whose Irish pals had joined the island. He definitely partied the hardest and the next day, when I caught him drinking again and asked how he was, he said; ‘the first beer at 3 o clock was hard’.
Tom and Charlie ended up joining me in the advanced licence and the day before we were due to begin my mate Glynn, who I’d met in a previous three countries came and joined us as well.
The Advanced course is a lot more fun than the Open Water, although I did get in trouble for not knowing where my buddy was – sorry Glynn. I also got in trouble on our night dive. We were told to hold our torches against our bodies to block out the light, which I did, but so we could see the bioluminescent plankton. I may have gotten a little carried away as I started punching and kicking (as much as you can in your BCD, with your wet suit and flippers), singing ‘everybody was Kung-Fu fighting’ in my head as I ‘danced’ and watched the plankton light up. Next thing I know I’m being tugged and realise I’m the only one in the area. Afterwards I got a bit of a telling off for not following everyone and because I could’ve been lost in the dark. Opps. I did get my Advanced licence in case you’re wondering.
While I was getting my advanced licence Courtney did her free diving licence and made it down to 21m with no tank! I’ve no clue how that’s possible and just think she’s both hardcore and amazing!
Coming to the end of our time in Utila I was sad to be parting from Courtney. We got along really well and she was so easy to travel with. We laughed a lot, ate snacks, crepes, moaned and partied our way through 12 days (I guess there was some diving in there). Courtney kept asking me to come to Nicaragua, promising that if I did we’d go to different places than I’d been to last year. I was so tempted. Courtney has been one of my travel faves and I knew it would be fun. In the end I told her if my San Juan party girl Andrea was coming up from Peru for a Sunday Funday then I would come, and if not I’d stick to my plan and go back to Guatemala. So I texted Andrea and asked if she was planning to do the May 21st Sunday Funday, convinced that she wouldn’t be. Next thing I know I’ve got a reply ‘I’m looking at flights now’. So that was that. I was on my way back to where it all began!