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Eat, Pray, Love – Utila Style

2010 September 26

First things first: Negative ghost rider, I definitely did not read or watch that garbage. I don’t plan to either and this review pretty much confirmed my suspicions. Not to mention, Julia Roberts flat out annoys me and the only movie I liked of hers was Erin Brockovich.

BARF.

No, my Utila version of that sappy ass story was more along the lines of Dive, Explore, Party.

With Sunjam finished, life was back to normal. People returned to the island and Utila slowly shook off the after-party hangover and resumed operations. Likewise, I settled into a routine and the next five days would be some of my best in Honduras. My days would usually go like this: wake up around 8am, head to the dive shop and do a couple of dives. Get back around noon, have some lunch, go rent a motobike and explore the island. Come back around 4-5pm, meet up with the guys, have a couple of beers, get dinner and roll out later at night.

Sublime describes it the best: Summertime and the livin’s easy. There were no buses to catch, no sights that needed to be seen, no work that needed to be done. No worries and no problems. The only two things I actually had to think about were waking up in time and figuring out what I wanted to eat. Sadly though, such a state of mind doesn’t come around so often anymore, especially once you start working. But like the Thai islands, Utila offered an escape, albeit temporary, and I felt the pressures and stresses of daily life melt away. It’s a great feeling and if you haven’t experienced it, you’re missing out.

– – –

Diving

One of my biggest reasons for coming to Honduras was because of the SCUBA diving. Not only was it cheap, but there was also a ton of sea life and great visibility. In all, I did nine dives over the course of four days, including one night dive.

The first time I got on the boat I felt like a fish out of water. I hadn’t dived in nearly 1.5 years so when I looked at all the tanks, hoses, attachments, and regulators, I sat there dumbfounded for a good five minutes. Diving, once you learn it, is fairly straightforward but for those few moments, I might as well have been building a rocket. Once I hit the water, however, it all came back. Diving, like riding a bike, is something you learn and never really forget. I was definitely a little confused while setting up, but the basic things like controlling buoyancy, descending and ascending were like second nature.

Like a fish in the water.

The feeling you get while diving is unlike anything else. You’re 100% weightlessness, breathing underwater, and seeing sea creatures inches away from your face. Unlike snorkeling, you’re able to spend extended periods of time underwater as well as go much deeper. Contrary to what many people believe, diving is also a very relaxing activity. You are never really swimming too fast and the fins make it incredibly effortless. In fact, you want to slow your heart rate down so you aren’t using as much oxygen, allowing you to stay down longer.

Perhaps the strangest sensation is when you end up at a depth where all you can see is blue water. Everywhere you look, as far as the eye can see it’s just… blue. No fish, no corals, no sea floor, it really makes you feel like you’re floating in space. All you can see is the sunlight filtering through the water, shimmering as the waves above bend the light. Surreal, absolutely surreal.

As far as animals go, I was hoping to see a whale shark but with my luck, the biggest thing I saw was a sea turtle. Josh and the other guys, as bad as they were at diving (the Remedial class), happened to get incredibly lucky and saw both dolphins and pilot whales. Like a lot of things in life, it’s just the luck of the draw.

– – –

Exploring

One of my favorite things to do while traveling is renting a motobike and cruising around. If I wanted to do that here in the states, I’d need to get a special license, buy insurance, sign my life away and probably a million other things. In the developing world, it’s as simple as handing them money ($5 in Thailand/Vietnam, $25 in Honduras) and a deposit (usually your passport); no license or training needed. In return, you get a 150cc automatic, a full tank of gas and several hours, if not a day, of riding.

On the jungle roads.

Renting a motobike is a great way to explore somewhere. Your reach is much further than a bike and you’re free to go wherever you choose, perfect for exploring a small island like Utila. Like the Thai islands, it was mostly undeveloped land. The vast majority of shops and businesses were located along one main road while the rest of the island is literally jungle. The further you went inland, the worse the roads became: from paved roads to less paved, then packed dirt, and finally loose rocks and gravel.

A trail of tree cutter ants I found.

Over the course of a couple afternoons, I took a bike out and just started riding. I never knew exactly where I was going and just followed the dirt paths until they either stopped or merged with another road.

Along the way, I ended up on the highest point of the island which offered a panoramic view of Utila, saw the diesel generator that powered the entire island, checked out freshwater caves that were a favorite “locals” spot, rode down a road covered with so many crabs that it looked the road itself moved, got chased by a dog, and raced down the centerline of Utila’s airport runway, straight-up Hollywood style. Not bad for $50 huh?

The view from the top.

– – –

Partying

And of course we partied. How could we not? After riding, I would meet up with the rest of the crew in the late afternoons. We’d grab a couple of beers, head out to dinner with a few more beers, and then bust out the rum.

Like Copan, Utila only had a few places that were going off at night. Tranquilo and Coco Loco were located on piers right next to each other. As their names suggested, they had very different vibes.

Treetanic was an awesome hangout located next to the Mango Inn. It was more of an outside complex rather than a bar and extended extremely far back. All the walls and benches were decorated with all sorts of knick-knacks that were stuck into the foundation. Think of a forest-y setting with a treehouse feel.

One of the many decorations at Treetanic.

Rounding out the four horseman was the infamous Bar in the Bush. Where it was exactly, I couldn’t tell you. What it looked like? I’m not too sure. The only thing I do remember about it is that it was very, very far inland and it took forever to walk there. This of course is also where Tyson had his fun in the jungle.

Our nights on Utila were a blur of Salva Vida, rum, and music. And the six of us had our share of good times. But like most things in life, good things don’t last forever.

– – –

The Utila Crew splintered when we left Josh on a Friday. His girlfriend had caught up so he’d be staying for a few more days. The five of us headed to La Ceiba and after a day of rafting, we would each go our own ways.

Maddy, Ash and Lance headed south towards Nicaragua. Tyson and his sister headed north to Guatemala. And I was nearing the end of my trip.

The waning days of Utila.

Utila had been good to us. As our ferry left port, I looked back and saw the island slowly dissolve into the sea.

I may have left you, Utila, but one day I’ll be back.

2 Responses leave one →
  1. September 27, 2010

    I’m terrified to SCUBA. I’ve snorkled and I end up with so much water in my belly! But it looks really cool.

    Joel and I decided we’re going to Guatemala in May/June. Been there? We could use some recommendations!

    • September 27, 2010

      Oh man, that sounds terrible. I’ve only gotten freaked out one time but I was able to calm myself down. You never want to panic when you’re 100 feet underwater…

      I haven’t made it to Guatemala but heard it’s one of the best places in Central. Lonely Planet guides are pretty money and you can also gleam a lot of information from their forums.

      Check out: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forum.jspa?forumID=12&keywordid=222

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