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Current Location: Mango Cafe, Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras

08.27.10

Price of a beer in a bar: US$1.32
Song currently stuck in my head: Audacity of Huge (Simian Mobile Disco). It’s catchy and includes a “bag of Bill Murray”, plus I just wrote the last post so it’s still the same song. I should point out that a local fried chicken joint was blasting “Heart Shaped Box” (Nirvana) yesterday. This is unusual.

I used to have what they call “Earning Potential.” I still do, but I used to, too. “Earning potential” is what they call the amount of money your industry is willing to invest over the course of your career to keep you in it. “Earning Potential” can be a powerful motivator. Earning Potential can get you a mortgage. Earning Potential can get you laid. I think I was fired from my last job, where I was “realizing” my “Earning Potential” (though the fire/layoff distinction is still a little unclear). So the initial momentum for this trip was put into motion for me; I don’t know if I could have walked away from the salary voluntarily. I told myself I could and I think I was right but there’s just the slightest tinge of self doubt, which, for me, is an unusual sensation. Even for someone with serious resolve, the decision to walk away is a difficult one. The best decisions often are.

Now I’m on an island.

Our arrival in Utila came via boat from Placencia, Belize to Puerto Cortes, Honduras, then taxi for 5 or 6 hours across the North Coast of Honduras to La Ceiba. We spent the night there and then grabbed a taxi to the dock first thing in the morning and caught one of the two daily ferries to Utila. Let’s take that step by step:

The D-Express is scheduled to run every Friday from Placencia to Honduras and it does so on some of them. We got lucky; after two weeks of canceled runs they left as scheduled (loosely) on our day of travel. It costs US$55/per person, takes 5 hours, give or take an hour. Exit fees were US$3.75/per person, though I keep hearing/reading rumors that this has been raised to about US$40. Upon arrival in Puerto Cortes, Honduras, I was gouged by money changers. Belizean currency, though pegged to the US dollar, is worthless everywhere else and you have to try to leave with as little of it as possible and eat a ridiculous percentage to get it converted. Our taxi drivercame recommended by the D-Express operators (who were beyond helpful) and took us to immigration and an ATM before setting out for La Ceiba. We planned to stay at the Hotel Gran Paris but upon arrival they wanted US$55 a night (a little less than double what we’d seen online) so we tagged along with the two backpackers who were sharing our taxi. The hostel they were looking for had recently moved and this led to a horrendous back and forth across town, circling, backtracking and shouting to other (local) cabbies for directions. Eventually we ended up following another taxi who led us into exactly the parts of town you don’t want to be in. At one point were boxed in with two cars in front of us and 2 behind in an unlit and rutted back alley with a small crowd of loiterers watching from the corner. Brake lights ahead let us know we weren’t going anywhere if they didn’t want us to. One of the backpackers was moving her passport from her bag to her bra and I was practicing saying “the bag or just my money?” in Spanish. But, as is true in most dangerous situations, nothing adverse happened. Severely rattled we managed to find the hostel, Hostal Las Guacamayas, a while later and it tuned out to be clean, secure and reasonably priced.

BTW, direct private water transport from Belize to The Bay Islands can be arranged, though it cannot be depended on to be available. Contact me (or post) for more info.

A number of people from our boat chose to take a bus rather than a taxi; they probably saved about US$17 a person in doing so but with considerably more stops over a considerably longer period of time. Some of them ended up at our hostel and many of them ended up on the Utila Princess with us the next morning. There was some South African Dive Instructor who has been working in Utila that was encouraging people to take the bus, saying he’d done it a few times, never had any trouble and that it was a safe way to go. Is he right? Probably. I haven’t heard of any serious issues with taking the higher end buses here (though people do get mugged after leaving the bus stations at their destination). Was that guy an idiot? Undoubtedly. Never trust someone who wears a huge $800 watch in the developing world while lecturing you about travel safety. They probably have no idea what they’re talking about.

Stay tuned for island culture wars, adverse pharmaceutical effects, my overzealous featherweighting and 12 additional dbs of power that fail to bridge the “last mile.”

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4 Responses to “Current Location: Mango Cafe, Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras”

  1. Heather Says:

    I’m contemplating quitting my job and coming to join you:) Ok, maybe not, but I wish.

  2. Heather Says:

    Is it free? šŸ™‚


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