Rain pelted the taxi cab as it bounced, shook and squeaked like an old mattress on its way back to Honduras La Ceiba Airport. Reality hit hard; I was fully immersed in a country thousands of miles away from home and I wondered if after narrowly escaping being bitten by a poisonous coral snake, getting dumped in the ocean, spending the night in a wet hammock and washed away by floods, a taxi ride would be my demise.
Of course, not everything on my trip through Honduras was as nerve rattling, unfortunate or frustrating. It was an affordable adventure filled with moments beautiful, profound and eye-opening (everything I hoped an adventurous vacation would be) and I loved every minute of it.
I picked Honduras for my latest adventure because of its affordability – breakfast for about US$5, supreme lodging for about US$27, meeting new friends, beautiful scenery and friendly people (just how my father used to describe Cayman years ago.)
Whatever adventures, misfortunes and experience lay ahead, I had no way of knowing. Although a bit unsettling, it gave me quite a rush; after reading about and watching television of distant lands, I was really there. It was a feeling I rarely got at home.
As the Cayman Airways pilot announced the flight attendants to prepare for landing, my sense of adventure heightened as I gazed transfixed at the Pico Bonito mountain with its smoky cloud crown, enchanting and mysterious. La Ceiba, my first destination, lies at the bottom of this magnificent peak.
Baggage cleared we were assisted out the door to the waiting tiny cab driven by our German host,Barbara Sickenberger, owner of Rainbow Village.
Driving from the airport I felt the stress of life in Cayman draining from my pores as we hit the highway to our lodgings. Turning in to an alley paved with river stone rocks forming a grid-like pattern we bounced our way to the hotel avoiding as much watery potholes as we could. Some not too well kept homes lined the way, dogs roamed freely in the streets and the neighbourhood kids peeking though iron bars and barb wire fencing cast a wary eye as we drove by. A small, pick-up truck caked heavily with mud spatters and the words Policia printed on the back drove past, causing the dogs to erupt into a frenzy and I began to think had I make a mistake in choosing this place.
At that moment, my host made a sharp right turn and there it was, a heavenly gate painted in the colours of the rainbow with a high watchman tower sitting at its entrance. Immediately I felt safe. What we had found was a hidden gem in sordid surroundings.
I highly recommend these bungalows painted in pink, yellow, green and purple. The rooms are clean and spacious; nice bathroom and kitchen with hot running water; television, air conditioning and swimming pool. Barbara is a wonderful host, she arranged pick up and drop off at the airport and called for taxis to and from the ferries to Roatan. She kept the kitchen open late at night and the food is wonderful.
Not wanting to waste time getting to know the surroundings of La Ceiba, I hurriedly dumped my bags and arranged for a taxi to take me and my friend into the town. Barbara quickly reminded us that the cost would be 25 lempira’s but a whole lot more to come back. That got me wondering as it was the same road we took to get there as to get back.
Never in my life have I seen so many taxi drivers jostling for space and passengers then in La Ceiba. Honk! Honk! Honk! Taxi! Taxi! “Si, Si, Si” they shouted from half cracked windows in the pouring rain, it seemed like a never ending musical cascade of confusion, which made it hard to just pick one.
Choosing a driver who claimed to speak a little English we settled on a price of 100 lempiras, about US$5, we climbed in and said “Airport”a familiar point to our destination. After driving a short distance it dawned on me that we were not taking the route that led to the airport but someplace else. In broken Spanish I quickly enquired, “Do you know airport?” “Si si,” was his response as he continued to drive. By this time I was getting frustrated and scared so I tried another tactic, “Do you know Cayman,” Si si he answered as he pulled up to an abandon structure, turned around and said “Cayman!” Yikes! We both exclaimed as I grabbed my camera to zonk him over the head if he tried anything funny. Luckily I spotted two security guards around the corner and jumped out of the car for assistance. By this time the taxi man had circled and the security guards were able to question him about his knowledge of the airport of which he looked absolutely dumbfounded. Anyway, another taxi soon came along and we were hustled in by the security guards and on our way.
In La Ceiba ,a taxi ride does not necessarily mean that you will be travelling on a two-lane road most of the trip. These drivers take to the curb which have no guard rails; bypassing traffic, side-sweeping motorbikes carrying three passengers and swinging to avoid cows, donkey carts, chickens, produce stalls and pedestrians. “Lord help me!” I exclaimed at one point, shaking the driver to keep on the road. Finally, making it back to the comfort of Rainbow Village I felt like I had just had the road trip adventure of a lifetime.
“That calls for a stiff drink,” I said to my friend as we laughed about the whole ordeal. Little did we know that James Adams, assistant manager and owner representative of one of La Cieba’s luxury eco-hotel the Pico Bonito Lodge was overhearing the conversation, he offered his apologies and promised to show me a better La Ceiba.
He informed us that the Pico Bonito Lodge was closed for renovations but he would give us the opportunity to visit the grounds for a tour, that was, if Hurricane Matthew did not get us first.
Next morning it was raining a lot but we made the trip to the lodge, passing pristine acres of lush pineapple groves in the morning mist.
The Pico Bonito Lodge is a lovely place to explore. A nature lover’s haven; it features a stunning collection of beautiful flora and fauna with wooden houses in the midst of cacao trees. If you are interested in hiking, exploring or bird watching this is the place to see. Adventurers who like climbing can visit the tower and take in a breathtaking view of the cloud forest, habitats and river. Tour guides also offer hikes into the wilderness, around the gardens to the snake den, butterfly enclosure and iguana den. I love nature but poisonous snakes, spiders and frogs the sizes of hands were just a bit much even for me,otherwise it was a pleasant experience.
After checking if the ferry would be making the trip to Roatan, our intended destination which was cancelled due to rough weather, we were informed that it might be leaving that Sunday morning. Making our way down to the mainland port we purchased two one way tickets at a cost of US$28 each. As I sat there remembering the past few days I looked forward to the peace and tranquillity of Roatan.
What would come next would rock the belly of even me a veteran sea goer.
Taking our seats in the spacious sitting area of the Galaxy Wave, I watched as most passengers headed to the upper deck. I closed my eyes but was soon interrupted by a tap on the shoulder by a man hauling a huge garbage bin and a fist full of plastic bags; taking one I wondered what it the world these were for.
At that moment the Galaxy Wave hit open waters and the peaceful moment swam out the window. Moving at a fast pace; the vessel dipped and rose as each swell of sea water caught her on the bow dropping her back into the choppy waters. With a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, I felt a wave of nausea wash over me.
“How long is the trip?”My friend groaned,” “one hour and couple minutes,” I said, shutting my eyes and transporting myself to another place and time.
I awoke a short while to see the coastline of Roatan come into view and whispered a tiny prayer. Thank God that drama was over.
If you are looking for beauty, relaxation, quiet seclusion, or that perfect romantic, tropical getaway Roatan West End is the place to be. It is a scenic town, everyone is friendly and the many local watering holes and restaurants dotting the shoreline offer a wide array of mouth-watering seafood dishes. Honduran dories litter the shore-front waiting to take you diving, fishing or just for a spin around the islands.
Back in La Ceiba we looked forward to our journey back to Cayman,-but our adventure was far from over.
Checking in our baggage at Cayman Airways counter at 10.30am we were told the flight would be departing at 1.20pm. An announcement came that Cayman Airways would be landing shortly. Three hours later and Cayman Airways had still not landed. By this time it was if the heavens had let loose and every drop of water in the sky was being poured over La Ceiba airport.
Shortly after that, it was announced that Cayman Airways would not be coming after all and we should report back to the airport at 6am next morning.
We squeezed into a taxi and headed out from the airport. Water swirled around the tires of the car as the force from the pelting rain and buffeting wind swayed the tiny cab from side to side. Just then the whole car started to vibrate violently. My teeth shook from the impact as we tried desperately to hang on to the luggage. It was like being fastened to an old fashioned, vibrating, exercise machine that had no stop button.
The driver informed us to hold on as he had not had time to fix a bad tire that was threatening to spin off at any moment.
“Dear God help us,” I mumbled as the driver said the hotel was not too far away. “Just a little further,” he stated pulling into the darkening entrance of a hotel. “Sorry we are closed for the night barked a security officer.”
We decided to go back to the airport. The trip back was just as nerve racking. Finally back at the airport the security guard let us back inside. Another taxi driver waiting around for one more fare said he would take us to a small restaurant right across from the airport. Yes, it was right across from the airport but down in the back of beyond where it seemed like seedy characters lurked in every corner.
After visiting two establishments,we were told the food was finished. Wanting to just get the heck out of there, we settled on a place that advertised hot baleads and fried beans. An old man rambled up to the grilled in window and said Que! My friend ordered something in Spanish and after waiting about half an hour he pushed something under the grill covered with plastic wrapping. To tell you the truth I took one bite and spat it out it was horrid. My taxi driver didn’t think so and gobbled up the whole thing.
Back at the airport we finished the night me wrapped in a wet hammock trying to keep warm, and my friend hanging lop-sided from a chair. The plane arrived sometime after 10am. Too tired to talk anymore I dozed through a fog of tiredness. I heard the pilot welcome and apologizing for leaving us stranded, I did not even care I was on my way back to Cayman and even Cayman Immigration officers confiscating my Honduran beans did not faze me I was just glad to be back home safe and sound.