March 22-27, 2008
Rumor had it the earliest ferry left to one of the Bay Islands at 9:00, but to which island was unclear. Truth be told, I was skeptical there even would be a ferry today because it was Easter weekend. But the only way to find out was to get up early and head over to the dock. Sonia and Ivan got their ticket to Roatan, which indeed did leave at 9:00, but I wanted to go to Utila, and nobody seemed to know what was going on with it. The ferry was sitting in the dock, and when Sonia talked to the captain, she found out that it had already dropped off a load of passengers from the island and was about to return empty to pick up another load. I ran over to it and jumped on board just as it was pulling away. They let me ride out to Utila as the only passenger on the whole ship, a strange situation indeed. The mass exodus from the island meant that I was able to find a place to sleep right away, so I guess the divine intervention of El Salvador worked out for the best.
The first thing I noticed when I got to the island was that the locals were speaking English to each other. It was a Caribbean dialect that was hard to understand (they say mon and riiight a lot), but delightful nonetheless. It had been over a year since I had been to an English-speaking place.The Bay Islands are known for their cheap diving, to the point where many people end up staying for several months learning how to be a divemaster (a kind of an underwater tour guide) or an instructor. I signed up for some fun dives on Easter Sunday. A big group of us checked out the reef (the second largest in the world), including a wall that went thirty meters (100 feet) deep. Later, we went to a private beach for a barbecue, volleyball, and an underwater Easter egg hunt where the prize for each egg found was a bottle of beer. I didn't see anything life-changing on my dives, and I learned that overfishing had badly damaged the ecosystem around the island, but it was still fun getting back into the water.
Later I met a family from Alaska traveling together. Porsha did various things for a living, including playing in two bands and selling fruit smoothies at the farmer's market. One of the first things she was going to do when she got home was go caribou hunting with her brother Garrison and mother Katie. Porsha liked to tell me that if you didn't learn how to be self-sufficient by hunting and growing your own vegetables, you weren't going to survive in the future. She also told me that the US had more or less become a police state in the time I'd been gone. It all seemed far-fetched, but it also had an eerie ring of truth to it.
Another guy hanging out with us was Dave. Dave also sells fruit smoothies at the local farmer's market. He claimed that he only works four months per year, and only one day per week during those four months. That's been his only job for the last twenty years. I think I need to consider a career change when I get home.
The worst thing about the island was the sand flies. The first night I got bitten a lot, but then I learned that if you grease yourself up with baby oil, they can't piss directly onto your skin. The whole island looked like a big Mr. Universe pageant, what with all the athletic, deeply tanned people walking around in their swimming suits and covered with baby oil.
The other bad thing was the weather. Most days were cloudy with rough water, and the ferry service and even some of the dive boats became unreliable. A local rasta told me that around Easter it was always guaranteed to be hot and sunny, but the last few years have been totally unpredictable because of global climate change. So we've taken away the fish and the sunny weather, but at least there was still some coral. For a little while, anyway.
The photo album for this entry is here.