Sunday, August 17, 2008

Life on Utila

Hello from Utila! We have really enjoyed our time here but are starting to look forward to seeing home and our beloveds. It will feel good, I think, to get back into a routine though I may have a different feeling about that in 2 weeks when things really get busy at school!

We flew from Guanaja to La Ceiba, with beautiful views of the reef below (PHOTO 1) and the mountains on the mainland. We took a really wild ride on a cheap colectivo taxi (they stop to pick up others as needed so each passenger pays less) - PHOTO 2 shows a motorcycle passing between 2 weaving trucks, taken through the front windshield of the taxi on the way to the ferry dock.

The ferry ride was unbelievably rough and my stomach, even with dramamine and sea band support, was not happy about that, infact violently unhappy. I was very relieved to finally see Utila coming into view (slowly, much too slowly) and as we made our way down along Utila's street to our hotel the owner caught up to us in a golf cart and helped us along (suddenly a voice in the dark was saying, "You wouldn't happen to be Mike and Stacey, would you?"). Our over-the-water hotel is very nice - clean, air conditioned, small kitchen, hot water, cable tv (go Olympics!), and a wonderful view over the bay.

Town is as we remembered it, a bit rough around the edges with an odd assortment of stores catering to locals and divers and around 15 dive shops. I selected Alton's, the closest one to our hotel (PHOTO 3) which has been nice. PHOTOS 4, 5, and 6 are street scenes (6 is a heated dominoes game with money on the table). PHOTOS 7 and 8 are evening pictures from the balcony outside our room; I decided I shouldn't have to make hard decisions while on vacation so didn't force myself to choose between them.

PHOTO 9 shows the flats Mike fishes every day for bonefish and their various friends (taken from the dive boat). He hasn't seen permit there this year but headed out this afternoon with barracuda gear. In PHOTO 10 Mike is taking one last look over the flats before heading home to dinner.

I'm seeing really amazing things underwater but it is certainly different diving from a full boat rather than by myself with just the divemaster. I've added half a dozen new ones to the fish list I started on Guanaja which now numbers more than 80 species. Although the quantity of fish and the diversity of color here isn't quite up to the Guanaja standard (much less pressure on those reefs) I've seen some amazing places and every dive has been a joy. Among other things today we saw a tiny juvenile spotted drum (one of the greatest things ever to see underwater imo) and a 5' barracuda at a cleaning station, patiently having it's mouth and gills cleaned by remoras and shrimp. So many times I catch myself staring at a scene and wishing I could remember every detail forever.

PHOTO 11 was also taken from the dive boat, of a local fisherman pulling up snapper using hand lines. Our boat driver had pulled over to ask how deep the water was and if he'd seen any "water boils" caused by birds and fish feeding, a sign a whale shark may be near. The driver gets paid more if we see a whale shark (common around Utila but difficult to spot this time of year) and I for one had a tip handy - no luck so far so just another excuse to come back.

PHOTO 12 shows our hotel, The Lighthouse, from the dive boat (the white building on the right) and PHOTO 13 shows Mike inside the room getting ready to go fishing.

We've eaten well here, a combination of eating out (some dinners) and eating in (everything else). It's great to be able to prepare our own food after a month of eating someone else's ideas, though I have usually loved those, too. PHOTO 14 shows RJ at RJs Barbecue; when you order his wife shouts out what you want (so far we've tried amber jack, mahi mahi, wahoo, and snapper - all fabulous) and he reaches into the cooler, pulls out a fish, cuts off a large helping, and grills it up. It's served with potatoes, rice, salad, and corn on the cob for $5. PHOTO 15 shows a typical lunch - Mike has it ready when I get home from diving around noon mmmmmmm.

My schedule here goes sleep, eat, dive, eat, nap, explore, eat, lay around reading or watching the Olympics with Mike, and start again. Mike's is similar but he naps in the morning and fishes in the afternoon. That's all going to change in a few days - we're milking the last few days for all they're worth and will look forward to being home and settling into the real world again. HAPPY TRAILS!

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