Sunday, March 16, 2014

Speeding Down Highways and The Windy Woods

posted by Alexander, Christopher and Dad

2014-03-12 17.52.05
Evening comes to West End.  The cruise ships head out as the sun starts to set.

A few days ago we arrived at West End, Roatan. After a day of rest we rented a car and took our diesel cans to fill. We set out on an expedition into unknown territory. At least for us.

Now there were a ton of awesome pictures about how beautiful it was and stuff but we lost those due to a faulty memory card. So I’ll just tell you how great it was! Roatan is full of tall lush green hills and curvy roads and trees. We went into a resort just to check it out and the tiled road was winding down a green hill.As a joke, Dad wondered what they did when the roads got all icy in the winter because there were some very steep ones.

Ocean views on Roatan

After doing a bunch of exploring, we finally got to work. Work meaning we got hungry and went for lunch at an outdoor mall. It was really modern and I thought it was great. We went to a fast food grill place. That was our mistake. The dishes had a ton of meat on them. The walls had a couple T.V.’s on them that were playing Monsters University. I swear they were there to make you ignore how much meat you were eating. During the meal two little kids came and asked for money but we didn’t have any extra to give them. An employee came and handed them some cash so they would leave. When we finally finished eating we all realized that we were insanely full. We literally didn’t eat for two meals afterwards. Well, except for the ice cream we had right after. Hmmmmm…

After we had finished a lunch that would have caused my vegetarian aunt and uncle to faint we went and filled our diesel cans. Then we went shopping at Eldons super market and went home. It was a very productive day.

Dad chimes in:

West End on Roatan is the most touristy part of Roatan we have seen.  It is a collection of small dive shops, bars and restaurants spread out along a reef-protected waterfront.  Just inside the reef, cruiser’s anchor so they can go ashore and enjoy all the bars and restaurants.  Or, they go and snorkel the reef.  Sadly, we are not big bar or restaurant people.  We find that, with five of us on the boat, going out to eat quickly becomes extravagantly expensive.  And the kids just can’t keep up with Sara and I when we take them to bars.  Lightweights.  So we have most of our meals on the boat.

Dive shops like this one abound at West End ...
... as do open air bars and cafes, like this one.
Right now, we can’t do much snorkelling either.  Despite really enjoying our scuba diving, Alexander and I both seem to have contracted ear infections that get worse the more time we spend in the water.  So we are trying to keep our heads dry.  Sara and Katie aren’t big snorkellers, and Christopher doesn’t really like to go alone.  So, all in all, West End was kind of wasted on on us.  We stayed for a few nights, and did the drive around the island that the boys have described above, but other than that, it wasn’t that great.  The highlight was the sea turtle who seemed to live right under our boat.  I did go for one good snorkel, and got some great pictures of him.

Sea turtle, with a remora hitchiking on his shell.
He (or she) was actually a lot bigger than (s)he looks in this picture.
Turtle diving in the sunlight, with a remora hanginf on to a rear fin.
The next day we thought we should leave. After doing all that we had decided that we would head out, considering we had seen and done most of the stuff that there was to do in West End. So we packed up the boat and began to go. With strong winds coming into our port side, it made for a fast sail, even though we rolled all the way there.

Saying goodbye to Roatan.  This resort sits on the southwestern tip of the island.
We got to a place called Cayos Cochinos after four hours of sailing. It was barely inhabited, with a dense and lush jungle on a medium sized hill/mountain.

We thought a hike in the deep jungle would make for an enjoyable walk, while at the same time giving us good exercise. So we took our dinghy over, and began to make our way up the trail that we had heard would take us to a lighthouse atop the mountain. We walked for about five minutes on a reasonably flat trail before meeting with some Hondurans who looked like they were tourists to Cayos Cochinos, but not the country. Mom struck up a friendly chat, and they soon told us that we were going the wrong way, if we were going to the light house we needed to take a different trail. We went to that trail and all of the nice flatness was lost. It was at about a 70 degree angle all the way up and the only thing going for the trail was that the trees provided perfect shade. We got tired after a little while and took a break. We had a bit of water then took off again.

We continued all the way up the steep winding path until we reached a gap in the trees. For the three feet that you were passing by the gap, the wind was really powerful. So we stood there for a while, until we decided that we were OK again and we could move on.

We continued on until we reached the tower. It was a skinny lighthouse about a hundred feet up. It wasn’t very impressive, and so after another break, we headed back.

Sailboat outside the reef at West End.
The downhill was steep and sketchy, but we made it down and had some good fun sliding. we got back to the dinghy and took off back to the boat.

Dad chimes in again (saves me having to write a whole separate post):

The Bay Islands of Honduras started on a high note for us, but have slowly slid backwards.  We really loved Guanaja, and had a great time at Mango Creek Lodge.  Fantasy Island was pretty good too, although we were ready to leave when we did.  West End was just so-so, as I described above.

We had high hopes for the Cayos Cochinos.  What we knew about them was that they were relatively remote, and were protected and unspoiled.  All things that really appeal to us.  We had hoped to spend a few days exploring them.  Unfortunately, our visit there was less than ideal.

Things started off looking pretty good.  The islands weren’t quite as remote as we had hoped.  There were houses and a restaurant and dive shop right on the bay we pulled into.  But there weren’t any other boats, so that seemed good.

Within minutes of our arrival, a military looking boat with two soldiers and one conservation officer pulled alongside our boat.  The conservation officer boarded our boat, and explained to us the charge for mooring in the Cayo Cochinos.  We knew there would be a fee, but were surprised to learn it would be $50.00 per night.  Just to moor there.  This was the highest mooring fee we have ever encountered, including our time in the BVIs.  It wouldn’t bankrupt us, but when a marina costs around $15.00 per night here, it seemed pretty high.  We decided to just stay for the one night, and see how it went.

While the hike was good, the rest of the night wasn’t.  For some reason, the high cliffs of the Cayos, which plunge dramatically down into the water, also funnel strong winds down them.  Every few minutes, our boat was buffetted by powerful gusts which made us concerned about the integrity of the mooring we were tied to.  Eventually, the wind shifted around so that it was onshore.  But this meant that a big swell rolled in.  The rest of the night had us rocking and rolling as much as anywhere we have ever anchored.  We were happy to leave in the morning.  Hopefully our last stop in Honduras, the island of Utila, will reverse the downward trend.

2014-03-12 17.51.03
Sunset cruise at West End.

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