La Cucaracha Report – Honduras 🇭🇳

Our stay in the paradise of West Bay, Roatan gets a little scary when our four-year old gets sick….

4 Jan 2004

We are leaving Guatemala tomorrow morning early!  We are en route to the Bay Islands of Honduras!  Finally.  We will be tropical by noon.  Steaming hot and shedding clothing.

This minute, we have just walked into the Casa Santo Domingo Hotel Restaurant in Antigua – simply for coffee and dessert.  It was Dean’s idea.  A good one – pure decadence.  Rich people are so funny to watch too.  A bonus.  We have ordered a whopping three desserts, two coffees and a milk for Leo.  It could be a late night and we have a long walk after this.

8 Jan 2004

It’s Dean’s 41st birthday and we are enjoying ourselves completely in Roatan, Honduras.  We are in a cabana just a few steps from the most beautiful beach I have ever been on.  Our cabana is an upper apartment with a bedroom, a clean bathroom with hot shower and a kitchenette on one end of the living room.  In the kitchen / living room there is a single bed and a TV / VCR.  We are just now watching the movie Titanic.

It feels great to have some luxury because we had two days of hellish travel from Antigua to Livingston, Guatemala – the dirtiest, ugliest, most disappointing village thus yet and where we had to spend a huge US40 to rent a room with some sanity and cleanliness to it.  It had a nice pool which we swam in in the dark.  We were up at 5 the next morning and on a launch for 1.5 hours to Puerto Barrios in the rain.  From there we jammed into a suburban with two Austrians, two Australians and two Americans.  The driver and navigator were Guatemalans and we Canadians.  Five countries represented by we 10.5 squished travelers in this suburban.  Not bad.

After a couple of hours in the suburban, we came to a town and had to stop for fuel.  We all piled out to use the bathroom facilities in the gas station.  I remember feeling like I had just passed through some kind of black hole from one reality into another.  Stepping into the modern, air-conditioned gas station full of convenience items and candy and bags of doritos and with clean normal toilets, was a real treat almost like Dorothy waking up in Oz — from black and white to colour.  They were even selling brewed coffee with cream.  My point here is that we had been on this trip for a couple of months now and convenience items were few and far between.

This vehicle full of us chatty travelers took us the five hours, over dirt and sand roads with washed out portions, small villages and across the border to San Pedro Sulu, Honduras.  This is where we caught a second class bus. Waiting for the bus to fill and prepare to leave, many entrepreneurial-types came reaching up to our bus window selling their wares.  Everything from large, colourful plastic wash basins to, bars of soap, combs, or coca cola in a small sandwich bag with a straw.  They would never give you the can or the bottle with the coke – they needed to keep it to get the deposit back.  

The bus ride was another four hours to La Ceiba and then just the 90 minutes to this island.  Lastly, a thirty minute taxi ride .  Exhausted, we had no idea where to stay and so settled on a pit of a room for the first night in West End and then found this near perfect place the next morning in West Bay Beach.  This picture is just outside our cabana.

roatan

Cabana Roatana, 11 Jan 2004

Still in paradise.  A few days ago Leo was very sick with high fever, chills and a swollen node in his neck.  Coincidentally, the new owner of this place is a doctor who immediately examined Leo and reported that he had a virus.  He told us that Leo would get worse before he got any better…that night, Leo had hallucinations and was in a bad way but after the doctor examined him again, he reassured us that it wasn’t what we feared most – namely meningitis.  Thank god!  Dean and I both breathed a sigh of relief.  What luck to have an ER doctor right here doing house calls to our cabana on the beach!

Greg, the doc, took a last look at Leo the morning he left for home and was certain that he would be fine in a couple of days.  The sea, sun, sand and fresh air all would help.  

Today is a rainy day so we have stuck pretty close to our cabana.  We did manage a short hike to the tip of the island this morning and it was lovely.  We found some pretty sea shells and bits of coral and Leo held a small crab-like creature for a few minutes. 

West Bay, Roatan, Honduras  14 Jan 2004

Leo is a fairly sick little Gaffer.  He was restless last night and the night before, literally waking up every ten minutes due to his sinuses being blocked.  Dean and I are both bagged because of it.

This morning we got right up and prepared for a trip to the medical clinic in Coxen Hole (a true hole of a town!).  We were lucky to find a very good doctor who spoke English very well.  He examined Leo and concluded after seeing a normal level of platelets in his blood test result that Leo has a viral and bacterial infection. We were given four types of medicine: coaxicilan, col-dex ad, ibuprofen and acetaminophen.  We also bought lots of vitamin C.  The bill came to 68 US dollars.  The fee for the doctor was 400 Lempira which equals about 24 US dollars!!  We picked his brain about all sorts of things and he ruled out malaria and dengue fever.  It was well worth the effort.

Writing this now in 2017, years later, I recall with wonder the completely awful state of the dirt road outside this little clinic in Coxen Hole.  There was litter, bad smells, loose chickens, rusted out cars and then just inside the door, a long line-up of local people waiting patiently with their many, well-behaved children, in order to see the doctor.  As we white westerners walked into the clinic, with our expensive backpacks, watches, sandals and other telltale signs of our comparative wealth and with our very cute white-blond four-year old son, they ushered us swiftly passed the line-up and directly in to see the doctor.  I felt so blessed and privileged.  I felt badly for those waiting but I was deathly afraid for my precious young son whose health was worsening and god only knew why.

After leaving the clinic, we bought a few groceries, ate a bight of lunch, mailed postcards home, got some cash from the bank and then split a taxi back to our cabana with a couple from Alaska.

Talking to them was great fun.  They told us of two mistakes they made and it was exactly as we had done.  They too were conned by the woman named Laurel who asked us to help her at the ferry landing in Coxen Hole.  She came up to me, we were fresh off the boat, and told us all of her money, passport, travelers cheques, visa card, bank card – everything had been stolen…

Now, I would normally be a bit more discerning and ask a few more questions, but, I had just been on that darn ferry boat over to the island.  On the boat, they issued each passenger two little white pills – presumably for sea-sickness.  I get very sea-sick easily and so after asking for clarification on the pills, and receiving an answer in Spanish which I could not decipher, I gobbled down the little white pills and hoped for the best.  Not something I would normally do, but, it had been a long few days since leaving our peaceful Antiqua.  A few minutes later, I was seated on the ferry with Leo asleep on my lap and I realized that I could not feel my face.  It was the strangest feeling.  I also did not have any feelings of sea-sickness at all.  In fact, I felt awesome.  Looking back, I think I was stoned. So, when the con-artist approached us…

We gave her $20 US and the Alaskan couple gave her $30 five days later.  She had told us that her money was coming in to Western Union the next day.  The next mistake for them was getting a taxi to West End and staying in the same pit we did, but they paid for two nights sight unseen.  Bad move!

Sat 17 Jan 2004

Right after breakfast in our cabana of oatmeal and fruit, Dean was asked to help retrieve the hotel’s car from the airport.  His first driving experience of this trip.  The first time he has driven in two months.

Leo asked me to take him snorkeling on the close reef down at the end of the beach.  He has been practicing in the shallows just out from our place.  Now he wanted to see the real thing!  He was very impressed.  He saw some fish and the first outcroppings of coral.  After that, we examined the rock wall at the end of the beach and saw an iguana frozen in stillness.  Leo watched to see if it would move but, no.  We then discussed how iguanas can blend in with their background as a defense mechanism and Leo said, oh you mean camouflage.

Fri 23 Jan 2004

Our holiday here in Roatan has been excellent if we don’t count how sick Leo was with full blown tonsillitis.  We were back and forth to the Coxen Hole medical clinic (called the Jacklin Wood Medical Clinic) three times.  We worked with Dr Raymond first and then with Dr Wood.  They were both excellent.  We also were lucky enough to have the owner here look at him and a guest, Dr Chris, look at him.  We were rich in advice.  All that to say that it was a little scary for a few nights.  For four nights Leo’s throat was so swollen he had a hard time breathing and so woke up, sat up, coughing and sputtering about every fifteen minutes or so.  He was feverish, off and on, for ten days which made the doctors want to take blood tests to rule out dengue and malaria.  Consequently, our little Leo was stuck, like a pin cushion about six times.  The second time we took him in he was given an injection of a strong antibiotic.  On the third visit he received another injection of antibiotic and that night he showed a vast improvement.  Our little guy was quite sick and this was terrifying for us.  I would look at his throat and see that it was nearly completely blocked with ulcers and puss.  Awful!  Thankfully, he is back to normal and sleeping soundly again, much to our huge relief.

While in Roatan, and staying at the cabana, we enjoyed three weeks of bliss (except the ordeal of Leo’s tonsillitis).  Our little upper cabana, a few steps from the sugar-sand beach was very sweet.  We met a few travelers and would have them over to talk about travel and discuss our dreams of future travel.  We met an eighty-year old wealthy man who was traveling like a backpacker because he said it was more interesting.  During the day, we would go swimming in the turquoise waters and Leo would jump in off the dock again and again.  Sometimes, local people would sell us fruit on the beach and sometimes they would sell us cold drinks like a beer and a pop for Leo. At supper time I would cook up a very simple meal for us to enjoy and we would thank the heavens for our good fortune.  As backpackers, how did we afford such a lovely place to stay?  We had found out that the month of January was low-season on Roatan due to the rain.  Using this, we simply asked the owners for a cut rate and offered half the amount.  They went for it, probably because Leo was with us and he was so cute that they likely just wanted us to stay.

Next stop…Nicaragua

La Cucaracha Report from Nicaragua 🇳🇮

We regretfully leave our sweet cabana on Roatan for a day of overland travel on ferry, chicken bus and taxi to find a sweet hostel with a peaceful and friendly courtyard in Granada, Nicaragua…

Leaving our sweet little cabana on the pristine sugar sand beach of West Bay, Roatan was difficult. We had spent three weeks there.  Granted, Leo had been quite sick with tonsillitis, but where better for him to be sick? We had the perfect little set-up for him to let his little body work the wonders of healing.  Now it would be on the road again and hoping to find another sweet situation in Granada, Nicaragua.  Here is a picture of a friend we made and us snacking on tiny bananas just in front of our cabana.

Banana Roatana

We were again on the ferry from Coxen Hole (yes, HOLE!) over to La Ceiba and then over land for several legs to Granada.  When we finally pulled up to our hostel, we were exhausted, dusty, tired, hungry and we had to pee.  Don’t get me wrong, we did love travel.  What I am attempting to purvey here is the difficulty of overland and backpacker travel.  It is not all roses.  No, we didn’t have to go to work everyday but, there were hardships and mishaps which made up the journey.  I digress.  We walked into our hostel and smiles quickly found their way onto our faces.  Our hostel was ideal.  There was a large inner courtyard with hammocks.  There was a smallish pool in the courtyard, a telephone with free international calling, free internet and a little café with decent food and coffee.  Above all, there was a very nice atmosphere to this place and many people were already approaching us in order to meet our little four-year old son and magnet of joy: Leo.  Many touches of the blond hair and cheeks.  Leo’s eyes were wide open, taking in all the new faces. He was such a social guy.

We were given a private room with a private bath and we quickly changed out of our dirty clothes.  There was a hand-washing laundry area on the roof and that was one of my first tasks.  While Dean and Leo unpacked and got cleaned up, up I went and enjoyed the effort of getting our travelling clothes washed.  The scene from the roof was of variously shaped roof-lines of all manner of dwelling.  There were calls of roosters and hens and backfiring car engines.  There were smells of burning garbage, which is never pleasant, but which is prevalent.  A note here on our attitudes regarding Leo and his welfare.  One of us was ALWAYS with Leo.  Not once was he, even in a friendly hostel, left with a stranger.  We just had no idea what could happen to him while our backs were turned.  Kidnapped?  Sold? It was a constant worry for me.  I clearly remember the low-level stress of that reality.  Our precious son needed to be watched by us because there are crazies everywhere.  And sometimes it is impossible to detect.  Although, I’m pretty good at detecting it.  Takes one to know one.

We met some interesting folks at this hostel.  Karin from Germany. Peter from Holland and a big guy named Erild from Norway.  We ended up hanging out with them for several days while in Grenada.  We had met Erild of Norway in the Tegucigalpa, (the capital of Honduras) bus station where we started the second day of our journey enroute to Granada from The Bay Islands of Roatan. We shared a taxi ride from the bus station in Managua and after a couple of tries were lucky to find the great hostel here in Granada.

From an email message home:

Jaden-Thumbs-Up

The next day Erild, with his camera, came with us to find a playground for our little ball of pent up energy (I wonder of whom I am referring?) As luck would have it, we found a park with play equipment on the wonderfully breezy banks of the huge, fresh water sea: Lago de Nicaragua and the next day we went to a 600-meter-deep volcanic lake and spent the day at the only hotel there, swimming, basking and eating wonderful fare at the lake side restaurant retreat.

 Laguna-de-Apoyo-2

The taxi ride there was hilarious.  Picture a 250-pound Norwegian squeezed into the tight front seat of a compact rust bucket.  He wasn’t as comfy at the other 4.5 of us in the back seat though: Karin of Germany, Peter of Holland, Dean, Leo and I were tighter than a can of worms.  We bottomed out a couple of times and all cursed in various languages (except Leo, he squealed) in unison.  The taxi driver being Nicaraguan and Leo being a dual citizen of Canada and the U.S. meant we had six different nationalities squashed into one little car.

We spent the day at a hectic, large, dusty market in a town called Masaya and upon our return literally ran for the pool and sizzled as we hit the cool water.  I’m still wet as I try my best to put a few lines together about out latest adventures.

Tomorrow we are going on a canopy tour of Mombacho Volcano which is a 45 minute chicken bus trip at a cost of 50 cents each.  The owner here, who has a four-year-old girl, says that Leo will love it.  We’re hoping to see some live forest creatures.  Maybe even a sloth!

From my journal, written 1 Feb 2004:

When we got on the bus this morning there was this gorgeous bright young boy of about ten or so selling squares of nutty snacks, two for one dollar.  They were quite delicious.  I winked at him and he didn’t really know how to react but, finally, he smiled.  We gave him a pair of pants that Leo has out grown.

An email home:

Tuesday 3 Feb 2004

Canopy Tour and Haircut — a good day!

Good Morning Family!

We are leaving this hostel today and will likely not have as easy access to internet in the Pacific Coastal town of San Juan del Sur, Nica.

I couldn’t wait to tell all of you about our adventure yesterday.  It was the coolest thing.  We were in the canopy of the Mombachu Jungle for several hours, walking, sliding, swinging and climbing through the treetops and then abseiling down to the ground again at the very end of it.  Truly awesome.  Leo was gob smacked (as the UKers say), as were we. The guides geared us up with climbing gear and helmets and gave us the very serious safety talk. Leo asked a few questions! “Is this the carabineer that my gloves go on?” We could tell that he was concentrating on understanding all that was said.  It was too cute.  He could sense the seriousness of it.

zip line Nica

He started off a wee bit tentative climbing up the initial ancient, massive tree — the ladder was 100 feet long and just made it to the lowest branches. (We were glad when they told us that the trees were not harmed — they strap the trees with canvas and rubber, instead of nailing them, like some of the other companies). We called to Leo, telling him he was just like Spiderman.  Then we started singing the theme song: “Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can…”  That seemed to get him into the spirit of the thing.  From there we stood on a platform, safety tied with the expensive climbing gear, while the three guides prepared us for the first rope slide to the far-off tree.  Leo did that one with a guide but had so much fun and was so unafraid that the guides allowed him to do the next several slides unaccompanied and he even did the Tarzan swing and the 150-foot abseil at the end!  We all had a ball.  The guides decided to DROP me down the tree “Rapido” because of all my crazy antics during the tour.  I thought I was going to die, for a split second there as my heart leaped into my mouth.  But it was fantastic.

On the walk out of the jungle, Barcell, the Senior guide, climbed into a cocoa tree and got us a cocoa fruit.  A football shaped, bright yellow fruit that he then let us sample.  Very interesting.  While the guide was cutting it open we were telling Leo that a Snickers Bar was inside.  ha ha

The road into and out of the park was 30 minutes and was so bumpy we all had a great workout bracing ourselves.  Leo was so wiped out after the tour that he actually fell asleep in my bouncing lap.  It was so bumpy we couldn’t even talk but that wee guy was just pooped!   We were very proud of our little guy.  He is a true adventurer. This is his mother writing though, what else would I say?

Later that day, after a good, hearty lunch, I took Leo for a haircut. The haircut cost Cord 20. about $1.50 (that’s one dollar and fifty cents!!!!) but it was not just a haircut, it was a 45-minute CEREMONY.  The barber, a young, perfectly groomed Nicaraguan man of about 30, was INTO IT.  Seriously INTO IT.  He flicked out that towel. He waved his arms around.  He brushed the blond hair off his face once, twice, three times during the course of the ritualistic haircut.  I was quickly understanding, as I sat and watched the other several clients being beautified: 4 men and 2 small boys, that these people take the male haircut very, very seriously.  The very small boys did not so much as move a muscle for the whole thing.  Conclusion: they have had haircuts of this nature from infancy.  After a brief head massage and then combing, the barber removed the drape, flicked it out and called me over to inspect.  I could see from my seat that it was absolutely perfect and went to hand him the money but no, there was a further step: he unwrapped a shiny new straight razor blade and made a point of me seeing that.  He bent it and examined it, showed it to Leo and then put it into the straight razor.  (at this point I was frantically telling Leo, it’s very, very sharp. You must stay perfectly still.  Freeze, okay?  His big eyes told me that he would obey. With a dab of water all along Leo’s hairline and a flourishing wave of the blade, the finishing touches were made. Then the palm-aid and combing again. This time each hair was placed with the comb.  I had taken three photos by this point.

haircut

Tuesday we will leave for San Juan del Sur on the Pacific Coast and hopefully get Leo going on the boogie board again.  We will stay there for a few days and then cross the border into Costa Rica and meet friends of ours on the Nicoya Peninsula.

Life is great.  Hope this finds you all happy and wintering well.  We miss you and hope to receive messages from you!  We love news from home!    Next up….San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

La Cucaracha Report – Honduras 🇭🇳

Our stay in the paradise of West Bay, Roatan gets a little scary when our four-year old gets sick….

4 Jan 2004

We are leaving Guatemala tomorrow morning early!  We are en route to the Bay Islands of Honduras!  Finally.  We will be tropical by noon.  Steaming hot and shedding clothing.

This minute, we have just walked into the Casa Santo Domingo Hotel Restaurant in Antigua – simply for coffee and dessert.  It was Dean’s idea.  A good one – pure decadence.  Rich people are so funny to watch too.  A bonus.  We have ordered a whopping three desserts, two coffees and a milk for Leo.  It could be a late night and we have a long walk after this.

8 Jan 2004

It’s Dean’s 41st birthday and we are enjoying ourselves completely in Roatan, Honduras.  We are in a cabana just a few steps from the most beautiful beach I have ever been on.  Our cabana is an upper apartment with a bedroom, a clean bathroom with hot shower and a kitchenette on one end of the living room.  In the kitchen / living room there is a single bed and a TV / VCR.  We are just now watching the movie Titanic.

It feels great to have some luxury because we had two days of hellish travel from Antigua to Livingston, Guatemala – the dirtiest, ugliest, most disappointing village thus yet and where we had to spend a huge US40 to rent a room with some sanity and cleanliness to it.  It had a nice pool which we swam in in the dark.  We were up at 5 the next morning and on a launch for 1.5 hours to Puerto Barrios in the rain.  From there we jammed into a suburban with two Austrians, two Australians and two Americans.  The driver and navigator were Guatemalans and we Canadians.  Five countries represented by we 10.5 squished travelers in this suburban.  Not bad.

After a couple of hours in the suburban, we came to a town and had to stop for fuel.  We all piled out to use the bathroom facilities in the gas station.  I remember feeling like I had just passed through some kind of black hole from one reality into another.  Stepping into the modern, air-conditioned gas station full of convenience items and candy and bags of doritos and with clean normal toilets, was a real treat almost like Dorothy waking up in Oz — from black and white to colour.  They were even selling brewed coffee with cream.  My point here is that we had been on this trip for a couple of months now and convenience items were few and far between.

This vehicle full of us chatty travelers took us the five hours, over dirt and sand roads with washed out portions, small villages and across the border to San Pedro Sulu, Honduras.  This is where we caught a second class bus. Waiting for the bus to fill and prepare to leave, many entrepreneurial-types came reaching up to our bus window selling their wares.  Everything from large, colourful plastic wash basins to, bars of soap, combs, or coca cola in a small sandwich bag with a straw.  They would never give you the can or the bottle with the coke – they needed to keep it to get the deposit back.  

The bus ride was another four hours to La Ceiba and then just the 90 minutes to this island.  Lastly, a thirty minute taxi ride .  Exhausted, we had no idea where to stay and so settled on a pit of a room for the first night in West End and then found this near perfect place the next morning in West Bay Beach.  This picture is just outside our cabana.

roatan

Cabana Roatana, 11 Jan 2004

Still in paradise.  A few days ago Leo was very sick with high fever, chills and a swollen node in his neck.  Coincidentally, the new owner of this place is a doctor who immediately examined Leo and reported that he had a virus.  He told us that Leo would get worse before he got any better…that night, Leo had hallucinations and was in a bad way but after the doctor examined him again, he reassured us that it wasn’t what we feared most – namely meningitis.  Thank god!  Dean and I both breathed a sigh of relief.  What luck to have an ER doctor right here doing house calls to our cabana on the beach!

Greg, the doc, took a last look at Leo the morning he left for home and was certain that he would be fine in a couple of days.  The sea, sun, sand and fresh air all would help.  

Today is a rainy day so we have stuck pretty close to our cabana.  We did manage a short hike to the tip of the island this morning and it was lovely.  We found some pretty sea shells and bits of coral and Leo held a small crab-like creature for a few minutes. 

West Bay, Roatan, Honduras  14 Jan 2004

Leo is a fairly sick little Gaffer.  He was restless last night and the night before, literally waking up every ten minutes due to his sinuses being blocked.  Dean and I are both bagged because of it.

This morning we got right up and prepared for a trip to the medical clinic in Coxen Hole (a true hole of a town!).  We were lucky to find a very good doctor who spoke English very well.  He examined Leo and concluded after seeing a normal level of platelets in his blood test result that Leo has a viral and bacterial infection. We were given four types of medicine: coaxicilan, col-dex ad, ibuprofen and acetaminophen.  We also bought lots of vitamin C.  The bill came to 68 US dollars.  The fee for the doctor was 400 Lempira which equals about 24 US dollars!!  We picked his brain about all sorts of things and he ruled out malaria and dengue fever.  It was well worth the effort.

Writing this now in 2017, years later, I recall with wonder the completely awful state of the dirt road outside this little clinic in Coxen Hole.  There was litter, bad smells, loose chickens, rusted out cars and then just inside the door, a long line-up of local people waiting patiently with their many, well-behaved children, in order to see the doctor.  As we white westerners walked into the clinic, with our expensive backpacks, watches, sandals and other telltale signs of our comparative wealth and with our very cute white-blond four-year old son, they ushered us swiftly passed the line-up and directly in to see the doctor.  I felt so blessed and privileged.  I felt badly for those waiting but I was deathly afraid for my precious young son whose health was worsening and god only knew why.

After leaving the clinic, we bought a few groceries, ate a bight of lunch, mailed postcards home, got some cash from the bank and then split a taxi back to our cabana with a couple from Alaska.

Talking to them was great fun.  They told us of two mistakes they made and it was exactly as we had done.  They too were conned by the woman named Laurel who asked us to help her at the ferry landing in Coxen Hole.  She came up to me, we were fresh off the boat, and told us all of her money, passport, travelers cheques, visa card, bank card – everything had been stolen…

Now, I would normally be a bit more discerning and ask a few more questions, but, I had just been on that darn ferry boat over to the island.  On the boat, they issued each passenger two little white pills – presumably for sea-sickness.  I get very sea-sick easily and so after asking for clarification on the pills, and receiving an answer in Spanish which I could not decipher, I gobbled down the little white pills and hoped for the best.  Not something I would normally do, but, it had been a long few days since leaving our peaceful Antiqua.  A few minutes later, I was seated on the ferry with Leo asleep on my lap and I realized that I could not feel my face.  It was the strangest feeling.  I also did not have any feelings of sea-sickness at all.  In fact, I felt awesome.  Looking back, I think I was stoned. So, when the con-artist approached us…

We gave her $20 US and the Alaskan couple gave her $30 five days later.  She had told us that her money was coming in to Western Union the next day.  The next mistake for them was getting a taxi to West End and staying in the same pit we did, but they paid for two nights sight unseen.  Bad move!

Sat 17 Jan 2004

Right after breakfast in our cabana of oatmeal and fruit, Dean was asked to help retrieve the hotel’s car from the airport.  His first driving experience of this trip.  The first time he has driven in two months.

roatan-2Leo asked me to take him snorkeling on the close reef down at the end of the beach.  He has been practicing in the shallows just out from our place.  Now he wanted to see the real thing!  He was very impressed.  He saw some fish and the first outcroppings of coral.  After that, we examined the rock wall at the end of the beach and saw an iguana frozen in stillness.  Leo watched to see if it would move but, no.  We then discussed how iguanas can blend in with their background as a defense mechanism and Leo said, oh you mean camouflage.

Fri 23 Jan 2004

Our holiday here in Roatan has been excellent if we don’t count how sick Leo was with full blown tonsillitis.  We were back and forth to the Coxen Hole medical clinic (called the Jacklin Wood Medical Clinic) three times.  We worked with Dr Raymond first and then with Dr Wood.  They were both excellent.  We also were lucky enough to have the owner here look at him and a guest, Dr Chris, look at him.  We were rich in advice.  All that to say that it was a little scary for a few nights.  For four nights Leo’s throat was so swollen he had a hard time breathing and so woke up, sat up, coughing and sputtering about every fifteen minutes or so.  He was feverish, off and on, for ten days which made the doctors want to take blood tests to rule out dengue and malaria.  Consequently, our little Leo was stuck, like a pin cushion about six times.  The second time we took him in he was given an injection of a strong antibiotic.  On the third visit he received another injection of antibiotic and that night he showed a vast improvement.  Our little guy was quite sick and this was terrifying for us.  I would look at his throat and see that it was nearly completely blocked with ulcers and puss.  Awful!  Thankfully, he is back to normal and sleeping soundly again, much to our huge relief.

While in Roatan, and staying at the cabana, we enjoyed three weeks of bliss (except the ordeal of Leo’s tonsillitis).  Our little upper cabana, a few steps from the sugar-sand beach was very sweet.  We met a few travelers and would have them over to talk about travel and discuss our dreams of future travel.  We met an eighty-year old wealthy man who was traveling like a backpacker because he said it was more interesting.  During the day, we would go swimming in the turquoise waters and Leo would jump in off the dock again and again.  Sometimes, local people would sell us fruit on the beach and sometimes they would sell us cold drinks like a beer and a pop for Leo. At supper time I would cook up a very simple meal for us to enjoy and we would thank the heavens for our good fortune.  As backpackers, how did we afford such a lovely place to stay?  We had found out that the month of January was low-season on Roatan due to the rain.  Using this, we simply asked the owners for a cut rate and offered half the amount.  They went for it, probably because Leo was with us and he was so cute that they likely just wanted us to stay.

Next stop…Nicaraugua

La Cucaracha Report – Mexico 🇲🇽

With a golden handshake from IBM we embark on a four month backpacking trip in Mexico and Central America…with four-year old Leo…mostly amazing

We arrived at the Guadalajara airport late in November of 2003.  We were tired and stunned from the long day of travel.  We left our dark; quiet Atlantic Canadian home, by taxi at 4:30 in the morning with Leo, aged four, almost impossible to awaken at that hour.  His little body just did not agree with getting up before dawn.

 

After stopping and waiting for hours and changing planes in Toronto and Houston, we were just starting a backpacking trip through Mexico and Central America.  Thank goodness for the small soccer ball we brought and the vastness of space in the airports for recreating with Leo.  We didn’t even know the Spanish word for bathroom and I was busting to go pee.  It didn’t help that Leo was asleep in my arms, his head on my shoulders with his little body sitting right on my bladder.  I looked around the surprisingly clean and normal looking airport.  I guess I was expecting something much, much worse.  Dirtier.  More people. The weight of my four-year-old was already breaking my arms. I was also feeling weighted down with money belt, fanny pack, day pack and neck pouch and it was all quite cumbersome when retrieving documents and money.

 

We had no reservations for a night in a hotel room.  I couldn’t examine the guidebook or my handy-dandy phrase book because both of my hands were holding Leo.  Dean was nearby.  He was chatting (with some hint of urgency and fear behind his voice – that I could detect or maybe just imagined because that was how I was feeling) with a blond woman dressed in tight jeans and shit-kicker, pointy-toe black boots.  She spoke a heavily Euro- accented English.  She was Polish and her name was Jalo.  She could see that we needed assistance.  She was trying to help.  Another man came over.  He was Mexican.  He too spoke English and saw that we needed help.  Was it that obvious?  I felt a little better…not so scared.  People would help us find our way.  It was like that everywhere.  Good things would happen if you were good to others.  The Universe would unfold to help you.  I was always saying that to Leo.

 

We asked Jalo if she knew of the small surfing and fishing town of Sayulita. Our first destination.  She did and then she related a story, which we would recall later about how to bargain for a room in the off-season.  She paid $40 per night for a seaside room instead of the initial quote of $100.  Score!

 

The Customs line was moving slowly but, the Mexican man made a phone call on his cell phone and made a reservation for us at the Best Western.  He told us that the price was 950 pesos or about $95 US.  We shrugged and went with it.  It was a lot to spend but we couldn’t be choosy just then.  We could make up for it later in the trip. We thanked the two of them profusely.  Mucho, mucho gracias!  The next thing we knew we had cleared Customs, used the bano (no supplied toilet paper) and were swept onto a torn vinyl rear seat of a rusted out, dusty, creaky old shit-box, with no seat belts and no remnants of seatbelts.  Having learned, in advance, that we should pay only 50 pesos for the ride to the Best Western.  Our precious child, Leo was between us, unbelted, no car seat, sleeping as we whirred through the dark and deserted streets of Guadalajara.  My arms were tight around his little belly. The billboards were for products we have never heard of except, of course, Corona.  Nothing looks familiar except, of course, Corona. Guess what I was wishing for just then? Of course, Corona. Thank goodness we had, at least, tasted this beer or we would likely feel very, very out of place.  I had this large lump of fear in my body as we raced along with this old Mexican cabby who spoke no English.  Had we made a good decision to come on this trip? Were we taking our only, precious, preschool son and ourselves into a needlessly dangerous situation?  I swallowed the fear, smiled and leaned in closer to Dean.  We were a team.  We would be fine.  We’d been to INDIA for goodness sakes.  We could handle Mexico.  All would be better when the sun came up.

 

The hotel room was a shade on the tight side but it was clean and had thick curtains.  There were no signs of animal life under the beds or in the bano.  We showered and got into bed.  Dean turned on the television.  All Spanish except for CNN.  We fell into bed, cuddled up and fell asleep until 10:00 the next morning.

 

The traffic noise started very early and somewhat awakened me.  Leo and Dean were still fast asleep.  When Leo awakened we allowed him to turn on the television and watch some Spanish cartoons while we organized ourselves for venturing out and having breakfast and making our way to the First Class bus station.  We were not used to how we had packed our backpacks and didn’t know exactly where things were.  We brought too much shit with us and yet, managed to forget the small pile of tiny toys we had set aside for Leo.   He was not at all happy about this oversight.  Thank goodness we brought a couple of different balls, including his dollar-store suction cup ball and a small soccer ball (both of which will be with us for the whole four-month trip) and a pack of cards and the children’s version of Rush Hour by Binary Arts.  I made him a couple of toys out of string and carabineer hooks.  That seemed to help.

 

The hotel restaurant looked inviting and, even better, smelled like good coffee.  In we went and out came the phrase book and the journal.  We were about to enjoy our first Mexican desayuno.  This is what I had written in the journal about what we did next…

 

We enjoyed a marabioso desayuno—huevos rancheros y café negro para mia y café con leche para Dean.  Hotcakes y leche fria para “el”– Leo.  We are here! Finally, we are in Mexico!  Yahoo!

 

After breakfast we packed up and grabbed a taxi to the bus station where we were lucky to find an English speaking Mexican to help us with the purchase of our tickets, first-class, to Puerto Vallarta.  The bus was pure luxury.  Videos, fully reclining seats, air-conditioning, pillow and throw-blankets.  As Dean and Leo jokingly would say, This isn’t a bus, it’s a bed! ha ha.  The tickets cost us about 850 pesos total.   Once we were in the countryside I was agog at the beauty of the hills.  Leo slept almost the whole way.

 

We arrived in Vallarta at around 7:30 pm and paid 280 pesos for a taxi to Sayulita (a very bad price! Considering the local buses cost around $2.)  As we rolled into town I couldn’t believe how sweet this little town appeared – all colourful stucco, cobbled streets and hanging wares for sale.

 

 Back home we had rented out our Halifax house to a young businessman from Montreal and to that end had made several trips into the attic and the basement with our personal things – we had left him a furnished, neat-as-a-pin house.  Everything included: linens, plates, cutlery, pots and pans.  Our car was parked in the driveway with most of the insurance coverage removed.   Having set up a bit of an apartment in the basement and locked the kitchen door, we slept the night before the flight down there in order to leave the upstairs beds made fresh for his arrival.  We had put so much effort into the trip already:  Relatives taking care of the dogs in Newfoundland – a special trip to get them there.  A friend on the street was picking up and sorting our mail and bills. Her son would shovel the snow from the sidewalk.  Other friends acting as landlords and troubleshooters during our absence.  All our bills were on automatic payment, except Visa, which our friend would open and email us the total so we could pay it, on-line.  The Internet had transformed long-term travel.  All that work was forgotten as we went forward and found new adventures in this strange, hot and interesting land.

 

Sayulita, Mexico.  Leo, Dean and I are sitting in a beachside, open-air restaurant.  We have been here for the day and have booked and paid for a small apartment with kitchen that I was able to get for $30 a night, down from $80 a night.  Dean was very happy about my efforts.  A good deal, or so it seems thus far.  It’s a bed and breakfast place but the owner has cut out breakfast as part of the deal.  No biggy.  One of the patrons, upon leaving, a young surfer guy, said he had eaten about as much ham bread as he could handle.  We chuckled at that.

 

We awoke this a.m. to gunfire at 05:37!! We had expected something because today is a Mexican holiday: Revolution Day.  There was also a parade in which all of the village school children were in revolution costume—disturbingly dressed like Mexican soldiers.

 

Friday 21.11.03 We are at a café across from our apartment and we’ve just ordered breakfast…inflation is on the rise in this town.  Everything is a tad more expensive than it should be and the sandwich boards and menu prices have all been recently increased, as in evident by the telltale stickers over the original prices.

 

There was a man selling fruit off the back of a truck with a loud speaker to announce his wares.  I bought a few bananas and oranges for ~60 cents.  Fruit is still a good deal.  I had a bit of a hard time bargaining with him because of the language barrier but it was fun and got a few smiles from him.

 

Dean was just reading to Leo as a medium into his siesta.  It was the middle of the day and so hot it was impossible to stay out of doors.  Leo said, instead of watching television everyday, I want to read.  I love this book.  We were reading A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle.  It was one of my favourites as a child too, which is special.

 

I was feeling a little disenchanted this morning, with travel.  It’s much more expensive than we thought and it is over-run.  The people are being exploited; the children walk around eating DORITOS and other junk like Coca-cola.  There are empty plastic water bottles everywhere you turn.  I actually said to Dean, Let’s go to Europe.  To Portugal.  He just laughed.  He knows my moods.

 

After breakfast though, we went to Playa del Muerta (beach of the dead, so named because to get there one must hike through the cemetery).  It is about a 10-minute walk south of here.  What a beautiful beach for children.  Leo was in the water for about 1-½ hours straight.  We did some floats together.  The waves crashed right over his head and washed him along and he just giggled.  He did have a bit of a hard time with the salty water stinging his eyes but then he started to accept it.  There is another slight annoyance:  jellyfish tentacles, which have broken away from the fish and they sting a tiny bit as they brush the skin.  It is akin to the bite of red ants but not quite as bad.  There’s not much to be done.  In the event of a serious sting, rubbing hot sand and /or peeing on the area takes care of it.

john-and-jaden-walking-to-san-pancho

 

Sunday 30 Nov 2003 an email message to home:

 

Hola!

How is everyone up there in reality-land?  It was so good to read your news just now.  I’m sitting here in my bikini and sarong and have a tear glistening in my eyes to hear news of our loved ones from their respective homes.  Thanks so much for letting us know how you’re doing…

 

As for us…life could not get much more hellish.  It’s all just more of the same old stuff.  Sun. Sand. Sea. Little Adventures.  Cheap Corona (65 cents each) yadda, yadda, yadda.  I think we’re all getting a little too fat with all the burritos, tacos and nachos.

 

Leo’s foot is completely heeled and the flip-flops and salt water were the ticket. (Leo had stepped on a fire ant which had promptly stung him and made him cry.  There was a tiny sore on the bottom of his foot which hurt him badly.)

 

So the other night I couldn’t sleep after hitting the pillow at around 8:30 pm, I awoke in the wee hours to read while Dean and Leo snored away. (I just finished that particular book, a good one for someone like me, by Po Bronson, WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH MY LIFE?) and my eye caught movement above the edge of my book…el cucaracha (yes cockroach!) and he was a cool 4 inches long, at least.  There he was, just a crawling along the windowsill and then along the top of the bathroom doorframe and then do-da-do across the wall and along the floor.  At that point I had scrambled up off the mattress and grabbed Dean’s shoe and lo siento (so sorry) el cucarache…it was exactly then that he met his demise. SLAP and CRUNCH.

 

Enough details for you?  We have seen lots of weird and wonderful insect, flora and fauna life here.  Some not so pretty, as I just related. Definitely not in Kansas anymore.  The geckos are super cute but do send a shiver down one’s spine when one sees them out of the corner of one’s eye…can anyone relate?

 

We are scheduled to hop a bus south in a couple of days.  We’re just going to hop along day by day, or every couple of days, and stay here and there and get into some more authentic-type situations and out of tourist land. The Spanish lessons have been most helpful and we’re both feeling pretty good about our ability to buy bus tickets, food, beer, necessities, find a hotel room and ask directions to the bano and all that.  I’m sure we’ll be picking up more as the days slide by.  It is amazing how much our French has come in handy when learning to conjugate verbs and what not.  There are many similarities.

 

Dean is doing fabulously and you’d never know he had a hernia removed last month.  He went for another run today and is getting back into shape.  He’s very happy about that.  Swimming has been very helpful too.

 

Gotta run!  Time is up…

Love and hugs and best wishes,

 

Morgan, Dean and Leo

 

Saturday 13 Dec 2003

 

La Cucaracha Report

 

Buenos Dias!!!, one and all….

 

Sorry it’s been so long and so quiet…but get ready for a small tome.  We have so much material you may as well start yawning right now!  First of all, this key board really sucks so don’t expect proper punctuation and capitals at the beginning of all sentences…shall we move past that—okay where the heck is the question mark…forget it.

 

Secondly, we’re now down in Puerto Escondido on the southern rim of the pacific in Oaxaca state –pronounced wah haka. and all is well and very very hot.  as they say in Australia, its stinking hot…I am sitting here while Leo is having his daily siesta, I have an ice cold marguerita next to the key board but can’t find my shaker of salt.  oh well.  life is tough.  This is only my third marguerita of this whole trip so don’t go envisioning us partying all the time.  the only reason I mention it is to add that I am dying with the flu.  Dean just passed it on to me and Leo will likely be next.  it is weird having a runny nose, fever and the chills in this kind of climate.  the pool and the ocean and the cheap coronas and marguerites really help though. ha ha ha

 

we spent a week in a town called Barra de Navidad, which was wonderful.  We stayed at a hotel owned and operated by a German man who was an Olympic swimmer in the 60s.  He was always commenting to us on Leo’s swimming ability –which, by the way, he is now swimming like a little fish—and during a soccer match that he and Dean went to, he admitted his past.  He then offered to give Leo a couple of lessons in the hotel pool.  we were literally jumping for joy to have this world record holder, Gerhard Henz, give our little sweety a couple of lessons.  it went very well and will always be remembered.  Barra and the HOTEL DELPHIN is quite the spot.  The town has been built on a huge sand bar and has a nice calm beach which, when we weren’t in Gerhard’s pool, we were in the ocean.  the soccer match, mentioned above was between the national women’s team for Mexico and the Barra men’s team.  score 0 – 0.

 

soccer-on-the-beach-mexico

 

To get down here to Escondido, which by the way, is the most beautiful beach town we have been in yet, we had to take a 14 hour, very crowded, second-class bus from Manzanillo to Acapulco.  Leo slept the whole way, some of it on our laps and when some people got off the bus we would switch around and grab some zzzs in a free seat.  that was when Dean’s flu decided to hit so he was suffering even worse than I.  it may have been that we were seated right beside the toilets at the back of the bus and the door continuously slapped open and shut –in tune with my eyelids– and when it was open there was this no deliciouso perfume wafting over us and the toilet itself spoke to us, all night, much like a sucking chest wound.  not pretty. no guapo.  definitely not.

little-shoes-out-the-window

 

in Acapulco we really treated ourselves in taking Leo to a huge air-conditioned shopping mall and buying him three new toys.  he has been such a trooper and hardly ever complaining.  we then had a huge meal at a good restaurant where the wait staff couldn’t pull their eyes off Leo and kept saying el guapo, el muy guapo…translation –he’s beautiful, he’s very beautiful.  these people love children so much, it is unbelievable.  They embrace us as a family and very much respect our little travelling unit. it is lovely.

 

from Acapulco we got on a five-hour bus ride to a tiny town and found a clean hotel, then went out for a meal.  it was amazing in this little town. the road side restaurant had no printed menu so this waitress or owner had to come over and tell us, in a sweet little voice with a few words here and there in English, what she had to offer –which wasn’t much–but it was all they had and we enjoyed it.  hand-patted, flour tortillas with beans and cheese.  Leo had a huge fried banana with honey and a fresh squeezed orange juice.  the juicer was exactly like the one mom used to use at the lake. after that we fell into our beds like the dead.  fireworks woke us up around 7 am.  some sort of celebration going on.  There’s a lot of those this time of year.

 

Next, the sweet voiced patron from the night before showed us, on her own initiative, to the bus station and made sure we were getting on the correct but to Escondido.  unfortunately, the only bus available was a chicken bus…now our adventures were getting very interesting.  Here’s the lay out of the bus.  dirty, noisy, broken seats, no bathroom and definitely no pre-packaged little bagged lunch and cold soft drink like they gave us on first class from Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta.  thank goodness it was only a 7-hour journey with many, many mucho milk stops. suffice to say we have now tried several different levels of restroom in various tiny, dusty, sleepy towns down the Mexican pacific coast.

 

At one point, I was thinking about all you musicians out there as a smiling hombre boarded the bus with guitar and I couldn’t help myself but yelled out, musica, musica…he was all over us like a fat cucaracha on a discarded smarty.  he stood in the aisle, beside us, on a very bumpy ride and played several heartfelt Mexican tunes.  when he paused I, of course, ¨ asked him to play feliz navidad and HE DID!  when he came to the English part…I wanna wish you a merry Christmas…he paused and I belted it out.  great acoustics too, that chicken bus.  it was something of an authentic experience, I like to think.  then, he shook our hands and we offered him a small tip and he was off…

musica-mexico

 

Escondido has been wonderful.  We have met up with our friend Sharon from Campbellville who is here for three months.  she is going to accompany us for a little while, as we go on our next little trek to Oaxaca City for Christmas and, perhaps New years.  it has been great with Sharon.  we did a couple hour, nice beach walk with her and all along the cliff side on a stone walk way with many hand carved stairways and bridges.  we stopped for a dip in a sandy-bottomed rocky little cove with water as warm as …well, you can guess.  A far cry from the north Atlantic.  yesterday we walked the length of the beach in the opposite direction to a shallow, wavy cove and just rolled around and frolicked in the waves.  Leo loved it.  Later Leo met and played with four little Mexican girls on the beach across from our hotel and as the sun went down they played chase and mirra, mirra.  Lots of giggles and touching of his blonde hair.

jaden-and-levi-jumping-on-beach-mexico

 

other than feeling yucky with this head cold or flu or whatever, it has been an amazing time so far.  we are all doing wonderfully and think of all of you often.

 

We would so love to hear the news from home and hope that you will save up your best moments and pass them along.

 

All the best from down here… bye for now.

Leo is now playing with bubbles with several other children.  The language of play is universal and wonderful.  We are in San Cristobal where it is chilly and it is our 11th anniversary today, Christmas Eve.  We are having coffee and pastries as well as chocolate rum balls in a warm local bakery.  The rum balls melt in the mouth and are the best I have ever tasted.  I will dream about them.  There is an artist from New York sitting next to us: Victoria Behm, and, of course, she has taken to our little Leo, who is so sweet and friendly.  She sees my mole-skin journal and asks if I would like a sketch for my journal.  Sure.

sketch

http://vbehm.tumblr.com/

Next stop: Guatemala.