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.
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.