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Ryan’s Great Adventures

Volume 5: Sat May 11, 2002

On Utila, I learned to scuba dive, and this is me in my diving suit

What a great week! At long last, I have returned from Utila, connected once again with the 'real' world. Sure enough, Internet access in Utila was about TWENTY TIMES more expensive than in La Ceiba, so I neglected to make use of such facilities.

Utila is a small island about thirty miles off the coast of Honduras. While the island is part of Honduras, it feels much like a totally different country in many ways. The island sports a population of about 2,000 people, almost all of which speak English. Or try to, at least. The Caribbean accent is nearly incomprehensible. One grocery store I went to, the lady at the register was trying to ask me if I wanted a bag for all the stuff I bought (in English) and I had NO idea what she was asking. Finally, in Spanish, she says, "Bolsa?" which I understood without any trouble at all. If you dare to visit Utila, you may have to brush up on your English!

During the morning, I took Spanish classes in this school. In the afternoon, I took diving classes. At night, I studied Spanish and did homeword. Repeat all week.

Another oddity is that the electrical power for the entire island is shut off at midnight every night. Being the wimp that I am, I never actually stayed up late enough to enjoy the experience, but I was assured by all the other tourists that it really does happen. Then, at 6:00 in the morning, the power resumes. One of the selling points for many hotels is '24 hour power' for those hotels that have generators. One 'help wanted' sign I saw demanded that applicants be able to start a generator. How cute. =)

One place listed in my guidebook showed a place on Monkey Tail Road called the Bucket of Blood Bar. This sounded really interesting to me, and I figured at least I'd get a good picture of the sign to show off later, but after two attempts I still wasn't able to find the darned place. And when you know how small this island is, it's an embarrassing failure! So I've concluded it must have closed....

Here I'm in my Spanish class, studying. Really.

I have to comment on the roads in this place. I thought crossing the street in La Ceiba was like playing a life-sized game of Frogger, but Utila takes it even further. The roads were about 15 feet wide. This 15 feet is unarguably one of the best paved roads I've seen since I've been in Honduras, but lacks other amenities such as sidewalks, parking, and bike lanes. Walking down the street is a constant test to avoiding motorized vehicles, bicycles, other pedestrians, and parked vehicles. I never did see a gas station the whole time I was on the island so I continually wondered how the motorized vehicles actually worked. Solar power, while a great alternative in Utila, didn't really seem very much like Honduras.

In other news, I got to see yet another parade—my third so far! My Spanish teacher was as surprised about it as I was since it wasn't a holiday, but finally we figured it out: Porque hoy es hoy. =) The parade fit the same style I mentioned in my last report where it started with a band, followed by protesters, although without the taxis. (I only saw one taxi the entire time I was on the island. It's much too small to do anything but WALK wherever you want to go.) However, with only 2,000 inhabitants on the entire island, it wasn't an especially impressive parade. The 'band' consisted of four people. Yep, four. Followed by about thirty or forty school kids holding signs that I had trouble reading. My Spanish teacher swore they were protesting some sort of disease that nobody cared about. I never really did figure out exactly what they were protesting, though.

My Spanish teacher examines my letterboxing logbook on the boat ride to Utila

I guess the kids running the impromptu parade decided walking the length of Main Street wasn't enough, because they turned around for an encore about five minutes later. And I still couldn't figure out what they were protesting.

Utila is most famous for its diving with claims to have some of the world's cheapest places to get a diving certification. (It was priced around $170 at most places I saw for an Open Water certification.) So I MUST spend some time writing my experiences with that. =)

Most buildings and structures are built on stilts as protection against hurricane damage

The reefs at Utila were so incredibly awesome! I've never seen so many colorful and beautiful fish—even in pet stores! After one dive, I got to see what looked like HUNDREDS of dolphins jumping through the water alongside our boat. Another dive took me to the sight of a shipwreck back from the days of Hurricane Mitch. If you watch some programs on the discovery channel about reefs or shipwrecks, you'll have a good idea what the place was like!

And, alas, the most beautiful part of the island I have absolutely no pictures to show for it. Water and my camera don't get along very well, although I have a picture of myself all decked out in diving gear just before a dive. =)

Anyhow.... I must be off, so until next time, farewell!

— Ryan

Fancy signs like this are proof that Utila is a tourist trap!

We prepare to dive!

This particular structure looks abandoned, but I liked the look of it

Fortunately, I didn't notice this sunken boat until I arrived back in La Ceiba!

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