From Mexico to Costa Rica
29th Jul 2012
Given our previous border crossing tribulations, we set out from Livingston with a sense of looming peril. Our first set-back came even earlier than expected: as soon as we reached the dock, we discovered that we had missed both early morning ferries to Puerto Barrios, the Guatemalan border town. Not wanting to wait until 11am for the next scheduled departure, we had no choice but to pay a horrendously inflated rate to charter our own private boat. Onwards from Puerto Barrios - wallets significantly lighter - we took a minibus to the Guatemalan immigration point and waited almost 2 hours for a coach to take us to the Honduran border. The Honduran officials forced us to pay a suspicious US$3 'immigration processing fee' before letting us continue on the coach to San Pedo Sula. As this city is now safely behind us, you may be interested to know that it is rated as the second most dangerous city in the world, averaging one murder every 75 minutes. We didn't have much time to admire the city's successful, drug-fuelled economy. Instead, we took a rickety coach straight out of there and onto La Ceiba on the Caribbean coast.
After a day of being harassed by a very persistent taxi driver and seeking refuge in western comfort food (guilty breakfast in Dunkin' Donuts and even guiltier PizzaHut for lunch), we took the afternoon ferry to the Bay Island of Utila. At first we thought it was funny the ferry was nicknamed 'The Vomit Comet'; we found it bizarre that they gave out sea-sickness tablets with our tickets ; and then we found it all too real as the crew gave out plastic sick bags to all passengers as we left port. Miraculously, we bucked the trend set by everyone around us and managed the very rolly, choppy crossing without revisiting the Gringo treats we had been feasting on earlier that day.
We spent a week in total on Utila; enough time for us to become certified as PADI open water scuba divers on the second biggest reef system in the world. The diving didn't start out very well for me - in our first session in confined water barely a metre deep, I kept panicking and shooting back up to the surface: it turns out breathing is a lot more challenging than I had imagined. Sam initially took to it all like a fish in water but after our second confined dive - where we reached the heady depths of 2m - disaster struck: her ears flared up very painfully and she had to sit out the boat dives the next day. In the end we both overcame our various issues and had some amazing 18m dives on the reef. We saw a plethora of colourful fish and corals, and even a few sea cucumbers, which are in fact a lot more interesting than they sound.
All the same, we were quite gutted to have missed the sharks, rays, turtles and dolphins that some of our luckier diving pals had spotted. We made up for it as best we could by taking advantage of the island's other attractions: white Caribbean beaches (only slightly marred by aggressive, biting sand flies) and buzzing nightlife. The party scene was particularly lively when we first arrived as the island was celebrating its annual carnival, involving booming Latino beats on every street corner. Later in the week, a surreal moment came when we watched the Olympic opening ceremony (and played the associated drinking game) in the statistically-unlikely company of 3 Scots, many more English and a whole horde of Americans.
Our island adventure eventually came to an end and we began our journey back to the mainland, starting with the devilishly early 6.20am ferry back to La Ceiba. Next stop: Nicaragua.
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