Published: December 29th 2011December 28th 2011
Our arrival at the La Ceiba ferry terminal was a little rushed and difficult to manage as this time we had our four suitcases plus two very heavy, awkwardly sized, enormous boxes of groceries, fruit and vegetables and four grocery bags full of food as well. So it is not surprising that in the process of checking in our luggage and the boxes and carrying all our extra bags through the terminal, we forgot to to swallow our sea sickness tablets! Big Mistake!
We purchased first class tickets on the ferry - not sure if it was worth the extra money or not, but when things start to get rough, we are very thankful. The upper, first class deck was fairly empty for our 4.30pm departure, and once ensconced with some snacks and a complimentary soft drink, we were thinking how similar it was to the North Stradbroke Island catamaran ferry that we take for our annual beach camping trip back home. A few minutes into the journey we realise it is completely different. Instead of a sheltered bay we are at sea and the rolling waves are like riding a roller coaster and being dumped at the top. The
lovely young lady working in the first class area swiftly hands out pink and white striped plastic bags and paper towels.
We all use whatever powers of imagination we can muster to try and psyche ourselves out of being sick but in the end Piper cannot last and fills his bag and then another one. These are quickly whisked away by our very sympathetic attendant, but we can only imagine what the scene was like in the very crowded economy level.
After a very long 75 minutes, we make it to Roatan and all very happily hit the exits - to meet with Marty, who was driving us to West Bay and Monkey La La, our little beach side holiday house, for the next 2 weeks. Unfortunately it is another night time arrival, so we can only wonder at the places we pass in the dark and hope valiantly that our destination is as good as we hoped it would be when planning our holiday. As the location for two birthdays and Christmas we are counting on it being pretty special.
The property manager, Brad, from Island House Roatan meets us on the way in and drives
ahead of us down the extremely muddy and currently difficult short track to the West Bay Village - a collection of 7 individual timber houses, in two meandering rows, that head to the beach. Our house, Monkey La La, is one of the smaller houses, situated at the back of the group. For that reason it was a lot more affordable than some of the others, but still really well situated and from the pictures it had more island charm. When we arrive we quickly agree that house is great - larger than we thought it might be and very comfortable. We are also thrilled when Brad shows us the surprise welcome food package in the fridge - including some yummy fresh banana bread, eggs, coffee, beer and snacks. A lovely warm welcome.
But we still had no idea what the beach would be like!
The next morning we had breakfast and then headed out to check out the view. And wow! It was spectacular! The weather was glorious, which helped, but straight ahead of us was the most beautiful turquoise, crystal clear water and white, white sand beach. Yes, this was exactly what we wanted for the
beach holiday part of our trip.
The strip of sand is pretty narrow, so you are very close to the water and the passing parade of bodies that walk the beach and it makes for interesting entertainment. There are bodies of every shape, size and colour -some stunning women in bikini's and trim blokes in boardies, interspersed with the average, overweight, fat and even obese (and still wearing bikinis!). Fortunately our houses have their own named sun lounges, so we are able to place these out on the sand each morning and have front row seats for the view.
Next on the agenda is to explore the reef. The Bay Island reef is part of the second largest reef in the world, behind our own Great Barrier Reef. But the key difference for us is the accessibility. A couple of years ago we camped with the boys at 1770 in Queensland, and took a day trip out on a big catamaran for snorkelling at at a place called Fitzroy Lagoon, at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. Fantastic day we had too - but due to the distance it was expensive - not what you could
afford to do more than once during your stay. Whereas here, we swim off the beach and within a couple of minutes are swimming over coral formations, checking out the fish and other sea life.
We all love snorkelling! And here it is so easy! There are dozens of varieties of fish, gorgeous coral formations and dramatic drops offs at the edge of the reefs as it meets the deeper water. The water is so clear - that we can see it all perfectly. Every day as we head out it feels like you have been handed the keys to Aladdin's cave of treasures and it is all just there for the taking. The colour, shapes and variety keep us coming back and each time we head out we see something we have not seen before.
On my birthday, five days into our stay, Piper calls me over as we are heading back to shore. To my surprise there is a school of about two dozen squid, scooting along. They are quite fascinating to watch in action with a very large eye on each side of their body. And boy, do they go fast. They also always travel
in packs and we all get to follow a group of them around over the next week or so.
West Bay beach is the premier beach and nicest spot to visit or stay on Roatan and our house is so well situated - only steps away from the best spot to snorkel on the beach. Fortunately it is also a little away from the "beach clubs" which feature dozens of rows of sun lounges set up specifically for the cruise ship day trippers, with loud music blaring over loud speakers and tour guides aplenty. One day, a more intrepid than usual American family off a cruise boat plant themselves on the sand next to us and we learn that they sailed from Tampa, Florida the day before and this is their first stop on a week long cruise. Tomorrow they will be in Belize. They get their few hours on the island before heading back for dinner on the boat and the nightly show. My idea of hell, but you do get to say you've been to 4 countries in 7 days! And every day there are thousands of them doing it. We treasure the days there are no
cruise ships in port and the beach is relatively quiet and peaceful.
Christmas day is another magical day and on our pre breakfast beach walk we run into JJ and Darren, a lovely young Canadian couple who are renting the studio below our house. They had been waiting almost a week for Darren's bag to arrive - unlike us they flew into Roatan, and apparently missing bags are very common here! Fortunately his bag arrived and they also excitedly inform us that they just got engaged. So we invite them to share a Christmas breakfast of pancakes, bananas and nutella with us, and they very happily accept.
It is lovely to share Christmas with really great people, especially after having been away from home for a few weeks now - it feels more like a real Christmas and it is wonderful to learn of their plans for a life together.
Our days here run into a pattern of beach walks, snorkelling, lots and lots of reading - some in the hammock, cooking delicious meals and just enjoying each others company. We break the routine one day and walk to West End - where according to Lonely Planet,
A long way from home for Michael's birthday
Smugglers Restaurant and Bar, West Bay, Roatan
the majority of independent travelers stay. There is a nice bay and a lot more small shops, but it doesn't compare to the beauty of West Bay and we are very disappointed when we check out the prices. $6 for a fruit smoothie in many of the cafes, bars etc and the T shirts are $12 compared to the $5 we have paid on West Bay beach. Clearly the expats have taken over many of the businesses and they are milking it. We very happily walk back to West Bay feeling very pleased not to be staying there.
Another highlight of our stay is a couple of visits to The Serenity Spa, about 300 metres up the road behind our house. There is a regular parade of women offering to provide beach massages but who knows what the quality is like. Michael surprises me with a massage and papaya facial for my birthday and Yamitha does a really firm, therapeutic style massage which miraculously repairs/realigns my aching and sore right knee and thigh, which has been causing me a lot of pain since a difficult and long kayak paddle on Lake Atitlan. After aggravating it badly during our Cusuco
hikes, I was starting to think skiing would be out of the question. But now it seems possible. I promptly book a birthday massage for Michael and a second massage for me, just to make sure all will be good!
West Bay, Roatan has cast a spell over the four of us. The boys adore it and on our last sunset walk along the beach together, it is unanimous that we want to stay, not go - even with the wonders of New York City beckoning. Somehow I think we will be back!
There are more photos below