(Above Panorama: one of the courts at the Copan ruins)
From Punta Gorda in Belize, I took a morning boat to Puerto Barrios in Guatemala. From there, I took a taxi to the border with Honduras, went through immigration and at the border I was able to catch a direct bus to San Pedro de Sula, and from there another bus to La Ceiba, a harbour town in the North of Honduras and the jump off point to the Bay of Islands. It was a long day of traveling and I stayed at a hostel in La Ceiba in order to catch the first boat in the morning to Utila, a laid back backpackers island, mainly geared towards diving.
Two friends that I met traveling in Malaysia last year and 5 years ago in Laos, recommended me I visit Alton's dive center. Alton's has a very nice waterfront spot with some well laid out decks and places to chill out and swing in a hammock. The crowd is relatively young here, because Honduras is one of the cheapest places in the world to get your diving certification and Alton's has some basic accommodation on the premises.
I was only
planning on doing a couple of dives here, but soon my plans changed and I had signed myself up for a course in wreck diving and enriched air diving. These are both short courses that will come in handy in the future. With the wreck diving course, you learn to use a reel and a line underwater and penetrate a wreck. It sounds simple and it is not that difficult, but you need to learn a couple of safety measures and procedures to follow in case you lose your buddy in the wreck or if the visibility drops to almost zero in case of a silt upset in the wreck. Enriched air diving is diving with a different blend of oxygen and nitrogen, with more oxygen in it than normal air. This reduces the amount of nitrogen you absorb in your body so you can stay under water longer, but if you go deeper than 30-35 metres, the risk of oxygen toxicity increases. On the course you learn to use a different dive planner in order to give you an optimal dive, while staying well within the safety limits.
When I wanted to pay for my dive course, I found
out my credit card was missing in my wallet. Hmmm, what could have happened to that? I quickly realised that the day before, when I was still in La Ceiba, I had done a withdrawal from an ATM with my credit card, because the ATM didn't accept my debit card. I must have forgotten it at the ATM! This scenario became more and more true as I searched my bags in vain for my credit card. That same morning, I had missed a call from a number from Honduras, and I realised that someone may have tried to contact me about the credit card. I tried calling the number but it didn't connect. So I called my bank to block the card, but found out that they had already done that for me because some dodgy transactions had been executed with my card! They were also the ones that had tried to call me about it. Luckily, I don't have to pay for the transactions, but I did have to make a police report to report the loss. I did that on my way back from Utila, and although it started out a bit worrysome (I got sent from one
police building to another, and then to another again), the staff found a captain who spoke a little bit of English necessary to complete the paperwork and get me my report. Phew, glad that was over! Well, sooner or later, no matter where you are, something bad is going to happen on your travels, and if this was it in my case, then I guess I can live with that, fingers crossed.
In the meantime, on Utila island, I enjoyed the diving, I passed my wreck and enriched air diving "exams", made new diving friends, chilled out and marveled at the amazing sunsets.
Once back on the mainland and after I finished the police report, I took a bus to Copan, a small town near the Guatemalan border which is famous for its Maya ruins. Copan was one of the major Mayan cities from the 5th to 9th century AD. Its decline is attributed to epidemics striking the people of Copan. When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, there were only a few farming settlements in the area.
The day after my arrival I got up early to see the ruins. I was happy to find the place
almost deserted and walked around in a beautiful peaceful setting of temples amidst surrounding jungle. They're still excavating parts of the site, so some of it is still overgrown with trees. The site is not very large, I walked around for just over an hour, but it was well worth it! The town near the ruins is also quite pretty with cobblestone streets and some old buildings. It was raining most of the time, so I didn't get the chance to properly explore it. My next stop: El Salvador
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