Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Drinking, Diving and more Drinking on Utila Island, Honduras (the worlds deadliest country)

We left the hostel in Leon, Nicaragua to begin the 14hr journey through the boarder into Honduras, then beeline’ing north for the Caribbean Coast. We were to head straight through the middle of officially the most dangerous and corrupt country in the world, gulp. When we decided to extend our trip into Central America I remember us saying to each other ‘no’ to El Salvador and Honduras because of the dangers involved. Well here we are! In 2012 Honduras over took Mexico on the murder rate by 4 times and 20 times the US. 
The country has the worst distribution of wealth and something close to 90% of the country is under the poverty line. So where do you take a bunch of gringos for lunch in the most dangerous country in the world? The Mall! Yup the military are patrolling the mall with machine guns. They even have military guarding some public buses to make sure they get through certain neighbourhoods without being hit by the so-called “gang tax” which shop owners, Taxi drivers and buses have to pay when operating in certain districts! Basically the country is screwed through and through.

First thing is first!! To get a little insight into the ability Utila has to suck people in check out this video that some crazy inspired drinking divers decided to make!

We arrived on the island safe and sound after a rocky 1hr boat ride, we bumped into Anna who we met at the Lost and Found Cloud jungle hostel in Panama a few months back. We eagerly stepped on to the Island of Utila, part of the Bay Islands, to be greeted by a small monkey at our ankles! Reaching for our hands and happy to climb up our legs, from previous experience I naturally put my hand over my wallet. Outside the dock we were met by at least a dozen local Utilians, we learnt that only true islanders can represent dive shops and hostels all pitching for backpacker, creating a few jobs for locals and keeping the ruthless greedy gringos away.  It was chaos, all talking at once in a very strange English, Spanish and Caribbean mashed up accent.

Not a very clear picture but make it bigger and
check out the Sea Shepherd's Blue Boat 
We went off in search of dive shops to do some fun dives with free or cut-price accommodation. Anna wanted to do her Open Water and before we knew it we had talked ourselves into doing our PADI Advanced Course, certifying us to 30 meters!
We eventually settled for Altons Dive Centre (the first one we came to typically). $279 plus 3 nights free accommodation – Utila is the cheapest places to dive in the world and has some great spots as well.
That afternoon we met Gina; our instructor and spoke about what we will be covering over the next few day, also giving us the choice of a few activities to specialise in. We also met Steve a lovely Irish lad who had shown us around the place and told us to prepare for our first night on Utila Island as tonight is St.Patricks!

Met a guy from the famous Sea Shepherd Marine Conservation group. The founder was once one of the founders of Greenpeace until he got a little too radical and went his separate way. They were docked at Utila for a few days doing local talks and tours of their futuristic looking boat after an assignment in Guatemala trying to stop illegal fishing activities, with Naval Support. We were suggested a few key documentaries that we should watch if interested. Since then about 3 wks later in Guatemala we watched ‘The Cove’ which exposes the horrific activity of scaring and driving thousands of dolphins into a secluded hidden bay in South Japan. The pretty ‘Flipper’ looking Dolphins are plucked out to be shipped off to the Seaquariums of the world and the rest are slaughtered. We also watched ‘BlackFish’, a documentary highlighting the effects of keeping Whales and other mammals in captivity for extended periods of time, focusing on the activities of the multi billion dollar cash cow SeaWorld. I won’t go into a rant now as I will wind myself up into a stupour and turn a happy blog entry into a vicious attack on SeaWorld and all those that support it!
Sundowners on the dock at Alton's Dive Centre
So back to that evening, we were introduced to another English guy called Sam who is to finish off his advanced with us on a few activities after getting an ear infection a week previous, stopping his training. Hannah and I instantly bonded with this cheeky chappy from Essex with a few drinks on top of the dock. It was fun to have a bit of good old English humour! It couldn’t have come at a better time as I was feeling a little deprived of blokey banter too and Sam was definitely a laugh a minute kinda guy. The night began with drinks on the dock with the sunset and soon ended up being a full on St.Patricks mashup in Tranqilla Bar for ‘Rum

Monday’ (under 50p for a Rum n Coke), say no more!

We were to start our Advanced course the following afternoon, so time to recover….

…. After just a few hours sleep there is a knock on our door at 6AM, Gina our instructor is stood there, with me looking like drunk death, wrapped in a sheet. “Hey guys, fancy diving this morning… we got the schedule wrong” …. I basically just start laughing and she got the point. The weather was strangely pretty shit that day so we put off the course until the weather improved, we’ve discovered we are ‘fair weather’ divers!

Advanced Open Water course:
Sam, Ronnie and Han ready for the North Side
So we start with a Deep Dive at 30m on the North Side and going off a wall! We were excited to say the least. Straight away we could tell the visibility was the best we had had so far, a whopping 40m. We did our buddy checks and were descending down a wall of stunning coral on our right and deep blue ocean to the left, Imagine ‘the drop off’ from Finding Nemo!

To give us more understanding of the immense pressure that our bodies withstand whilst that deep we played with eggs – breaking them open and watching as the yoke stays together, even when you are squeezing it, because of the pressure! We also took a coke bottle down full of air at sea leavel, when we reached 30m the bottle had completely collapsed and decompressed, representing how the volume of air changes. Gina filled the bottle full of air again at 30m to show us what would happen if we ascend too quickly holding our breath. SCARY! Basically our lungs would explode. 

Before we descended and on the boat we did a number test and timed it. Pointing to a grid of 20 numbers in order, touching our nose between. We then did this test at 30m and timed it to see if any of us were extra slow, feeling the effects of Narcosis. This is an effect that takes place in the brain when you go to great depths, basically you feel drunk, giggly and generally a bit high. Not such a problem for some people but more for others, potential dangers are getting carried away or too involved with following a fish and just going deeper and deeper, forgetting about your maximum depth limit and how much air you still have! Actually very serious shit it turns out! 

Talking of Finding Nemo we found out a rather disturbing fact about clown fish… They live in threes, Mum, Dad and Child… very cute eh? Not so much, say the Dad or Mum dies, the child will change its sex in order to have sex with its mum or dad to then produce another child! Incest on a whole other level!

The sunset before our night dive 
That evening was our first ‘Night Dive’, just 4 of us inc Gina and Ronnie! We headed out to the Light House, a spot we had dived before. This is important when diving at night because you want to be familiar with the location. It is transformed at night. Different wildlife comes out to feed and using a torch shows the true colours of coral and fish because we are not using natural light that gets refracted and colours lost with depth.


We were nervous and excited, orientation and keeping an eye on your depth gauge is important. Highlights were seeing a huge King Crab, Lobsters and holding the torches to our chests to play with the phosphorescent plankton, all waving our arms around like nutters for about 5 minutes.
Also we had the most surreal experience of being 360 degrees surrounded by ‘Strings of Pearls’ that illuminate electric blue one by one right in front of you and far far away in the distance of blackness. The only way to explain it, is like being awake in a dream, gently floating through space with blue stars glowing and fading in every direction, blurring my perception of distance and time. Apparently this night was the most amount of strings of pearls that Gina had ever seen on a night dive. It was a truly magical experience that we will never forget.

That Wednesday night we headed out and hooked up with Dave, a lovely English bloke we met on our first night on the island. Dave is from Cornwall and is a mix between my two buddies back home who I spin fire with, Cenk and Nick. He’s tall, looks a little crazy and is a big softy at heart who’s always up for a laugh. We ended up at the beach party (an open circular palm tree roof hut) on the southern part of the island with a gallon of kerosene and our fire toys. 

Dave on flaming nunchuks and me with Poi, needless to say with a little chat to the bar staff we secured free drinks in return for the nights entertainment. I was also approached by a man claiming to be the manager of the Full Moon party happening that weekend on the northern private beach. Fortunately for me he slapped free entry wristbands on us there and then as I had no recollection of our conversation the following morning, but knew we got free tickets to something, somewhere and some point! Luckily this was to be quite a big party so throughout the course of the week lots of people pointed out “Ah you got your ticket already... nice, see you there”.

After a later night than we had planned, mid-day was upon us and we were to do our Navigation exercises – This involved learning how to use a compass, taking more responsibility with where we are going and eventually finding the boat again etc. Typically I was a little worse for wear, even still a little drunk one might say, yet excited to get wet. Soon after leaving the dock the captain alerted to the boat “Who stinks of Rum!?”, it was pretty obvious. This section was going to be quite a challenge! We started with basic buddy skills, going in one heading (Hannah taking charge on the compass) for 10 kicks (me counting the kicks, giving Hannah a squeeze on the shoulder when done), turning around and heading back. Easy! Then we had to do a box, N E S W for 10 kicks again! This didn’t go too bad apart from finishing the box unaware we had ascended about 5 meters close to the surface in the process. We continued with a fun dive exploring the reef, Gina signalled to us that we needed to find the boat and make our way back using natural references (that we were to be mentally noting along the way). We swim for a while in a direction loosely towards the boat, me aimlessly trailing behind the three girls playing with the fish.

Hannah and Ronnie felt as if I should have some input so turned around and ask me where the boat is, to which I simply respond with a half hearted shoulder shrug having completely forgot what we were doing. Never the less we made it back to the boat and passed the exercise, thanks to Hannah and Ronnie.
Strangely as soon as I got out of the water and back onto the boat the hangover kicked in again and I couldn’t wait to get back in the water. Maybe the water pressure just helps. I was told by a few Dive Masters that diving hungover is the best cure ever and that I was going to love these dives. They were right. 

Doing our dive log books like good students! 
Next up was our final Advanced activity PPB (Peak Performance Buoyancy) – This is to test and improve your ability to control your buoyancy with minimal effort, reducing your oxygen usage thus increasing your dive time. Oh dear I thought to my self. Gina took all kinds of apparatus to use. In fact it was one of the funniest dives ever. Without using our hands only our breath and bodies we were swimming through hoops, sinking down to touch the weight with only our regulator then back up through a hoop and loads of others tasks; Essentially using our breath to control up and down. We took off our fins and started dancing, doing kung fu fights (all very dramatic) and finally having a running races on the seabed. Yup diving hungover is definitely great fun, I was giggling throughout, somewhat high and more fascinated in the smaller creatures and tiny coral. Hannah really enjoyed this section as well and she even started thinking about developing a Scuba Pilates class for us, unfortunately we haven’t managed to make it happen yet. We had a couple of free fun dives that we did the following day and that concluded our time at Altons. Throughout the week it became pretty apparent that we were not going to stay here for just the week that we originally planned.

Dog walks on Utila

Utila is a pretty incredible place, it has this amazing ability to grab  people by the scruff of the neck and shake them into feeling more alive than ever! The people you meet, the experiences you share and the memories you struggle to remember through a fog of vivid alcoholic flashbacks seem to be what keeps people here for WAY longer than originally planned. 

Dive Master Trainees final snorkel test... Messy! 

Worlds coolest kid
Once described to me as 
"a party island with a diving problem" sounds a bout right. The ingredients just shouldn't work hand in hand but they seem to produce this atmosphere of a whole island filled with friends you haven't yet met with the same passion and thirst for life that you get from travelling. Anything goes! There is little to no police or military presence and little kids roam the streets well into the party hours which makes for pure genius entertainment. 

Laid back animals

"Happy Cookies" sold at 'La Cueva' (The Cave), the staff just chill and play Fifa! 

For both Han and I this island was a place where we both felt totally at ease, a place where anything is possible and we could utilise our skills to the max. We were eating at great restaurants for free through trading photography, drinking and partying hard for free for fire spinning exploring the oceans reef and fish, taking daily Yoga and making films.
As you can imagine we very easily nearly got an apartment and thought we would never leave.

Firing up the Tranquila Dock

 After completing our course we thought we would take the weekend off from diving. Sam from Essex decided to stay a little longer and encouraged us to take a boat trip to Water Caye; a tiny island about 45 mins south of Utila. It took us back to the San Blas Islands…beautiful! We took some drinks, snacks and snorkels. On the boat we met some really nice guys, Luis and Alan. Luis is from San Pedro Sula, a Honduran and Luis is from Austen Texas, originally from Mexico.

Lots of secluded little getaways like this

Typically they brought a cool box stoked to the nines and a Bose speaker, awesome! We snorkelled, chatted and had a great day in paradise. 

We bombed back to Utila over some rough seas and as soon as we arrived back at the dock we legged it to Altons where the Saturday Night booze cruise was departing! Everyone was crammed onto one of the dive boats and we partied, cruising up and down the bay. They even had a disco ball, lasers and funky lights going crazy to some great tunes by Steve, the Irish dive instructor! After arriving back at the dock we rounded the troops for a quick nip into ‘town’ for grub at ‘Big Mommas'. Drinks at 'La Cueva'!

Then ‘TreeTanic’ for impromtu Yoga positions and Tequila, grab a TukTuk,  load it up with 10 people and hit the Full Moon Party for free entry, free drinks and fire spinning. 

Seriously shaping up to be the BEST TRAVEL DAY EVER! We hooked up with Dave and his fire nunchuks who had brought another gallon of fuel and all sort of goodies with him. Eventually some pals from Altons plucked up the courage to give it go. Jonny from Oz became hooked on Poi and we literally had to prize them out of his hands to head home. 

On the Sunday, whilst feeling a bit fragile we decided to move to another dive centre 3 mins walk away, to spread the experience, meet more new friends and share the wealth on the island. We booked a 10 dive package for just $258 dollars at Under Water Vision. It is actually owned by Alton’s parents but they have a slightly different way of going about things. Many divers pass through here as they fill up the boats more and are cheaper. For accommodation, if diving with them you get an ensuite private room for just $10 (£6) per night, the best deal we had had all trip.

Underwater Vision Dive Centre

Here we did the Haliburton shipwreck which lays at 30m. It is an artificial reef and sunken just for diving, Giving Utila the whole package whilst allowing the advanced course students cover a ‘deep dive’ and ‘wreck dive’ simultaneously. We saw various Groupers and Snappers. I also got the scare of my life when unbeknown to me I was kneeling on the sand poking my head through a port hole just inches from a MASSIVE Green Moray Eel over a meter long. It was lying between the boat and sand, Hannah kindly pointed it out to me after I pushed away from the porthole. I definitely let out a little yelp into my regulator.

Hannah's knotty hair after every dive!
On our second dive Hannah spotted a few of her favourite fish, the Juvenile Spotted Drum. It’s tiny with a huge dorsal fin that shoots up like a hair quiff. We also spotted a a few big Barracudas and had the magical experience of swimming along side two large Spotted Eagle Rays just gliding along for about 5 minutes.

The locals at Driftwood

Hannah and I went to a few restaurants that week and pitched for some food photography again. All were top rated and everyone we tried bar one was on board. Excellent! A week of free food began and we stuffed ourselves! FooKing Wok ..mmmmm

We spent more time with Alan hanging out at Luis’s pad and Hannah doing Yoga nearly everyday with him. One evening Luis delivered us in his speedboat to Yoga after a little sunset trip round the bay – arriving in style on the dock of Driftwood, a restaurant we had just secured photography at earlier that day.

We went on another trip to Water Cay with Alan, Luis and some of his friends Tiffany (Sea Shepherds cook) and Therese (a Utilian born and bred chica, whose family owns basically half the island).

Neptunes Resturant
Fortunately a long way from London

We dropped into Neptunes Restaurant, which is only reachable by boat for a spot of lunch on a nice private beach. Had a great time at Water Caye again indulging in Luis and Alan’s fine selection of liquor and self appointing the role of beach barman. 

On the way back and from Water Caye after a few too many rums had by all, we stopped off at a little island that had turtles and barracudas in pens for reintegration into the wild. It’s fair to say I was a little over enthusiastic and asked the owner if I could get in with the turtles.

 Blissfully unaware that the pen also houses large barracudas and a nursing shark (pretty harmless). After a slow ride back, it was time for me to take pictures for my final restaurant “RJ’s”! – Hannah tried to sober me up as best she could but in the end just had to let me loose and hope I didn’t fuck it up! 

Kyle's Utila
Hannah's Utila
RJ’s serves awesomely large portions of home cooked food and only opens Wed, Fri and Sunday so everyone goes. Much to everyone’s amazement (or amusement I’m not sure) I actually did a pretty good job and got stuck in with the dishes flying out of the kitchen at a rate of knots. We rounded the night off with a little more rum back at Luis’s with Alan and had a sleepy profound conversation about quantum physics and the possibility of WWIII.

Having visited TreeTanic Bar a few times before for drinks and a few Scuba Instructor course drinking games we’d had a chance to explore the sheer vastness of the creative space. This bar is apparently in the top ten bars of the world! Its like a quirky Pans Labyrinth meets the Little Mermaid set, all completely ocean inspired using recycled materials, glass, rock, beads, plates, old hard drives and motherboards, you name it.

It is an ongoing installation that has been in the process for who knows, some say up to 20 years but ‘Paul’ American artist and visionary wouldn’t tell me when I quizze. He replied saying “why do people feel the need to quantify the amount of time I have spend making this place, it not like you ask that question when staring at a painting in a gallery is it”, I thought he had a point and with a bit more chat totally understood where he was coming from. I attempted to get in contact with Paul to ask about a potential film project, I thought this would be the hard part; and it was but not as difficult as the next step of actually having a coherent conversation. Having initially got through the bizarre social awkwardness of the stoned artist trying to fix his bike and not really interested in what I had to say I realised I would have to try and enter into ‘his world’ of anything goes type of chitchat! I got the sense he had been approached a lot in the past and let down with people never supplying the goods or sticking to their word, he was a complex character which is pretty evident by the surreal world he had built around him.  

Whilst trying to convey my idea in a professional but casual way; I managed to get my vision through to him and suddenly he was engaged. We spent the next 40 minutes skimming from one tangent to another covering the topics like time, peoples perception of what art is, parts of the universe for good measure, fire, him making firework catherine wheels to attach on to my fire poi, the use of light, diving and aquatic life. Somewhat exhausted at the end of it all he was on board and invited me come and light up whenever I wanted, just send him a copy when it’s done.

So a few nights later we rolled up, I wanted to shoot the film as well as perform in it so every shot would need to be composed with the tripod and left to Han to press the record button. I mentioned the film to Dave a few day previous and he was really excited about helping out, I said if you can fire breath you can be in it. So typically in true Dave style we shot off shouting “next time you see me I will have learnt that for you mate!”. He had, I wanted to film a fire breath to really light up the space for a specific moment in the music. We spent the following 4hrs shooting in different spots and at the same time providing a little show for drinkers. 

The following days were spent with Hannah deepening her new revitalised love for Yoga with some especially amazing teachers. Getting up early or going for Sunset sessions.

One morning Hannah booked Alan and I into a Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga class with her! We turned up to meet Aura, our teacher, at 7am. It was a windy day, in fact, after the class, Aura announced that we were working in ‘extreme conditions!’ It was a struggle to just paddle out! The wind was blowing hard against us and the water was choppy! 
It was hilarious – lots of laughing. It certainly was a challenge. After watching Alan fall into the water a few times, I got tired and followed suit, dropping in plenty of times. Not only that, but I seemed to drift around from person to person at one point knocking boards with Aura at the front! Clearly the anchorage was not sufficient for me! During all this Hannah remained serene on her board not falling in once…

Had great bacon sarnies and English Tea for breakfast, just the fact I am writing this you can tell we massively enjoyed. Even though we did get strange looks from the bar/kitchen staff because we didn’t want eggs or cheese with them, “Just bacon? That’s all… nothing else, toast and bacon?”… and to top it off, the good old “Seriously… you want some milk to put in your tea, OK... strange English people”.
Skidrow "The Dirtiest Dive in Town"

'Frank' the Go To guy for everything

Snorkel challenge at 'La Cueva' 

One morning, Hannah left me in my hungover state in bed to go for a swim in the sea. Next thing I know she was back claiming she had just bumped into our very good friend Charlie Hickson’s brother; Billy! Charlie went to primary school with me (a few years below) and Billy too, she then went to 6th form with Hannah before we even knew each other; so a strange connection to have in the middle of nowhere! We both have memories of Billy as a kid; Charlie’s little bro…no longer now!

"Dude!! I gotta get of this island man!!"

We spent that last three days doing a few things we had wanted to do before but never got round to it, visiting a couple of few beaches and finally visiting the Jaded Seahorse Restaurant for some amazing veggie beany fusiony cool burger things. Having great party and sending off some new friends who were finally leaving the island, 8 months after a arriving for a quick trip!

Basically we know we are going back to this magical Caribbean Island again one day soon!!

But the Honduran adventure doesn't stop there, it suddenly gets back into dangerous reality!

Luis offered to stay with him in San Pedro Sula as a stop off to getting into Guatemala, helping us along the way for the last leg cross through yet again the most dangerous country in the world. He was having a snazzy ATV dropped off at the dock for Utila on the morning we were to leave, “Just hop in with my driver and he’ll drive you here?” Luis said. After a few hours waiting at the dock we jumped into the air conditioned 4X4 and begin a 3.5 hr journey to Luis’s pad. Latterly when in Guatemala we reluctantly read what LonelyPlanet had to say about San Pedro Sula. It starts with “ San Pedro Sula was bestowed the title of the worlds most dangerous city in 2012. Few travellers will want to linger long here; there are no sights, there is little cultural life and the sultry climate can be oppressive….” Just as well we were in safe hands. Carlos the driver stops the car after an hour to take a leak, as he’s walking away from the car I mention to Hannah that I think Carlos the driver in fact Carlos the bodyguard and point out the pistol; holstered on his hip. It slowly dawned on us we were being transported through Honduras via armed guard…. what the fuck! As we drove into the city we noticed loads of fast food joints, from BK to Dunkin Donuts it had it all to fit in with the industrial backdrop flanked by beautiful jungle mountains. After arriving at Luis’s aluminium factory through the armed security gate we stepped into the 40 degree heat and nearly melted. Carlos escorted us inside to Luis’s huge modern office. Here we met working Luis, sat behind his desk looking very different to when we last saw him chilled out on his patio with a rum n bifta on Utila. He looked up, gave us a give grin and welcomed us in. After a few moments he wanted to show us around and where we would be staying, we were a little surprised as were at his office and factory. We popped out of the office door and back into a door next to it with our bags and suddenly we were in his reception area with two big stairways leading up to two separate apartments. “That’s mine” Luisa said looking left, “ and this one’s yours” walking up to the right. He’d only gone and hooked up two travellers he’d met for a week or two with a luxury apartment for the night, what a legend. We were obviously very overwhelmed and thankful; we spent the rest of the afternoon chilling out on the sofa, as he had to finish work. It’s safer and just easier for Luis to live and work on the grounds of his work place which has 24hr guards and high walls. When he visits the special island of Utila it’s a short drive to the airfield and he hops in his plan for the short flight. The less time spent driving and especially in Honduras the better.

Luis came and visited us after he’d finished and proposed the plan of heading out to a fashion launch of his friend’s new beach wear at a local bar. Before we left we were given a tour of his place and learnt and awful lot about Luis’s background, including just how many hobbies and interested he has had over the years. There is a room dedicated to model aeroplanes, not small one but massive ones with engines and jets! He setup the first Honduran aviation foundation school many years back and also has a collection of motorbikes. He even once owned a Honduran football club for a few years, but gave that up after learning that you need to spend a disgusting amount of money to keep that kind of hobby afloat. Running all this, two factories and a large property portfolio this guy is running on all cylinders. 

We were driven to this very cossie bar downtown and were surrounded by young ladies emptying the rail of beach wear in front of us. We were there about 15minutes after it had opened and with in another 15 everything was sold out. Carmen who is Luis’s very attractive best friend had shifted 40 or so garments in 30 minutes, more or less. Samana Santa is approaching and these ladies like to wear a different piece on the beach every day for the huge celebrations across the on the Bay Islands (Utila and Roatan are both rammed full of mainlanders for the holy week). Luis left for a lads World Cup Brazil trip meeting at his mates house so introduced to some pals and let us know ‘Don’t worry, Carlos is with me but there are more body guards outside than people inside’. This was actually pretty true. Again we got to learn a little more about how the 1% of the Honduran elite live. We chatted to two young guys, maybe early twenties and they both very casually mentioned that their body guards and 4x4’s were just outside, when asked. Some people even have two or three and that’s just the way it is. Your constantly protected and privacy can be pretty limited, I asked what it was like with meeting girls. “We’ll it has it’s ups and downs, it’s not so cool having an armed babysitter drive you home, but at least he can remember her name or where she lives. Driving and talking to friends can be a pain in the ass as well, you can’t just relax, and they know everything. And when push comes to shove none of them would actually take slug for me. I have even had to be a careful with how I speak to them; at the end of the day they are carrying a gun, in your car and probably not from the best neighbourhood. You don’t want to piss them off!!”. I couldn’t help but mention the film ‘Man on Fire’ with Denzel Washington, yes just like that. Kidnappings shootings are pretty common in this city. Everyone we spoke to that night were very nice and spoke fantastic English, they are all American schooled and highly influenced by American 21st century pop culture. Conversation multitasking with iPhones glued to their hands was pretty impressive too.
After we had grabbed a little dinner Luis arrived back so we soon up’d and left. Carlos was outside standing on the other side of the road amongst the mele of black and white 4x4’s all window tinted chatting with a load of the other guards. As soon as we walked out he noticed us instantly and got the car running.

The next morning we were driven to the Puerto Cortes, the largest port in Central America and also the legitimate/illegitimate trafficking route for 80% of the cocaine smuggled into the US. Typically we were told this whilst driving there which was to make the next leg of the journey a little more nerve wracking as we needed to catch a 3hr bus out of that town to the Guatemalan boarder, also a pretty dodgy crossing due to its proximity to the port and Caribbean coastline.


We arrived in a pretty grim and sorry looking part of town, the locals looked on as this blacked out 4x4 turns up with two gringo backpackers, a voluptuous Latino and pistol-wearing driver all jump out. Taken a back by the immense 40 degree heat that just hit us like a wall suddenly men rush up to find out what we need and before we know it we are ushered onto a chicken bus that leaves in 2 minutes for the border ‘Frontera’. Carlos and Carmen were back in the safety of the truck and sped off. I’d be lying if I were to say I wasn’t nervous, although I kept this to myself as to not worry Hannah. All sorts of scenarios began entering my mind. We were the only gringo’s on the bus and clearly visible sat at the front with our big rucksacks, Hannah to the left of me slightly shielded from the window. All it takes is for the driver to tip off a few mates and we’d be plucked from the bus down the road and never seen again, yup that shit happens. Previously we had seen military personnel riding at the front of public buses to make sure they get through certain districts without a ‘problem’. This was the first time in 7.5 months I genuinely feared for our safety as backpackers on a bus. It was a time for reflection of what the last 24hrs had been like, being picked up at the dock and entering a world of elitism and potential danger always just round the corner. We’d only experienced 24hrs of it but the experience and stuff we learned seriously open our eyes. Had arriving with Carlos and Carmen in fact put us at more risk, would we have been better off just travelling through quickly with all the other travellers getting normal buses from San Pedro Sula? “Oh well your hear now so just get on with it and think positive thoughts” I told myself gripping Hannah’s hand giving her a reassuring smile. Luckily we made it out of the suburbs of Puerto Cortes unscathed and were enduring the hottest bus ride ever. Hannah was literally drugged, not being able to hold a conversation for more than 5 seconds or her head up for that matter. So back to me and my un-necessary thoughts of death, corruption and the social divide between the rich and poor of Honduras; it was a long bus!

And thats Honduras.. the best and the worst place on earth!

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