I *heart* Nico, and the tale of the hundredth dive day

When I first met Nico back in my Advanced course and then at the Mango Inn over a month ago, I talked about my blog probably a little too much and he said back then that he was *determined* to make the blog. Well hon, here you go:

Nico and I have been excellent buddies since the beginning and throughout my time in Utila: Advanced, EFR, Rescue, roommates when he moved on to DMT without me, snorkel buddies, and then final dive buddies. The final dive also just happened to be Nico’s 100th dive. Absolutely perfect. He’s been tearing it up and maxing out on dives this whole time, getting in 90 dives here on the island in addition to all his course work over five weeks. Any day he didn’t have classwork or skills in confined water, he was consistently out doing 4-5 dives a day. Tradition dictates the 100th dive must be performed naked. Like hell I was going to miss that! I signed up for the morning boat as a fun diver, he got special approval to be an extra plus one on the full boat, and we planned on going on one last buddy dive together.
…but then I stayed up way too late at the IDC party the night before, celebrating our friend Doug’s graduation to Instructor status. At 7:30am, I woke to the sound of Nico calling me from outside the apartment. He had gone to the shop, set up the boat, sorted out all sorts of glitches, put together my kit, but when he realized I wasn’t there had come to fetch me via a borrowed bike (Rich’s old bike that we had taken to the bottom of the sea, then stolen by Jeff after his departure) with no brakes… he ditched into a barber shop when making the 90-degree turn into my house in an effort to stop! Upon hearing my name through the window, I frantically threw myself together and ran to the boat just in time. He continued to take care of me as my reg wasn’t working properly and I needed a replacement O-ring.
We schemed on how to execute the naked dive. The UDC staff understood the importance of the ritual, but weren’t super keen. Tough luck! An unexpected hurdle: for the first time, even given the dozens of boats Nico had been on, there were children on this one doing their first Open Water dive. Yikes, awkward… Our fun dive group entered the water first, before the kids, and Nico’s swim trunks were suddenly on his head. Let the naked dive commence.
Before the 100th dive. I solomly swear I am up to no good…
Yeah, this happened. Photo courtesy of Robbie Labanowski (thanks for keeping it “artistic”!).

Sans mask, reg, and shorts, Nico dove in the ultimate au natural. After taking this picture, his first instinct was to put the shorts back on first, but then realized–whoops!–air is probably a better top priority. 😛 It was a super amusing dive. We saw a turtle and Nico’s favorite: the bucktooth parrotfish, played along the reef, and had fun posing for the camera as our snorkeling photographer friend Robbie free dove from the surface and would suddenly appear next to us at depth for a photo. A good chunk of my air was consumed by giggling.

Rockin’ the safety stop. Mischief managed! Photo courtesy of Robbie Labanowski.
No way I would have rather spent my final dive in Utila!
Signing my log book, checking both the boxes “DM” and “buddy”. Woot!!

After the dive, I crashed back to bed. When I awoke my eye was killing me. I started crying, and rushed to the doctor. On the way I found Nico at our friends’ Tom and Ryan’s house. He didn’t hesitate to drop everything, escort me to the clinic, translate on my behalf, guide me through the streets when I couldn’t open my eyes, care for me all afternoon as I lay on the couch in the fetal position sobbing in pain, get me tomatoes to freeze and put on my eyeballs, make me a comfort food dinner of mac ‘n cheese, keep me company all evening, and watch the Heat beat the Spurs in game 7 with me. He literally took care of me from start to finish of my day, in multiple contexts, when I needed it most. Never leave a buddy behind. True dat, and thank you.

Babe, you know I adore you, and that you give me hope for nineteen-year-olds. I’m so happy to have become friends and it has been a delight to live with you this past month. Even though you’re a rolling-stone lone wolf, you’ll always be my Utila BFF. I dearly hope our paths cross again for another adventure elsewhere in the world sometime in our lives. You kick ass! ❤

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You’re invited to a tea party under the sea

It was a fun idea: a crazy underwater photoshoot. Take over a boat, bring cool people, bring a bunch of funny props to the bottom of the ocean, and go a little nuts with the camera. Rich and Jamie masterminding the operation, with this as Rich’s first(ish almost, despite the snorkel test; damn that dive map!) official divemaster lead. They spent a day casing town for props, talked the dive shop into getting us a special boat, and made it happen.

The day before our dive, there was a tragedy that closed the dive shop and canceled all dives. We weren’t certain the dive would continue for the next morning at 8am, but things went as scheduled. After weeks of perfectly sunny and clear days, we got the beginning of a tropical depression and the coldest weather I’ve seen since being on Utila. Nevertheless, we were all still psyched.

Not the most ideal light and conditions for an underwater photo shoot.

We loaded the boat with gear and props, then we waited for our captain to arrive. Wet and cold, we waited. Discussions quickly turned to our dive briefing, photo ideas, and underwater logistics. None of us had done a dive like this before.

Who knew the prop umbrellas would come in so useful?
No captain, no problem! Ben’s on the case.
One hour delay waiting for a captain = baleadas and coffee all around.
A skeptical, wet, and cold Erin. We going to make it?

But the rain lessened and the captain arrived, one hour late. Our planned dive site was scrapped in favor of a closer spot due to the weather.

The rain clearing up just in time for our departure. A delightful Vero, as usual.
Me, ready in pink and purple for an under the sea tea party.
We should have known we were in trouble with this dude in charge… 😛
Finally on our way!
We arrived at Moonhole quickly, the closest dive site to the boat house. First up, buddy checks–yep, we’re all lookin’ good! Next order of business: getting all our props down: a table, chairs, bike, costumes, umbrellas, tea set, kettle, cards, beer, rum, shot glasses, sunglasses, a mango, and more. We were all purposefully overweighted to bring everything down. We all cracked up as Ross rode the bike off the back of the boat; other nearby boats must have thought we were mental. Well, maybe we are a little.
The insanity began:
Rich’s bike made it down to the bottom of the sea and back, totally building character (and rust) as well as improving its resale value.
I broke out the stilletos. Who needs fins?
Perfect neutrally bouyant mango.

The mastermind brothers. Cheers!
Dueling Mary Poppins.
Mad man, free-balling it sans all equipment!
Our sea floor dining room. That’s my landlord’s backyard table.
Brian poppin’ a wheelie…
Vero and Kyle, keeping it cool.
Brian’s dreads always look so BADASS underwater!!
Being a lady, I do love a good cuppa.

It was an odd madness under there. As is normal for diving, it is mostly silent and things move in slow motion. Yet this dive, even though it was still slow and silent, had a frantic and random energy as everyone executed ideas of their own. There was a little bit of scrambling towards the end as air began to run low and communication broke down, but all made it up ok.
We learned a lot of lessons. First, we were brought to a deeper site than planned–18m instead of 5m–so this impacted our air usage, ascents, and prop management. Shallower would have been much better; 18m was too deep to be messing around like this. Second, especially with the silt (even worse than sandy!) bottom we were dealing with we all needed to be more careful about our contact with the bottom and instead try to hover to keep visibility as clear as possible. Third, we spent too much time all in the same location, mucking up the visability and each other’s photos. It would have been better to set up two scenes (table and bike) a little further from each other and take turns. A little extra planning on this would have gone a long way. Next time. But for a first, crazy shot it was pretty freakin’ awesome. 🙂

Unexpectedly luxurious Roatan

*Heart* Roatan!

WARNING: this post may come across as braggy and contains a far too many pictures of sunsets, tasty food, and me smiling in a bikini. I blame Roatan, because it is pretty awesome.

Roatan, the largest of the Honduran Bay Islands, felt like a holiday from my trip. Serious tourist vibe here, in a good way! I detoured there for a few days before heading to the more backpacking-diver-centric island of Utila. It was sooo nice! Roatan was immediately classy. Walking off the ferry dock, tourists are greeted by manicured palm trees and a fleet of brand new sparkling white taxis. I was surprised how much it reminded me of Hawaii. English is so widely spoken and I never knew whether to attempt my crap Spanish (a month in Belize has made me regress) or not.

Roatan is 37 miles long and filled with resorts and vacation properties. I spent my entire time there on the western tip between the friendly Roatan Backpackers Hostel in Sandy Bay, town in West End, and beach sunsets in West Bay. Transport on the island was easy; taxis can either be hired privately or on a collectivo basis (20 Lm from Sandy Bay to West End) and water taxis are a pleasure to ride to West Bay (60 Lm).

I was accompanied by the perpetually nomadic bibliophile and linguist, Doron. A pleasure to chat with about virtually everything from the get-go, I now have far too many book recommendations (not that there really is such a thing!) to take with me. His literary addiction was infectious. I dropped three books from my pack (Wizard’s First Rule, Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass, and The Short Stories of Vladamir Nabokov) but picked up four (Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut, The More Than Complete Hitchhikers Guide by Douglas Adams, After Dark by Haruki Murakami, and The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver). So many stories ahead of me!

We both had a penchant towards fine dining and splurged on fantastic food. Even though it seemed at times like “hemorrhaging money”, it actually wasn’t that bad: a three course meal with drinks, tax, and tip consistently came in at $20-25USD per person. Totally doable every now and then. Or every day on Roatan. 😛 I just learned a new term for the type of traveler I may be: a flashpacker!

The first night, a search for sushi (which sadly never did come to fruition) instead led to Entre Pisco & Nazc, a Peruvian restaurant where we dined on seafood salad with real green (no iceberg to be found here!), creamy lobster lasagna, and chocolate cheesecake topped with mint and a blackberry. It set the tone for four days of top notch food.

On the first full day we ventured into town and discovered the peacefully perfect Half Moon Bay in West End. We happily split the day between snorkeling the reef, finding the sunken mini-submarine, lounging and reading, eating lobster and shrimp at the Crazy Mango, and playing on the water slide. I had absolutely no hang time and truly attempted not to flash anyone but despite my best efforts cannot claim success.

Lunching decadently and loving it. *
Lobster slathered in garlic butter. *

After a day of playing in the water and reading on the beach, I was ready to find some night life. And there were rumors flying around about crab races happening that very night. I got the scoop: Bananarama in West Bay was THE place to be. Done and done! We popped on a water taxi and went hunting for action.

The water taxi pulled right up to the shore and let us off. West Bay is an long resorty and relaxed beach; it is land of the sandy boulevard, waterfront lounges, wealthy families on vacation, and the most playful bulldog puppy ever.

Beautiful West End shore near sunset.

I love how on this trip, especially in beachy locals, attending to the sunset becomes an imperative. Back in the states, I rarely ever left my house simply to go view a sunset. In the Caribbean it is a must do event every day. And life is more beautiful for the habit.

Beauty to end the day. *

Bananarama actually was in fact the place to be. It was filled with white people excited about crab races, myself included. Unfortunately, they did little to publicize how to buy a crab because they didn’t need to; they sold out before I could get my hands on one. For the race, they dumped a bucket of tiny crabs in the center of a circle drawn in the sand and the first crab to reach the edge won. It was over remarkably quickly. After, we ate pizza, drank beer, talked, and laughed. We never did hear “Do You Like Pina Coladas?” from the house band… I really should have made that happen. Ah, regrets.

Crab race! And me kissing one plucked from the winner’s circle.

Earlier in the day I had been disappointed when the one ice cream stand in West End was closed, but this was about to be rectified with avengence. So much about this ice cream experience blew my mind. From the square (!!!) ice cream scroop to the confusing pricing structure to the deliciousness, all made it rather mystical. We ended up with six scoops of three flavors in a waffle cone for $2.50. What’s that? I think it’s a cone full of awesome.

Ice cream astonishment!
It’s my birthday and anniversary!

On day two I encountered the biggest bummer of the trip: dealing with identity theft. I spent a downer morning on the phone with multiple financial institutions listening to crappy hold music trying to get everything straight. In the end, it all got sorted but it was unpleasant to feel violated like that.

After that sucky morning, I was walking down the main drag looking for my friends who were already out and about and I passed numerous dive shops. I stepped into one to check the time and instead got the skinny on how easy it was to sign up to dive that day: $40 and I’d be out in the reef within the hour. It is so bizarre to me that now I can, on a whim, say hmm, yes, I believe I would like to spend an hour breathing underwater this afternoon. Diving is so amazing! After finding my peeps (including the newly arrived Hunter and Nikki who I would really enjoy hanging with later), I ditched them for an hour and dove Moonlight. Only 3 minutes by boat from shore, the site was beautiful, a turtle swam right up to my face, and I had my picture taken for the first time underwater.

Checking out the Moonlight reef. Photo courtesy of a My Little Pony riding a Carebear.
Sunset off of West Bay, post my afternoon under the sea. *

I linked back up with the group for dinner and we were deliciously responsible. You may not know this, but the gorgeous and deadly lionfish are a scourge on the reef and there is a effort by environmentalists to encourage local people here to catch and eat them to decrease the population. Let me say, this is a tasty way to help the reef. My lionfish tacos at the Cannibal Cafe were KILLER.

I’ll help take the lionfish down a notch any day.

After discussions of favorite trivia questions with Doron the night before at Bananarama, I had made finding a pub quiz a priority. They really are my favorite! And find one I did: Music trivia Mondays with Scott C at La Buena Vida. All the cool kids in town were there including friends from the hostel and my dive buddies. They formed rival teams and I threatened them all with big talk of our trivia prowess. I found the trivia format very very fun. Our very chill (I’m going to guess Hawaiian) quiz master led us through 42 pop song name and artist identifications. Unfortunately there was no classical music for me to impress everyone with my knowledge of! There were a mix of good songs I knew and could sing along to, puzzlers that drew controversy within the team, and new-to-me stuff I liked including Everclear’s AM Radio which I was still bopping to the next morning. Oh, and did I mention the rum? I did a LOT of sit-dancing.

Never Trust a Lyin’ Fish, #3 in trivia but #1 in fun. *
My contribution to the team was to trash talk and sit-dance lots. It added to the fun factor. *
The boys’ singing made Nikki plug her ears and me giggle. (jk, we were both doing each of those things anyways!)

On day three, the last day, we went used book shopping, got my diving log book signed and stamped (documentation is very important!), and then out to West Bay for snorkeling. It was a beautiful day for a swim and out in the reef there were glorious things to see: large chum right at the shore, a gorgeous reef with tons of fish, a pink sea anemone, a spotted eel, and the biggest lobster I have ever seen.

Happily heading back to West End. *
Finding our perfect snorkel spot. *
My final lovely, lovely Roatan sunset.

To me, there is no better way to cap a trip off than a splendid last meal. This we had in spades: fantastic bruschetta (pronounced with a sharp “sch”, naturally), brie and caramelized onion crepes, Indian shrimp curry, Thai beef noodles, a multitude of desserts, and a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon at Nice n’ Spicy, a place Doron and I had walked by before and been intoxicated by the smell. It lived up to everything we hoped — an amazing meal and end to the visit to Roatan!

Mmm, curry! I got distracted by condiments.
Delectable and ready to dive in. *
After already eating three desserts, the owner sent us free pistachio ice cream crepes. Excellent friends and food–who could ask for more? *

* Photos courtesy of Doron Klemer. 

Spelunking San Ignacio: the insanely awesome Crystal Cave

The Dream Team in Wonderland, two miles under ground. *

I said it before, but I’ll say it again: ATM is for tourists, Crystal is for adventurers. Crystal is different. It was a challenge the memory of which still gets my blood pumping. It is impossible to overstate how incredibly breathtaking it is. It was one of the most exciting and intimate ways I have ever experienced the earth. I will never forget it.

In San Ignacio, I was lucky enough to cross paths again with my friend Ryan from Caye Caulker and meet his new travel buddies Seamus and Oxy. Not only are they all super cool, but were best buds with Caveman Carlos (the guide I tried unsuccessfully to go with to ATM; connect with him via J&R Guest House) plus had a rental car and generously welcomed another passenger. It was Seamus and Oxy’s last day in Belize, so they called up Carlos and asked what we should do. He recommended Crystal ($75Bz each, plus $28Bz park entry fee) and we signed right up. We grabbed lunch to go and hopped in the car, off on an adventure.

Before & After

After a detour through Mennonite farm country for ice cream (reminded me of my childhood aspirations to be a Sunnyside dairy princess!) and beer, we arrived at the National Park, also home to Blue Hole, one of the only cenotes in Belize. We pilfered oranges from the neighboring orchard and hiked 30 minutes in near 100-degree weather to the cave entrance, sweat already starting to pour off of us. I sang my favorite walking tra la la la song to myself.

Unlike ATM, which is a tunnel without altitude change, Crystal delves deep right from the get go. At the greatest depth we were two miles under ground. It is a serious cave: you climb, you crawl, you slither, you squeeze, and you do NOT get your hand held. Do not even think of attempting it without a guide. No one else was in the cave with us; everyone was at ATM. From the huge pit of an entrance, we descended quickly.

Our entrance and sharp descent. *
Yep, we’re going that way, through that tiny hole in the upper right.
Our guide Carlos and Ryan, heading down.
Slipping through crevasses just barely people-sized. Sometimes sliding on your butt was the only way.

The pattern of Crystal is large cavern, small crawl space, large cavern, repeat. It led us to have moments of tight embrace of the rock followed by grand open awe. How very Frank Lloyd Wright…

The Carlosisms started coming fast and furious. Our names were shortened to our home states, which actually wasn’t specific, but worked well enough: Seamus and Oxy from Oregon, Ryan and me from California. “Take a break!” “Fear is a disease!” “Follow your heart!” “Keep the fire burning!” “Cave sex!” Soon enough we were all chiming in with the applicable Carlosism.

Being 6’7″ isn’t very helpful down here… *
Hear me roar! I was really into growling in the cave. (“Take a break, California…”)

These caves in Belize are said to be some of the entrances to Xibalba, the Mayan underworld or “place of fear”. Most locals refuse to enter them. Like ATM, Crystal Cave was also used as a ceremonial access point, and thousand-year-old skulls and pot shards grace its floors.

Pottery slowly being consumed by the cave.
The team in action, down then up. *
The munching O’Malleys. “This is the furthest below ground I have ever eaten a burrito.”

I felt spry and light on my feet, and enjoyed vaulting myself up. The further we went in, the slicker the clay covering the rocks got. We maintained three points on contact with the earth at all times. The act of finding holds, swinging yourself around corners, and pulling yourself up and over made me think of my rock climbing sister Laura. Is this what bouldering feels like? Because it was kind of super awesome…

The formations all around us through were breathtaking. The variation astounding: delicate crystals, cascading layers like melted wax, smooth ripples, many reminiscent of stone coral reefs.


But Carlos told us we hadn’t seen anything yet. We were headed to Wonderland and “you’re gonna pee your pants!” We took off our shoes, and I daintily trekked barefoot into the underworld.

The peanut brittle road to Wonderland.

He wasn’t joking. It was truly a wonder. Everywhere you turn was something spectacular. We discovered that beautiful ringing tones could be coaxed from certain stalagmites with a soft knock.

 The entrance to Wonderland. *
Making cave music.
Stunning beauty all around.
Enamored by the earth sparkling around me.

After gawking, we all sat in a row on a ledge, turned off our lights, spoke soft words of appreciation for this experience, and then were silent in the pure and complete dark. The Mayans say the spirits still dwell in the caves, and our group felt their presence. To me, the silence felt like a prayer without words. A meditation to the earth.

Stunning, as if delicately dipped in shredded coconut.

But the silence had to end, like all things do, and we left our beautiful crystal sanctuary to rejoin the living, feeling peaceful, alive, and pretty kick ass.

The crawl back to the surface. *
Our team, victorious. Yeah, I cave, and wield a machete. *
Use what yo mamma gave you! *

We finished sweaty, THIRSTY, hungry, and oh so happy. Those spare burritos saved from lunch hit the spot so hard. We then went for a sunset swim in Blue Hole cenote where we bathed in the cool water, chased crawdads, and watched the fire beetles come out after dark to dance. Refreshing! An absolutely killer and memorable day.

Cenote bound! *
Cave woman!! *
* photos courtesey of Seamus and Oxy O’Malley. 😉

Spelunking San Ignacio: Actun Tunichil Muknal

Pulling myself away from the beach, I backtracked west towards the Guatemalan border in search of caves, a famous attraction in this part of Belize. The cave on top of everyone’s list is Actun Tunichil Muknal, the Cave of the Crystal Sepulcher commonly referred to as ATM. It is both the most popular and most expensive cave to visit ($170Bz). I booked a tour through my hotel (J&R Guest House) with a well-known tour guide, Carlos, who my friends recommended highly. Unfortunately he had to cancel and sent a replacement from Hun Chi’ik tours.

The morning, my group of ten drove one hour east from San Ignacio, hiked an easy 20 minutes from the parking lot, and entered the cave swimming in between tall cavern walls. We continued wading through water and walking over rocks moving from room to room. Most spaces we were in were very open and the scale of the place felt impressive. The walls of quartz made me think of my Grandma and the geology lessons and projects she used to give us as kids. ❤ Twice we had to navigate a tight space, but not often was there any true physical challenge (once, we climbed a ladder!). It is an accessible cave for most visitors.

The entrance, the deepest swimming you do in the whole cave. Most other places it is shallow enough to walk.
Source: Google Images
Grand formations inside.
Source: Google Images

One of the special things about ATM is that it was used by the Mayans as a ceremonial space and when it was discovered twenty-some years ago artifacts were left where they were found, making the cave a living museum. The Mayans believed the spirits of their ancestors dwelt in the caves and performed rituals including human sacrifice inside ATM in their honor. In the main chamber you see pots and crystallized human remains. The apex of the tour is a full skeleton that has been claimed by the crystals.

The famous Crystal Maiden.
Source: Google Images

The tour experience on the other hand I found to be quite gentled. ATM is the top cave tour in the region, one that everyone goes on, and it showed. I was shocked by how crowded the cave felt. We were inside from about 11am-1:30pm and were constantly bumping into or waiting on other tour groups. The pace felt slow. We wore protective helmets, headlamps, and reef shoes. My young guide seemed uncomfortable going off script and I found his source material (many Discovery Channel-esque tv special references) suspect. The principle information we got was there’s a big rock here, watch your head here. I’m an adult. I can figure out where to put my feet. And If I don’t come out of a cave without a few scrapes then I don’t feel I have been exploring, you know? I felt like it was a good tour, but somewhat unsatisfied. Was it really worth the trip?

The next day I visited Crystal Cave and it blew my mind. Bottom line: ATM is for tourists, Crystal is for adventurers.

Diving school: Day 2 and 3, Open water

On day two of my dive course I took a choppy one-hour boat ride with ten-foot swells to Turneffe North. The thought of being at depth gave me butterflies. During the ride, I took the opportunity to relax and practice breathing slow deep breaths. I had a new instructor who was an older ex-military Belizian nicknamed “the Legend”, seemingly stern at first but warmed to me over time.

We started with a simple fun dive to a depth of 30 feet. I descended slowly using a rope line, equalizing my air spaces for the very first time by holding my nose and gently blowing. The surface shimmered above me. To be surrounded by and part of the reef was amazing! This dive made me “get it” and taste what a real dive could be. Checking out parrot fish and giant sea sponges is so much more fun than simulating equipment failure!

On the second dive we descended and knelt on a sandy bottom to work through skills. First up, my nemesis, clearing a flooded mask. I found this to be quite scary to do under three stories of water, but it is a very useful, common, and important skill to master. The full flood was the worst. Nervous, at the end I took a little water up my nose and choked. I had the powerful instinct to head for the surface, but my instructor made me stay under and resolve the problem. Learned how to cough it out into a regulator and regain calm.

Day three was the final day of the course: my last two open water dives and taking the written exam. We headed to the nearby Belize Barrier Reef. Finished off my skills at Spanish Bay with a navigation test and full mask removal. At Dolphin Point, we had a victory lap fun dive. The reef is so spectacular. We glided through canyons of coral. My instructor scared up a huge turtle from the sea floor. As she rose, another turtle came out of the deep blue and snapped his massive jaw at her tail. The two began swirling around each other locked in what I thought was a dual but I learned later was probably sex. One of the remora suckerfish riding on her shell was knocked free and followed us around for the rest of the dive.

Happy new diver’s id photo!

While waiting at our final three minute safety stop at 15 feet, my instructor gave me a double high five, a double fist bump, and then shocked me by busting a move. I happy danced along with glee; a great final dive. Back at the dive shop, I took my written test (much like a drivers license exam) and passed. They took the picture for my id card before they finished grading my test. Achievement unlocked: PADI open water diving certification!

Next up, another dive day in the Belize reef. I think I am going to pass for now on the Blue Hole and whale shark diving until I have more experience; I want more normal dives under my belt first. The plan: head to Utila where I can actually afford to dive dive dive.

Vice and gender inequality

Walking down the street in Caye Caulker every foreigner gets attention from the locals. But what kind of attention greatly differs based on your gender. As a lady, I receive subdued cat calls every 30 seconds or less along the main drag. Usually these are complimentary (“beautiful” “lady in red” “she’s so dan-ger-ous!”), but the other night when yawning while walking some dude said “you gotta big mouth”. Or, if I am carrying two plates of cake from the Cake Lady, “which one of those is for me, baby?”. Oh no no no, don’t even try to get between me and my rum cake OR coconut pie. Remember that big mouth? Both for me, I assure you.

My guy friends report they get offered drugs just as often as I get harmlessly hit on. And apparently the drug dealer pitches are AWFUL. “I got da best weed, we’ll blaze down the highway” or “I’m 35 and you look as old as I do. Have some of my weed and you’ll look younger and we can play basketball.” Umm, seriously? My friend Mark came back from a two-hour trip to San Pedro and his biggest impression of the place was the fact that there they tried to sell him cocaine instead of weed. I was there four days and had no idea! In comparing notes, we couldn’t decide which sex got the short end of the stick. “Just for variety, why can’t they mix it up? Offer you coke sometimes, hit on me sometimes…”

“I hear the reviews of the jail on TripAdvisor are *all* bad.”