A week on Long Caye with Huracan Diving

Back in April, I was lucky enough to meet the lovely staff of Huracan Diving when they were all vacationing in Caye Caulker. They had a warm familial spirit and welcomed me into their group immediately, adopting me for an evening. As my travels continued in Central America, I stayed in touch with my new friends and when the road led me back up to Belize in June I came by their island paradise on Long Caye out in the Lighthouse Reef for a visit.
Hellooooo Long Caye! *

Most visitors who come to Long Caye have one primary activity in mind: diving. And Huracan is a prime place for a Belizian diving holiday (check out their stellar reviews on TripAdvisor). Run by Ruth Devacht (be sure to take her up on one of her signature coconut caprianhas!), it’s a place that perfectly mixes excellent personalized service with homeyness. She thinks of everything when considering how to make guests’ experiences great. Consider the condiments at breakfast: spreads like Nutella and Vegemite to give travelers around the world a taste of home. It is not a five-star luxury resort, but this four bedroom guest house is a beautiful and relaxing home away from home.

Huracan lodge. Home sweet home. *

Being a diver myself, I was stoked to check out what I had been told was the best diving in Belize. I was not disappointed; the diving around Long Caye, Hat Caye, and Half Moon Caye is indeed all pretty fantastic. I dove eight times in six days, with one day off to go kiteboarding (more on this below!). The gear, service, boats, and staff were all top-notch. No need to take my word for it: the head guide and dive instructor Jerome just won Belize’s tour guide of the year award.

This is why Long Caye kicks everyone else’s butt for diving Lighthouse Reef.

Because dive sites are so close, there is either three one-tank dives per day or two in the morning and one in the afternoon, at 8am, 11am, and 3pm. Of course, one of the major attractions in Lighthouse Caye is the Blue Hole, which was a blast. You can read the story of my Blue Hole Day here. The diving staff includes multiple divemasters–Jerome, Ruth, Ryan, and Jhoanna–who are all awesome, listen to the kind of places and diving activities you like, and plan dives according to your interests. The reef is absolutely stunning, with so much healthy sea life and gorgeous scenery.

Heading out to the boat.

Our chariot.
Divemaster and swim-through queen Ruth giving a briefing.
Diving the reef. *
Diver diver, are you okay? Most definitely!

I put together a quick video with a mash-up of some of my favorite moments from my dives. While we did see big stuff like reef sharks, spotted eagle rays, and turtles, I really like normal reefy creatures so that is what I put in my video. My very favorite is the sharpnose pufferfish (the hummingbird of the sea)! As you’ll see, I also adore barrel sponges. Yes, I’m a little weird.

My favorite: sharpnose pufferfish! *

Surface intervals are also a special daily occasion at Huracan. When diving out at Hat Caye or Half Moon Caye you can take your fruit or candy bar snack and go ashore to explore the islands. When diving just off Long Caye, the boat returns home to freshly baked treats waiting at the lodge.

A gorgeous arrival on Half Moon Caye.
The red-footed booby in his natural–and only–habitat on Half Moon Caye.
The old Half Moon Caye lighthouse, slowly being claimed by the sea.

The remote location and “go slow” island rhythm of life can easily lead to a pattern: eat, sleep, dive. But I didn’t stop there. There are a bunch of other things to do! Ryan was my ready willing and able tour guide and fun partner. We kayaked, snorkeled, biked, and last but not least he taught me the basics of kiteboarding–his specialty. Check out the video below for some of the highlights. Included is a sequence I like to call “Erin the Christmas tree worm TERRORIZER!”. 😛

Biking the boardwalk over the mangroves that make up the majority of the island.

Fishermen off the west dock on a calm evening.

Ryan is the instructor at Huracan Kiteboarding and there was no way I was leaving the island without a lesson. Ryan was clear, kind, and patient as he walked me through the gear set up, safety, and kite control technique. We launched the kite and he demonstrated some basic kite movement and control, which explaining the theory behind where the kite should be positioned in the air, how I should steer by moving the bar left and right, and adjust power/control by moving the bar up and down. He handed the bar over to me, hooking in my chicken loop, and I tried my hand at flying. It was really cool! The kite is powerful if you want it to be, but quickly you get a feel for comfortably keeping it under control. I graduated to body dragging, using the kite to pull me through the water. Wheee! Super fun. I had more trouble doing this with only one hand, but crashing meant he got to teach me about water launches. 😛 On day one, I didn’t quite make it up on a board, but I was pretty tickled by playing with the massive kite. Totally a blast. Needless to say, I did not make it through nearly as many books as I planned.

Gear check!

Getting ready for a water launch!
Flying the kite–booyah. So much fun!
When I did manage to sneak away with a book, the adirondacks at the end of the dock were my favorite reading spot.
Kickin’ back for an afternoon read.

Huracan works on an all-inclusive basis: your package includes diving, accommodation, meals, snacks, and some beverages. The main house has four guest rooms, so accommodates eight guests maximum. When I was there, there were two other guests plus the staff. That’s it. Virtually a private vacation. The house feels warm and comfortable. Everyone has their private space, but eats and chills out together often in the sunny dining room.

Our eating and hang out space. *
One of the four guest rooms. *
En suite bathroom. *
The entry way and center of the lodge. *
Just a normal island clothes line. Wish I could wear candy-colored bikinis every day!

Their new chef Shannon did an awesome job of keeping us all happy and well-fed, cooking a variety of tasty things with that good home-cooked feel. We were spoiled by a beautiful breakfast spread every morning, the meals throughout the day were delicious and hearty, and there were frequent snacks timed perfectly with our diving schedule. Food is life to me and one of my very favorite things, and I felt very taken care of.

A typical breakfast spread with everything to make the start of anyone’s day kick-ass.
Yum!!
Lunch: Chef’s salad, while filling up the ol’ log book after a morning dive.

My favorite: stew chicken, rice ‘n beans, fried plantain, and potato salad.

Shrimp fettuchini alfredo. I spiked mine with Marie Sharp’s habanero sauce. 🙂
Lobster night!
Our awesome chef Shannon, hard at work.
Very important shipment from the mainland!

But what makes a real difference is the people. Especially on a small island, it is important to have good company with positive energy. Ruth and her crew have that in spades. They are a welcoming bunch who treat each other like family and welcome you in as one of them too. After spending a day diving, exploring, chilling, and generally having fun, we kicked back in the living room together most evenings before hitting the hay. Hey, we’ve got to get up and go diving tomorrow morning! One of my favorites was a new game Ryan taught me: Rummikub. He whooped my butt for two days straight before I got a win off him!

Learned how to play Rummikub–super fun! Ryan executing his trademarked rearranging strategy.
Silly face photo contest with my new little friend.
Hostess with the mostest joining in!

All in all, I had a lovely visit exploring Lighthouse Reef and spending time with everyone at Huracan Diving, a homey little oasis. So much fun in so many different ways. It’s a special place and visiting was a treat and a joy. Thank you all for having me and for a wonderful week!

Send off party.

Thank you for such a lovely visit!


* Photos from http://www.huracandiving.com

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Utila throwback and warning

There’s a video about Utila making the rounds on Facebook, but I thought I’d share it here as well. To everyone who has not experienced Utila: BEWARE! All so classic. This is where I got stuck for seven weeks… insane Utila, steals your soul, actually. Good god I love that place! 😛 Miss my Utila crew and our crazy times desperately! ♥

So many truisms, I couldn’t stop laughing because they’re all so crazy but also spot on:

“…another week won’t hurt…” Love that finding Dr. John in the bar is *actually* the official emergency response plan (true story). We rode a bike into the water too, but it was off a freakin’ boat into open ocean instead of a dock! Notice the eyewear of choice; this is where my douche bans habit began, along with so many other bad ideas… Oh Tranquila Tequila Tuesday, the most dangerous day of the week. Going diving at Black Coral Wall, of course they are because it’s crazy overdived and everyone is sick of it. And the lies… “not drinking tonight” but in a Flor de Caña singlet. Yeah, it’s a healthy place, riiiight…

The strict state of Mexico

Everything is so expensive and regulated. Price fixing is the norm. Alcohol isn’t sold in stores at night or on Sundays. Tour companies make you wear a lifejacket every time you jump in the water, even if you walk in from the beach. Police checkpoints are frequent on the highway. Taxi drivers in Tulum are a powerful mafia force that dominate local politics and create strict rules in their favor that are rigorously enforced. In tourist areas, prices are sky high and there is little room for negotiation; they’ll just wait for the next tourist to rip off. It is a struggle to find cheapness and flexibility that is so easy in other countries. After experiencing more laxness elsewhere in Central America the Yucatan feels oppressively regulated and organized.

Return to the Yucatan, starting with Tulum

I’m a completely different traveler than I was five months ago. Way back when, I was just starting off, still getting my travel legs, and recovering from splitting up with Ben. I was more tentative. I did a lot of standard touristy things (which was fine, and I would do most again) and stayed close to home in the hostels. I was just getting used to making friends on the road. Now I’m just a few weeks from returning to the states, am beginning to think about endings and life after Central America, am not traveling solo anymore, and do the more serious adventure travel stuff like cavern diving.

Tulum was one of my favorite places when I first passed through Mexico. In fact, it was the first place I “got stuck”. Tulum around two has struck me in a completely different way. I’ve definitely enjoyed it but it has been so different. This time around, the focus was cenote diving. This was the reason I returned and what I meant to do with my time and money. I linked back up with the now thoroughly-bearded Richard (whose new look reminds me of Joaquin Phoenix during his lost year, especially when he wears my douche bans) after parting in Utila over a month ago. He arrived a few days before me so I hung out with friends he had made in the hostel and checked out Tulum from my seasoned-traveler perspective. Then the magic happened: three days diving cenotes, which was such a special experience that I will write more about soon in detail. Cenotes, my first water love, I am so thrilled to be reuinited with you!
You really should consider traveling with a bearded man.
Revisiting Calavera cenote. Woot!! ❤

Back the first time round, I had a pack full of clothes I hated because I didn’t want to bring anything I might loose; I picked up my first bikini in Tulum round one and now have a wardrobe of dresses with me. I know better where the cheap tacos are, how to find the good ice cream and public places to hang, that you need to go around the corner to rent the cheap bikes, and how to negotiate the entrance fee down at a cenote.

Rich’s favorite taco stand, where they cost 7 pesos ($0.55) and have heaps of excellent toppings.
Mayan calendar sculpture in Tulum Parque Central. How did I miss this the first time??
Decisions, decisions.
Street food in Parque Central.
Manquesitas: crispy crepes with cheese and a sweet. I chose dulce de leche.

50 peso beachrider bikes from Casa del Sol, cenote bound with a muy bueno stick.
Restaurant dinner of garlic grilled fish and ceviche. Tasty, but bang for the buck tacos are the way to go!!
My last night out in Tulum we went out for drinks with some fellow divers who had guided us in the cenotes. After talking about life and travel with these other wanderers, we said goodnight as they were headed home and we stuck around to listen to a Spanish ska cover band (who were totally awesome btw!). When giving hugs goodbye, I had advice whispered in my ear from someone who hasn’t been “home” in a long time: just keep traveling. As my Central America leg winds down, this is just the kind of encouragement I like to hear…

Blue Hole Day

Ah, the day many a diver waits for when visiting Belize: Blue Hole Day. The Blue Hole is one of, if not THE, most iconic dive sites in Belize. Unlike most of the reef diving that goes on around here, the Blue Hole is a flooded cenote way out in the Lighthouse Reef. It is 1000 feet across and 150 meters deep, was made famous by Jacques Cousteau, and is now a marine reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite its fame, the Blue Hole received mixed reviews from many divers I encountered, mostly due to the fact that it is just a deep blue hole without the “prettiness” of the reef. But I’ve been diving the reef in Belize and Utila for thirty-odd dives now, so welcomed something different. I was curious what I would think but had an inkling I would dig it.
The Blue Hole, arial view. Image credit http://www.atlasobscura.com

I celebrated Blue Hole Day on Long Caye with my friends at Huracan Diving, where I stayed for a week. Upon waking up at 6am with that same “it’s my birthday!” feeling of holiday specialness, I was immediately confronted by a dilemma: my blue bikini was still wet from hanging outside in the rain. I could of course wear my dry pink bikini but that would be so off theme for Blue Hole Day! I shared my problem with Jerome and Ryan over first breakfast (more on this later) and both voted there actually was no dilemma because whatever I wore was going to get wet on the boat anyway. I took that as two votes for blue. 😛

Yay for Blue Hole Day! (note the bikini choice)
Yum… no better way to start the day than first breakfast!

Huracan Diving on Long Caye is in the unusual situation of being located very close to the Blue Hole, within the same reef in fact. Most people stay further away in Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye and must get up very early then take a two-plus hour boat ride to get to Blue Hole, usually arriving about 8am, followed by two dives at Half Moon Caye (these people always rave about). It’s a huge day trip! But at Huracan we were was just fifteen minutes away and took multiple trips to nearby Half Moon Caye on different days, so we could take it easy. We got up at a reasonable hour, had first breakfast, departed Long Caye at 7am, and were the first ones at Blue Hole by a long shot. Diving early and without crowds is always better, especially when there is silt that can be kicked up and destroy visibility. As my friend Nick would say, winning!

This is why Long Caye kicks everyone else’s butt on Blue Hole Day and diving Lighthouse Reef anytime.

Our divemaster Jerome briefed us once we anchored at the south side inside the Blue Hole. From the boat we could just barely see the reef edge that is so distinct in arial photos. We went over our dive plan with particular interest paid to going deep; to reach the stalactites we would be maxing out the depth limits for recreational diving so received reminders on maintaining neutral buoyancy at depth, ascent path and timing, the possibility of additional safety stops if needed, and awareness of possible nitrogen narcosis.

What’s inside the hole. Source: Google Images

Down we went, equalizing like normal down to the edge of the reef at about 30 feet. From there it was a sheer drop down. We regrouped, then descended into the dark blue. It was an easy sinking descent to our max depth of 43 meters, a new personal record for me. At that depth, we reached the stalactite overhang. Approaching them, my mind began to race with excitement, wondering if I was tinged with narcosis, but I slowed my breathing and calmed down. From there we saw reef sharks lazily swimming beneath us. We wove in between the stalactites, encrusted with sea life, and I knew for certain then and there I was going to adore cenote diving for sure. Happily, I did flips for the camera, perhaps a little narked out after all. (And yes, I did notice shortly after the flips that my backup second stage had come loose and fixed it…) The whole ambiance was one of adventure and otherworldliness. I loved it.

The deeper you dive the more quickly you use up your air supply, so on a deep dive you can only spend a little time down at depth then take the majority of your time slowly and safely ascending. We spent about ten minutes from jumping off the boat, descending, and swimming the stalactites before beginning our twenty-five minute ascent. On the slow way up we worked our way out of decomp, saw more reef sharks, and enjoyed the view of the blue deep. We took our normal safety stop at fifteen feet at the top reef, and all was well. As we returned to the boat and got ready to depart, a second boat just arrived from Caye Caukler was just being briefed. We were in and out before anyone else.

A little deeper than we’re *technically* supposed to go…

Another glorious thing about Blue Hole Day at Huracan? Double breakfasts! One at 6am beforehand and one at 9am upon returning. I was psyched after a great dive, quick boat ride home, hot shower, and clean clothes that continued my fashion theme. The gang gathered for second breakfast (including pancakes with nutella+chunky peanut butter for me!) and a log book debrief. We were pretty happy after a great morning of diving.

Log bookin’ it up with the gang over second breakfast.

After the adventure of the morning I took it easy for the rest of the day. To add to the happy times we had stew chicken with rice and beans for lunch! Afterwards, Ryan and I spent the afternoon kayaking, snorkelling, having fun with his new GoPro video camera, and scaring the bejesus out of Christmas tree worms and the spots off Flamingo Tongues (two of my favorite creatures!) at the shallow reef just off the coast near the Long Caye west dock. That night we ate shrimp, drank Belikin, and I finally got my first win against Ryan in Rummikub. Heart Blue Hole Day!

Happy blue diver.

Get me to the boat on time: five countries in 56 hours by land, air, and sea

With one more month left in Central America and having reached my southern-most destination, it was time to turn around and head north towards my exit in Cancun. I would be revisiting Belize and Mexico to meet up with friends I had met along the way and dive Lighthouse Reef in Belize and cenotes in Mexico.

First stop: Long Caye in Belize to visit some lovely people I met three months ago in Caye Caulker who run a guest house out in the Lighthouse Reef that I would describe as a diving retreat. Long Caye is a small island with a permanent population of only about twenty people and is without regular transport; there was one boat I *must* make if I wanted to make it there. My deadline was set: Wednesday at 2pm I had to be on a dock in Belize City. To get there from Granada, Nicaragua would be a three-day travel blitz through five countries; I was under no illusions that I would have time for sight seeing along the way. It was another epic journey, this time executed on my own without a buddy, and surprisingly enjoyable despite the serial early mornings.

Three days, five countries, over 700 miles via bus, plane, taxi, and boat.

My original plan was to fly directly from Managua, Nicaragua to Belize City, Belize. But this plan was thwarted by a malfunctioning airline website resulting in a sudden drastic price increase. I decided to go by land instead, purchased a bus ticket, but then–unconfident with the Guatemalan bus system’s ability to get me from Guatemala City to Belize City in under 24 hours–I opted to shill out some extra cash for a short plane flight to insure I reached my destination on time. More expensive, but hey, it worked.

Thus it began:

DAY ONE, Monday
  • 3:30 am: Woke after a fitful sleep; I was up every hour because I don’t have a reliable alarm clock and did not trust the hostel night watchman to wake me at the appropriate time. My taxi reservation had been lost just hours before and there was doubt whether or not it would actually arrive. Had more bizarre lucid dreams–a habit of mine on this trip–which weren’t helped by a dormmate with a strong stutter who approached my top bunk in the middle of the night and started talking to me. (He was already on my bad side: earlier that evening when I lost my bus ticket and was frantically going through my stuff, he lectured me on not getting stressed out, saying all the things a stressed out person does NOT want to hear. I’m sure he meant well, but good god his attempt at late-night conversation was disorienting!)
  • 3:45 am: Taxi did arrive on time (yay!) and drove me one hour to Managua, Nicaragua.
  • 5:30 am: Caught my TICA bus from Managua to Guatemala City. This bus ride would take two days. TICA bus is the way to travel; they execute travel so smoothly. With comfortable space and provisions, the ride was pleasant. I alternated between sleeping, reading/writing, and enjoying the view of the countryside. I had two seats to myself, my travel pillow, blanket, loungey clothes, snacks, and a huge stack of books mostly procured from Lucha Libro in Granada, including:
    • For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway
    • Me Talk Pretty One Day, Sedaris
    • One Hundred Years of Solitude, García Márquez
    • Anna Karenina, Tolstoy
    • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Doyle
    • A Wrinkle in Time, L’Engle
    • Pride and Prejudice, Austin
    • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Franklin
    • The Trial and Death of Socrates, Plato
    • I, Claudius, Graves
    • Common Sense, Paine
Oh, TICA bus, you need some english speaking proof-readers…
  • Over the next twelve hours on the bus, we left Nicaragua, crossed into Honduras, then into El Salvador. I had a whole different emotional reaction to travel this trip. The first times I entered both Guatemala and Honduras I felt an element of fear. I didn’t know what it would be like and had images of potential danger dancing in my head. This time, I felt safe on the TICA bus (they know how to seamlessly do a border crossing) and nostalgic for my time already spent in Honduras. I was happy to return, even just passing through for a short period. El Salvador was new, but I still felt secure; I know how to make these transits now.
  • 2:00 pm: Rest stop. Discovered El Salvador uses US dollars as their primary currency. Sweet! This makes things easier: instead of different currencies here and there, I can use USD the whole way to Belize!
  • 6:00 pm: Arrived in San Salvador, El Salvador. Driving through downtown, I was surprised how lame San Salvador is; it reminded me of San Pedro Sula in that it is FILLED with shiny plastic American chain fast food (what I hesitate to call) restaurants. Nothing special whatsoever that I saw. No charm, all neon.
  • 8:00 pm: I had designs for a papusa dinner, but those went out the window fast with a late night arrival in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Instead, after some internet time sorting out logistics for the following day, I ended up eating pizza and drinking cool red wine out of a champagne flute at an over-air conditioned Italian restaurant just across the street from my hostel.
DAY TWO, Tuesday
  • 4:15 am: Awoke after another night of dreaming people were in my empty dorm talking to me. (WTF crazy brain? Just let me sleep already!!) Took a taxi to the TICA bus station for leg number two.
  • 6:00 am: Caught the TICA bus to Guatemala City. Still had two seats to myself, so comfyness continued. Read a little, slept LOTS.
  • 10:00 am: Crossed the border into Guatemala and found papusas! Just a few cents apiece, I got myself a small plate for second breakfast.
Papusas in Guatemala, just over the border.
  • I was immediately happy to be back in Guatemala. On my first run through back in April, I didn’t fully appreciate the vibrancy of the culture and people. Instead of plastic lawn ornaments like in El Salvador, bunches of flowers are sold on the side of the highway. The landscape feels lush and green and friendly. I hadn’t realized how much I missed it.
  • 12:30 pm: Arrived in Guatemala City and immediately took a taxi to my hostel. I actually *liked* driving through Guatemala City, which you are not supposed to as it is notoriously dangerous and charmless. Even though most tienda business is conducted behind iron grates for safety, that Guatemalan flare was still there. I picked up four bottles of Quetzalteca, my favorite cheap Guatemalan spirit, then hunkered in at the hostel for the night, eating a dinner of pan fried english muffins with peanut butter and bananas.
That didn’t last long…
DAY THREE, Wednesday
  • 4:30 am: Woke early once more and took a shuttle to the airport, arriving the recommended 1.5 hours before departure. I was the first person at the minuscule domestic terminal, it took two seconds to check me in, and then I slept on a bench for an hour and twenty minutes. Ugh. There is nothing I hate more than getting to the airport way too early. Don’t get me wrong, I never arrive late enough to miss flights, but being there so early is an unnecessary waste of time that drives me nuts.
  • 6:30 am: On a backdrop of beautiful Guatemalan volcanoes and rolling hills, finally departed on TAG flight to Flores, Guatemala.
That beautiful Guatemalan landscape.
  • 7:15 am: Arrived in Flores. During customs inspection discover that my stuffed-to-the-max backpack had busted open at the seams in three places. D’oh! Luckily my rain cover kept things mostly in place for the rest of this trip. I was super amused to see the Belikin beer ad printed on the back of my Tropic Air boarding pass. Can’t wait to get me a bottle of stout!
Belikin pride!

  • 9:00 am: Departed on Tropic Air flight to Belize City. It was a teeny tiny propeller plane with room only for six passengers. Being the only single, they asked if I wanted to sit up front in the copilot’s spot. Um, how about yes absolutely?!
Our little propeller plane.
They should have given me a co-pilot hat!
All the stuff I could have touched and totally screwed us all over.
  • 9:45 am: Landed at Belize City airport, gathered my luggage, and went out to the curb to find a transfer to downtown. All taxis charged $25–outrageous!! I figured there must be a better way, but apparently no buses go to the airport (really? I still find this hard to believe…) I did discover a shuttle to the Princess Hotel, where my boat was departing from. I hitched a ride. The driver told me he is waiting for another flight and we will leave in 10-15 minutes.
  • 11:30 am: Shuttle FINALLY leaves the airport after over an hour of collecting 7 other people on 3 different flights. All but the last passengers were peeved.
  • 11:45 am: Arrived in Belize City proper. Acquired stewed pork plate for lunch, patching material for imminent backpack repair, and special request items for peeps on Long Caye. Searched for a Belikin singlet that did NOT say “You better Belize it!” on the back. Was unsuccessful.
  • 1:00 pm: Stormy weather hit. The seas looked rough and you could not see past the edge of dock. Looking out at the water made me think about how two weeks ago some people I knew got lost at sea in Honduras between Roatan and Utila. They were miraculously found after four day adrift, but after hearing that story I was a smidge leery of boat travel, even though my situation and theirs was absolutely nothing alike. I was in the good hands of capable crew who knew the conditions and area.
Not my ideal vessel for inclement weather…
  • 2:00 pm: The weather leveled off, rain mostly subsided, and the small uncovered boat left on schedule. I huddled in the back, sharing a giant yellow raincoat with another guest as we road into a light rain. After just a few minutes, the rain stopped and the ride became much more pleasant. We crossed the open blue, the mangroves of Turneffe Atoll, and the last leg of ocean until we entered Lighthouse Reef.
  • 4:00 pm: I arrived on Long Caye, safe and sound and on schedule! I happily took a welcome coconut caipirinha from my hostess Ruth. An excellent beginning to a week of chilling out.
Hello Long Caye. Nice to meet you. 🙂
Woohoo! Made it. Time to kick back and enjoy the island lifestyle.
It was a long trip, but I actually really enjoyed it. I covered a lot of ground over those three days and got to see hours of beautiful scenery during transit. I also felt very confident and secure the whole time, and am happy to have the travel scene of Central America down. I enjoyed feeling independent and capable. Sometimes it is all about the journey, no? It does feel weird to be making my final moves towards departure in three weeks. Trying not to think about it!!

Leaving Utila

On the road again, but I still ❤ Utila.

It had to happen eventually. Especially after seven weeks. The family had to break up, the party had to stop, the bubble had to burst. A little bit ago there was a tragedy that struck the dive shop and then a baby hurricane hit; it was grey overcast with an odd mood cast over my corner of this island. Even though the rain poured down, the heat and humidity never cut. It’s like the island started rejecting us. The sunshine good times were over and it was time to start getting the hell out. That was two weeks ago, and I feel like I have been saying goodbyes ever since.

I will miss being so connected to this tight-knit community. I’ve made so many friends here who I adore. I love how long it takes me to walk the 100m from the dive shop to my house because I am stopped over and over by my friends–sharing news, giving a dinner invitation, or just saying hi. You can’t help but be keyed in to what’s happening with everyone, and it is a beautiful beautiful thing.

Some say Utila will steal your soul. Perhaps it does. The last days have been an especially crazy mix of celebration, goodbyes, and large quantities of rum. Mad fun, bittersweet, weird. The crew is all shipping out in all separate directions. DMTs are graduating, new instructors are being minted; everyone is finishing what they came here to do. It’s getting dangerously close to the Bitter End.

I have loved this time in my life and will miss these brilliant moments dearly.

As we gathered up our posse on another “last night”, this one for Rich and Brian, walking down the street from La Cueva to Skid Row we called out for a final “Roll call!!”. Won’t be many more nights all together now. Just a few last family dinners and farewells. Oh, plus a naked dive and a fancy dive to cap things off.  It’s been a blast, and I love so many of you. Hope to catch each and every one elsewhere in the world, another place another time, where we can reminisce about when we called insane Utila “home”.

But Nicaragua and Mexico beckon. I actually booked a hostel in San Pedro Sula and Leon the other day, so I know the departure is happening. After doing some travel research, suddenly I’m not just “leaving Utila” but headed towards new adventure, and it looks like it’s going to be awesome. Packing up my bag for the first time in a month, it is time. I’m getting excited.

On my last day, I walked about settling up my business. (I don’t skip town without paying my tabs, unlike *some* people!) I said farewell to my laundry lady, happy birthday to Denny Bush, scheduled a haircut, said bye to the ladies at La Casita, waved to Sophia passing by on the back of an ATV, got more compliments on my fancy dive outfit the day before, picked up a pack of cookies for the afternoon fun dive at BICD, said what up to Tom, had a super mega baleada at Seven Seas, and was reminded by Doug and Vero about my going away party that night. That night at Vero’s place we all gathered and DJ Jeff started off the party with MJ’s “Thriller”, because my Utila family knows my jam. Doug and I danced the night away. My last morning I spent with joking and laughing Beau and Ben at Rio Coco, then one last liquado and sausage sandwich at my favorite spot, Che Pancho, with Nick. When I closed out my bill at UDC for the third time, Rusty eyed me sceptically. No! I’m leaving this time. Really! I left the island feeling so happy.

Mic spike, smoke bomb, I’m going to get my harmonica… in Nicaragua. I’m out!

Sunset dockside beers with friends, is there a better way to end the day?
…perhaps by throwing in a few dead baby jokes! Oh, we are wonderful people…
A little bike-towing mischief en route.
Just hanging on a boat with a bunch of hot half-naked men, how I do.
Tying up on the beautiful south side of Utila, per usual for an afternoon boat.

Tea-quila shots! Can’t let the photo dive boat props go to waste…
Wouldn’t be a party without a cute me+Nico photo. BEFORE he ditches us to go to sleep. 😛

Running to Treetanic in the rain. I was so proud I didn’t loose my shoes that night. Photo courtesy of  Courtney Ramos.

The gang, rockin’ it down the street. Photo courtesy of Courtney Ramos.

The real Aussies representing at Treetanic. Photo courtesy of Richard McKenna.
Let’s hear from all the Americans: Aussie aussie aussie! Oi oi oi!! Photo courtesy of Courtney Ramos.
Rich after he survived his divemaster snorkel test, wearing now-my staff t-shirt. 😉 Photo courtesy of  Richard McKenna.

IDC party and the man of the hour: Instructor Doug! With scores that were practically perfect in every way. Gratz again, hon. 😀
Kissie kissie!
Doug and Sophia, peer-pressure cheering me to stay just a few more days. Well, okay… Photo courtesy of Nick Cooper.
Surprisingly met up again with the ever-charming Mr. Nick Cooper. Next stop, Nicaragua! Photo courtesy of  Nick Cooper.
Sky over the Utila harbor on the night of the boat light parade, from the back of Denny Bush’s speedboat.
Vero getting the party started after boat light parade when UDC, Cross Creek, and my boat joined together to make a big floating dance floor in the middle of the harbor.

Ross taking over the bbq master mantle.
Gearing up for my *actual* last dive.
Representing UDC as we infiltrate BICD!
No Doug, Plata is never ok. Except when all the Flor is gone. 😛
Last night revelry. Who knew the beach party could actually be good??