It seems like we just got to Roatán, but we already find ourselves in a bit of a rush to leave – this was definitely not in the plan! This was described in detail in our previous blog post, but it all started with our apartment in Utila, which was booked after Dec. 13. We had to leave, and we wanted to see Roatan, so we hopped on over here. Then the 30-day extension for tourists (the extension we were counting on) was cancelled by the Honduran government. Boom! we were 2 weeks away from being illegal aliens in Honduras.
So, we spent our first week in Roatan planning a trip to Belize to reset our Visa clock, the second week heading off to Belize and back, and the third week back in Roatan. It wasn't a good use of our time but it was certainly a unique holiday season! Feliz Navidad y próspero año nuevo!
Now we're finally settling into Roatan, into the West End community anyway, and are really enjoying it. We've found the best grocery store, a couple of fun beachfront bars, some nice beaches, and a very close restaurant serving a Coconut Curry Chicken that'll have you weeping tears of joy. AND I FOUND SAM ADAMS BOSTON LAGER AND SIERRA NEVADA PALE ALE! (cue the rainbows and fireworks!). As a beer guy, I could only take light lagers for just so long - this brings me real joy!
We also met a great guy named Santi who speaks very little English. This is a huge bonus because he's very friendly and we can work on our conversational Spanish with him. But meeting him took a screw up of major proportions on my part. Very early in our stay here, we went to the ATM to get cash. We rolled through the Spanish ATM prompts like old pros and got our cash. Then we went on our way, stopping at a waterfront bar that had Wifi (really bad Wifi it turned out). We had the doggies in tow, and were enjoying the view and a couple of cold drinks, plus a little Internet. That's when I discovered my money clip only had money in it. It should have had my credit card also. Blink – the ATM! and next thing you know, Deb was heading back there while I waited with the dogs. She didn't find the card in the slot and starting asking a couple of the local guys what to do. They were trying to help her, and suggested she report the card missing, when Santi found it on top of the AMT machine. Joy! The next person must have just pulled it out and put it up there. Such a nice thing for these guys to help us out! We see Santi almost every day now when we walk the main street, so we chat with him when he's not busy selling soccer (futbol) shirts on the street.
One of the things we love is to walk the beach toward the west from our small community of West End (which isn't really at the west end of the island) to West Bay (which is less of a bay and more of a gently curving beach). It's a couple of miles walk and it takes some climbing over and around some rocky protrusions, but it's mostly quiet sand beaches. The only sounds are the small water taxi boats taking people between the two communities. We may take one of those one day, they're only $3 per person each way, but we enjoy the walk. We took the dogs one day and they loved it! Kirby loves to explore (to a fault!) so he's all in. Maxwell celebrates with prolonged barking and almost howling, every time he makes it over the rocks and back to the sand! Ahh-woo!
As far as settling in goes, we're also getting a feel for cost of living here, and it's definitely higher than in Utila, although not outrageous. Here's a few cost comparisons:
Eggs (Utila, from our landlord's yard chickens) $2.00/dozen
Eggs (Roatán, from the store) $2.55/dozen
Cookies, chocolate chip (Utila, fresh baked) $4.25/dozen
Cookies, chocolate chip (Roatán, fresh baked) $6.35/dozen
Small Dog Food (Utila, Dogui Brand) $1.30/lb
Small Dog Food (Roatán, Dogui Brand) $1.61/lb
Bag Lettuce (Utila, variety, washed, from Roatan) $3.80
Bag Lettuce (Roatán, same brand, same everything, from Roatán) $3.40
Granola (Utila) $2.65/lb
Granola (Roatán) $3.50/lb
Beer, (Utila, Honduran, Salva Vida) $18.25/case
Beer, (Roatán, Mexican, Negra Modelo) $29.00/case (better beer, and imported)
Coffee (Utila, very good) $5.00/lb
Coffee (Roatán, very good) $6.20/lb
Orange Juice (Utila, fresh squeezed on the mainland, very delicious) $7/gallon
Orange Juice (Roatán, fresh squeezed in Roatan, very delicious) $5/gallon
Wine (Utila, from Chile, very good) $8.40
Wine (Roatán, from Chile, very good) $8.40 (same wine, same price – this wine is equivalent to about a $12-$15 bottle in Colorado)
Rum (Utila, from Nicaragua, 5 year) $12/liter
Rum (Roatán, from Nicaragua, 5 year) $18/liter (same rum, higher price)
You can see that most things are higher here, some of it up to 50% higher, with a few exceptions. If it is made in Roatán, it is cheaper. Also, these are just a few staples. One might argue that beer, wine, and rum are not staples, but you would lose that argument. 🙂
Our rent here is about $1500/month (vs. $550 in Utila) but that's because A) we're only here for 6 weeks, and B) those 6 weeks span the holiday season and right on into the high season for tourism. Like many things in these tourist areas, taxis are priced in US dollars. And if it's priced in US dollars, it's going to be a lot more expensive. We've been in Honduras long enough that we have no US dollars left, we've operated on Honduran Lempiras for months now. So we have these strange exchanges where they're surprised to have to take their own country's currency, and convert to dollars.
We still have a lot to do and see here, but we've decided to move along at the end of January. This is not because we don't like Roatan, on the contrary. We love this island, even if it is a little big for our tastes at 45+ miles long. It looks like the kind of place we could be happy long term. It has beautiful beaches and beautiful scenery in general, snorkeling, fishing, good food (definitely better than Utila), good restaurants, good bars. It has busy, high-end areas like West Bay, a little slower life in West End, and a super laid-back island life in the East End. It has a mix of local islanders, mainlanders, tourists, and ex-pats, all of which make for interesting conversations. Even though we don't really have a chance to evaluate it properly, we'll probably do an island summary like we did on Utila. And we'll probably return here one day to spend more time, to find out if this could be our forever home.
But we have made the big decision to move on...drum roll please...to Vieques, Puerto Rico! We've been in close contact with our landlord and his Realtor and are starting to feel comfortable with going there. The island has a long way to go to get back to its previous glory; we've been told you have be a little adventuresome. But we're up for that, and we're gaining confidence that the positive trend will continue in the coming months. And if not, if the power in our neighborhood goes down for an extended period, if the water shuts off, if we get isolated there without Internet, we'll have to move along. But the plan is to go there and stay there for an extended period of time. No more worrying about dog health certificates, whether the hotel allows them, no more worries about the size of our huge rolling duffels, or how long we can stay in this country or that, etc. etc.
Plus, we get to buy STUFF! Well, just a few important items like bicycles, a speargun, diving weights, a fishing pole & tackle, a paddleboard, you know, just the basics of life! We're very excited; we've been trying to get there since late September and it's finally happening! We are so ready to have our own house & yard to take the dogs out in - such a simple thing but that just hasn't been easy in the places we've been living, with shared land area.
That decision made, alluvasudden we're running out of time here in Roatán - in fact, we are already under 3 weeks left. The rainy season is putting a small cramp in our ability to explore the island because it makes it hard to really commit to outdoor excursions. But it hasn't completely shut us down - we always find a way to get out and explore. The shortening timeline hasn't caused us any stress because we don't consider ourselves tourists in the classic sense. By that I mean the family of four that flies in from Milwaukee for a week or 10 days, or worse, the people from the cruise ship who are only here for a day. We are around for more than just a few weeks, so we feel we have time, lots and lots of time! Except now we don't, and we just don't know how to act because we refuse to go full tourist mode and run around like a crazy people with a sunburn!
Of course, before we wrap up this Roatán adventure we'll do more exploring like we do. We'll walk to West Bay and maybe Sun Bay, we'll go to the sloth and monkey preserve. Maybe we'll get all the way to the East End which, because of the sparse population, I imagine is like the island version of going east from Greeley, Colorado. Except it has elevation (sea level up to 1000'), cliffs, beaches, and boats. But not a lot of cows and corn. OK, it's nothing like driving into eastern Colorado, but we'll let you know what we find.
In the coming 3 weeks, we'll be doing some island touring, but also preparing for another trip - this time with the dogs. So that means health certificates, getting them approved on the airplanes and hotels, that sort of thing. Packing won't be bad because we're lighter now than when we came, but it always stresses us (me) a little. Travel in general stresses us, so we're really looking forward to settling down in Vieques for a while. If that doesn't work out for any reason, I think the Bahamas is a top candidate because they'll take us for 8 months. What a luxury that would be compared to this island hopping!
More posts to come from Roatán, Honduras, don't touch that dial!
TODAY'S SPECIAL: “Rum” by the Brothers Osborne - it's all about having fun wherever you are. “Two parts love and a pinch of good weather. And top it all off with the sun, and mix it with rum, rum, rum.”