Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Turtle's Tale - Roatan, Time & Place

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KISSING COUSINS

It was through fortuitous circumstances that we ended up visiting Roatan.  Our planned dates to visit our own vacation condo in Grand Cayman had to move due to work commitments; as luck would have it, the condo was rented out over our new travel dates.  So, we were forced to consider “cheating” on Cayman and visiting somewhere new.  Being an avid snorkeler, I was drawn to the Bay Islands.  After conducting super-duper in-depth research, I selected Roatan based on all the good things I read about the reef and its accessibility; while I figured my wife “ wouldn't mind” the beach.

We searched the rental by owner sites and were both intrigued by a rental called Xbalanque; partly because the accommodations (minimalist and modern) and partly because of the location (roughly half way between West Bay and West End).  Never having been to Roatan, we also liked the idea of the chef and bartender being available on-site (it’s a developing country, if we can’t drink the water or flush the toilet paper, what are we going to eat?).  After running all our lodging finalists by the TA forum for feedback and advice, we decided to go with our gut.

The gathering feelings of guilt about our upcoming dalliance with La Isla Latina, got me thinking of ways to make it seem alright.  Then it dawned on me, during my research for the trip, I learned that one of the groups that first settled the Bay Islands came from Cayman Islands.  That’s it!  Visiting Roatan is like we were just going to another one of the Cayman Islands.  Thank you Wikipedia, I promise to make a donation.



Cheating?  Nah, just kind of like kissing your cousin.






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CHECKING BUGS


Having all our “resort wear” at our place in Cayman forced us to shuttle some back earlier in the year in preparation for this trip.  We actually have to pack for this this trip.  Darn, that means we are going to have to actually check bags.

Being insect magnets, Mrs. T is the Skeeter-bait and I am the No-see-um Yum, we proceeded to hit Amazon to stock-up on all the wonderful snake oils we read about on TripAdvisor - Cactus Juice, Lemon Eucalyptus Oil, Deep Woods Off, 100% DEET, Multi-vitamins, Lard, etc...best take two of each.

The arsenal

Come on, we had to check a bag anyway.  To ward off all the other nasties, we also opted for as many pills, stabs, jabs and live bacteria tablets our travel Doc would recommend.  Not coming home to be known as Typhoid Testudo.


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I MUST BE IN THE FRONT ROW


With no direct flights available for our dates, a connection in Houston was in the cards.  So as not to waste any vacation time, we opted for a Friday night departure with an overnight at IAH.  Turns out the owners of the rental were going to be in Roatan the same time we were and they were actually on our connecting flight.  At least we knew we’d have no issue tying to find our ride at the airport.

We booked seats in the front of the plane to try and avoid any snarls in immigration.  Turns out they also deplaned from the rear on our flight.  So much for that bright idea.  None-the-less, we were near the front of the immigration lines and got through in about 10-15 minutes or less.

Then it was time to hurry-up and wait for the luggage.  Mrs T. took the initiative and grabbed some ice cold bottles of the local brew to help get us acclimated to the harsh developing country environment.  Once we finally had all the luggage collected we were off on our adventure.
Life Saver


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FISH OF THE WEEK
After a few business stops along the way for our hosts, we were introduced to one of my new  favorite foods - pastelitos -  at a stop in West End.  Fresh-made by one of their on-island partners and filled with flapping fresh Wahoo.  Yahoo!, was about all we could say as we tried to constrain ourselves from inhaling a dozen.  Thinking, “Hey, if these pasetello {sic} things are that good, how good are the baleadas going to be?”

We stayed in the boutique hotel portion of the Xbalanque complex which shares its name with the neighboring beach house.  For those familiar with the area, it is near the South Shore Zip-Line and quizzical inland roadside lighthouse bar/restaurant (has anyone been there?).  From the beach it is a few properties past Gumbalinda Park, heading east.  There is also another rental home on the property.  The grounds are amazing with a small stream running through to the beach, caged parrots, lighted lanterns in the trees, a stunning pool with water features, a private dock with hammocks and little decorative touches all over.  Judging by the surroundings, we were feeling pretty good about our upcoming week.
                       


After getting settled, we hitched a ride with the owner to Eldon’s supermarket at Plaza Mar to procure some supplies (pretty much booze, water and a few crackers and such).  Must say the supermarket had just about anything you would want, even armed shelf-stockers (or were they guards?) and the pricing was...well I don’t know what the costs were because I never took the time to check out what the exchange rates with the USD were.  No worries, I was paying with plastic.  A nice bag boy helped us with our boxes, yes boxes, of provisions to the car (all the vino).  I only had $20 US bills, so sent Mrs. T back in to get some change.  She came back with so much, I had no idea how much to tip the fine young man.  I handed him a green bill figuring it was close in value to a greenback.  He seemed pleased, so I felt good.


Decent Tip?

Being early evening when we got back, we decided to eat at the house restaurant, Lotus.  Truth be told, we really knew we were going to eat there in the afternoon after we helped transport the freshly caught Wahoo (that made the pastelitos) to the kitchen.  Applied some Deep Woods Off,  off we went  to the bar for some cocktails and to mingle with the other guests.

After dinner we headed to the roof-top patio, bottle of wine in tow, to marvel at the stars glistening overhead and listen to the lizards talk dirty to one another.  So far so good.  Better get to sleep early so I can snorkel all day tomorrow.

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NO-A-TAN?


Ahh, Sunday.  Up and at ’em nice and early to snork...watch the rain stream down the windows and the topsy-turvey surf break on the reef.  Not ones to let the weather dampen our days, Mrs. T. sets-up shop under a beach hut, Kindle in hand, while I decided to take a test swim to the reef.  Unable to see much at all due to the run-off and fighting through chop, I headed back to shore to join Mrs. T. , not having seen the actual reef.   What the?  Almost bump heads with an Eagle Ray.  Neither of us saw one another due to the poor visibility.  I think I’m going to like snorkeling here.


Waiting to dry-off, I made my first bad decision.  At least I think it was my first.  Don’t wait to dry-off on a cloudy, breeze-less and rainy day.  Why? Because you’ll get to actually see the No-See-Ums, as they sample your vintage.  Well thankfully it was only one or two bites before I realized I was serving as an early morning Bloody Mary (like a Bloody Caesar, for those few Canucks who visit Roatan) for the buggers.  I rushed back to the room to try out another one of the magic lotions we brought.  Lemon Eucalyptus Oil would be the repellent of the day.  Smelled nice and hopefully it works.  Let’s look at that bite.  Yikes!  It wasn't one or two bites, my approaching corpulent body had 25 odd red bulls-eye marks on it!  Better bring the Maximum Strength Lanacane back out to the beach, along with a double Cuba Libre as back-up itch mitigation.

Lunchtime.  Not exactly sure how these water taxi things work.  Maybe we can walk to West End and try them another day.   We reached a dead-end, for us anyway, at the start of the rock outcropping.  It was high tide and the seas was still churning, so back to Xbalanque.  Wait, I have a better idea, lets walk to West Bay, it is even closer and I want to explore.  Back down the beach towards West Bay.  Pass the zip line, spot a bridge, ought oh.  Mrs. T. freezes.  She suffers from vertigo.  So close...she takes a few step on the ladder-like stairs and freezes again.  Not walking to West Bay.  Back to the Xbalanque where we flag down a water taxi headed to West End.  On the boat ride I notice that none of the bites are itching and neither had they swelled-up at all.  Interesting.

Arrive at West End and ask how much the fare is...$6.  Now what was that exchange rate?  40 to 1 or something?  Is this $250L enough?  Si, mister {loco gringo}.

Might be the same Water Taxi we took, but then the availability of life vests indicate it is not.

Down the dock and into the...MUD.  We knew about the road situation, but why did we have to decide to head there on a rainy day?  After perfecting our puddle jumping and taxi splash evasion techniques, we came upon the Argentinian Grill near Half Moon Bay.  Good burritos and cold beer.  Sat around awhile catching the vibe and people watching.  Now full and content, we asked for the bill and realized the exchange rate was closer to 20 to 1.  Well, I hope that water taxi skipper bought his two kids some ice cream.  Seemed not to be too expensive for the quality of food ~$30 US.  Back to the resort on a $150L water taxi to wait out the weather.

Rib-eye was on the menu for the night’s dinner and even though I swore I was not going to eat any beef on this trip, the other guests were eating there, so we decided to join them.   Nice dinner and the rain eventually moved off-shore. Fingers crossed for snorkeling tomorrow.  Rain, bugs, bridges, bugs, cloudy water, jury is still out on this place.

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THE FISHERMAN AND HIS WIFE


Sunny Monday - First Snorkel Day!  Rise early to hit the reef.  Slather on the heavy-duty all living creature repellent (sorry reef, but is a long swim and I’m not taking any chances).  Down a cup of java and a Bays English Muffin.  Why do I only find Bays English Muffins at grocery stores in the Caribbean, when they are headquartered in Chicago?


 Best English Muffins in the Caribbean?

Lasso the kayak to my ankle leash and head off to the reef.  Water is still a bit cloudy when paddling out, so I do not have high hopes for my first visit.  Once I get to the reef though, the water is a bit clearer, enough so to see the bottom.  Don my gear and roll-off the kayak into...PARADISE!  Head up to Luna Beach to explore the reef up there and make my way back towards “home”.  Get lots of great pictures including a Hawksbill Turtle.

Speaking of leashes, we got our first full introduction to the artist known as Pitbull. Only having been exposed to Mr. Pitbull via a  Dr. Pepper. commercial, our bartender Abel, shared his full catalog on the sound system while we had some drinks at the pool.  Some catchy songs, but one so sickly sweet I couldn’t stand it.

We had some great quesadillas for lunch and lounged in the sun for a few hours afterwards, hanging out with two other couples from Texas.

Another trip to the reef after lunch and then back for some adult beverages.  I can really get used to this routine.

Let me just squeeze in one more snorkel before it is time to re-apply the bug juice and get ready for dinner.  Approaching the channel at reef in the kayak, I hear the sound of something breaking the surface.  Eagle Ray, fish trying to avoid becoming dinner... no, isn’t that a dorsal fin?  The body shape I see almost looks like a dolphin.  Down it goes before I can make a positive ID.  Well if it was a dolphin, he should be resurfacing any minute now.  Let me get my camera ready.  Waiting, waiting, still waiting.  Why hasn't he resurfaced?  What else could that have been if not a dolphin?   Ought oh!  Spidey sense is activated.  Maybe I really don’t need to get a snorkel in with the fast setting sun and all.  I mean sharks usually start feeding at dusk, right?   This might just put a damper on my snorkeling for the week.   

I relay my fish tale to the good folks back at the resort and they are all in utter disbelief.  No one has seen any type of shark, other than a rare nurse shark, inside the reef in the 10 years they have been there.  I am shamed into possibly thinking I have mistaken a giant Permit fish for a shark.


Man Eater
Have to hurry to flag down one of the last water taxis heading to West End.  Brantley, the Jamaican ex-pat skipper asks if we want to book any snorkeling tours with him.  He knows all the good spots.  Just a few hours ago he even got to show a family a pod of dolphins.  See, right over there by those boats.  Phew!  This turtle is not telling any fish tales.

Where to eat?  We heard Tongs was good, along with Besos.  So much mud.  Maybe we’ll just eat somewhere near the drop-off dock.  Ends up a taxi driver prospecting for fares recommends Gio’s.  Wait a minute, I know our host said Gio’s was a fun place in French Hole with another, not as good outpost somewhere closer, but certainly not in West End.  So I question the driver.  His response, “Oh, you’ve been here awhile”.  “Most certainly” I reply.  “Well then, the Lighthouse isn't half bad.”  OK we’ll give it a shot.  “You come back for a taxi?”  “Yeah, Yeah”.

Turns out the Lighthouse makes killer Mojitos and the owner let us sample some of the locally produced Grog.  What’s not to like?  Both had our fish of the week and enjoyed the hefty portions.  Gourmet, it is not.  Basic good food it is.  Eating under the stars just makes everything seem better.  Hey, hey, taxi, taxi take us home.

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INSTANT KARMA’S GONNA GET YOU....R WALLET


Tuesday is Valentine’s Day.  The morning routine now well ensconced.  Quick breakfast, kayak, snorkel.  Since it is a lighter cruise ship day, we decide we will investigate West Bay today.  Take in some rays, have a mojito and groove to Pitbull’s greatest hits, which is again playing on the sound system.  Abel is such a nice guy, but I think I’m going to have to request a new mix.  Dance/Pop is just so out of sync with the vibe here.  Damn, not that silly song again.

Water Taxi to West Bay with the Texans.  They are already connected on island with a water taxi at their beckon call.  How’d they manage that?  Find out it is thanks to a phone and a water taxi’s cell #.  Is there any better mode of transportation?  Wait, why don’t we have a phone?  I’ll get around to asking that sooner or later.

Land at the dock near Infinity Bay, scope out the area and decide to walk the beach.  A few cruise ships in port and while not wall-to-wall bodies on the beach, it is congested enough to make us grateful for choosing to stay where we did. Bite on the Beach was recommended for lunch, so that is where we head.  A few rum and Cokes, unmemorable fried grouper and grilled chicken sandwiches were had from a great perch.

Back at the hacienda, its time for another round.  Wait, what’s that I hear?  I am not sure, but I know it is not Enrique, rather some new age ambient melodies.  Somehow that just sounds more appropriate for our setting.  Oh, forgot Karma Jewelers were doing a trunk show later in the afternoon.  A favorite of our host, Mrs. T’s interest was piqued.  I think I best head out for a long snorkel.

Fantastic conditions and I spot a long lost relative.  Explore the reef system from Luna Beach to Gumbalina Park, it is magical.  Pruning up, I finally must beach myself and come ashore...to find the damage was done.  Karma takes credit cards.

The Karma Duo, Marco and Karla (Image from TripAdvisor)

Hoped to have dinner at Vintage Pearl, but were unable to score a table.  No worries, there is a special Valentine’s dinner at Lotus.   Wahoo!

Later, while taking in another fabulous sunset from the roof-top and listening the Pitbull CD repeat down below (the nice folks from Karma had moved on), we got to hear what would become our theme song for the week, the sickly sweet crooning of Enrique Ingelsias: I Like It (Don't click, you'll regret it!).  As the sun dips, we clink our wine glasses and spontaneously perform a karaoke-esque sing-along with Enrique.


After a few days to get grounded in Roatan, we both decided, yeah...we like it.

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GETTING OUR FILL(et) OF BAREFEET


Wednesday and we are in the zone.  Mrs. T. cranks out a full-spread breakfast - Bay’s breakfast sandwiches with eggs, turkey bacon and extra sharp cheddar.  Fueled and itching to go (literally, some of the bites from Sunday are starting to itch), I’m off to the "fabled" Blue Channel for some snorkeling.  Hope I can find it.

After a lengthy paddle, I vector toward the location I discerned from Google Earth.  Since there is a steady breeze, it is probably best to moor the kayak at a buoy.  Nirvana!  The snorkeling is the best yet and I have the place all to myself.  The coral, the fish, the channel itself.  Lots to see in a smallish area.

After an hour or so, I decide to start snorkeling back along the reef to Xbalanque with the kayak in tow, when I soon run into trouble.  Swarms of Sea Walnut jellyfish are being forced by the wind and tide toward the reef and becoming giant masses.  I know these guys don’t pose a stinging threat (or at least I think these are the species that don’t sting), but when you get stuck in a cloud and can’t see much past them, it can get a bit unnerving.  I dive deep trying to evade them.  No luck.  Probably better-off getting in the kayak.


Kayak!  Where the F is the kayak!  I see the paddle floating near me, but the kayak is floating over the reef and drifting quickly out toward Utila.  Urp, gurgle, gurgle.  Damn, shouldn’t have had that second Bay’s McMuffin.  Can’t worry about that now, gotta retrieve that boat.  Luckily, the kayak was hovering over a small channel area, so I was able to corral it without issue.  Note to self, learn how to tie better knots and apply learning toward securing paddle as well.

Of course I manage to avoid any jellyfish stings, that is until I am beaching the kayak.  I chose to snorkel in to shore to see what was in the shallows.  Well a box jellyfish was in the shallows and one of its tentacles grazed my lip as I was taking off my mask.  Off to the bar to see if they have some vinegar.  Capt. Jack quickly comes out of the kitchen with some Balsamic.  It will do just fine.

Some sun time and daily dose of “I Like It”.  Darn song is growing on me.  Finish off the Ron Botran Añejo 12 yo and ponder the lunch options.  Since we are in Honduras, shouldn't we try one of the “national” foods.  Baleadas is the choice and Chapi Catrachas is the place.  Water taxi to West End and the now drier roads.

A small line is queued, so we hop on the end.  My, these things are cheap and they even have pastelitos.  Ehh, can’t determine what the filling is for the pastelitos, but I know what pollo, listed as a baleadas filling, is.  “Quattro baleadas con pollo por favor”, I confidently order.  Grab a stool and we dig into our taste of Honduras.  Pretty good, there are some chunks of cartilage I have to spit out, but still pretty good.  I have inhaled my two baleadas when Mrs. T. suddenly makes a pre-hurling gurgle and shoves her plate with a ⅓ of a baleada into my face.  "Fet!"  What?  "Gonna be sick, get it away from me!"  What?  "Feet, Feeet-Feeeet!"  Guess that was a little more than cartilage...

Back to the ranch to sterilize our stomachs with a just opened bottle of Havana Club 7 Añejo.  No Enrique?  Well the native folk music is a welcome respite.  No more snorkeling today as lo estómago es muy mal.  Yes, completely psychosomatic, but problematic none-the-less. Dinner tonight will be at the Vintage Pearl and we want to be able to enjoy our meals.  So we must keep drinking to cleanse our systems.

 +  = 


Hitch a ride to West Bay and arrive a half hour early for our 8:30 reservation at Vintage Pearl.   Based on the piles of footwear out front I guess we are supposed to dine barefoot.  Sounds good to me.   Kill time with some wine at the bar while the hostess looks up our reservation.  She returns and has to break the news that our reservation was in the book for 6:30.  Well this isn't good.  We advise we were offered a choice of 6:30 or 8:30 and not yet ones for early-bird special dinning, we opted for the 8:30.  No problem, we get seated once a table opens up.  Very nice dinner of “the fish of the week” was enjoyed out on the patio.

Request a taxi and are actually accompanied to the alley by the hostess.  The taxi soon arrives and Juan Pablo Ángel assures us he will get us to Xbalanque in no time.  Sure, driving 50 mph like we are on a bobsled run (with no rails!) we do arrive in no time.  $20 Juan Pablo Ángel?  Si.  No tip for you.  Buenos noches.

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THE DEVIL WENT DOWN TO ROATAN


Serling Thursday - Pure morning, days dawning, skin’s crawling.  Damn no-see-um bites are really starting to itch.  Thank God for Lanacane and Rum.  It is starting to dawn on me that the end of our ride is coming into view.  Time to start making the most of this vacation.  I've arranged a trip up to Pristine Bay to snorkel, Mrs. T is content to catch some more rays on the beach.

9:00 and my ride is at the dock .  Meet and greet Carlos and we head to West End to procure a missing anchor.  After a nice ride along the coast, taking in the scenery, we arrive at Pristine Bay about 45 minutes later.  Snorkel out by a wreck off the golf course.  Very good snorkel grounds, more for coral than abundance of fish.  I do manage to spot a Sand Diver.  After an hour or so, I've reached my quota and we head back west, trolling for Wahoo on the way.  No luck, guess we’ll need to go somewhere for lunch.

The folks from Texas had mentioned earlier in the week that the pizza at Splash Inn was very good and that we should give it a try.  These Jersey folks are not complete pizza snobs, but proper pizza in Honduras?  Query the Magic 8 Ball travel edition and get the response “Don’t count on it”.   Ehh, I am feeling like something other than fish, so completely disregard the Magic 8 Ball’s advice and head up to West End in search of Splash Inn.  Whoa, those darn Texan’s know good pizza!

We spy some new guest arrivals when we return from lunch.  Place is filling up.  A bit more local snorkeling and then some chillaxing on the beach with some new age ambient melodies now being played.

Take in the sunset from our perch once more and are comforted by our Pitbull best of CD again.  Decide on staying local for dinner at Lotus.

What an eclectic group of people at dinner!   Lobster is on the menu as it is the Texan’s last night.  The rest of the guest now consist of a an artist from the mainland who was commissioned for the lobby painting, an NGO manager/Yoga guru from New Jersey (What is going on here?), a Canadian couple who are actors on a SyFy series called Lost Girl (he was also a former member of the Canadian Olympic team), the Bracy’s and their local partners.


After a killer dinner, where much vino was consumed, it is time to crank up the fire pit.  We all mosey up to the deck and gather ‘round the fire.  Suddenly the actor starts thrumming a guitar, where it came from I had no idea, and the conversation flows.  The guitar gets passed around and turns out there are some fine musicians in the group.  Suddenly it is dueling guitarists.  The fire pit flames are growing higher, the wine is making me flush.  I look at Mrs T and ask “Where are we?  Better yet, when is Charley Daniels going to walk through the portico fiddling against the Devil?”.  With actors from a show on SyFy, a Yogi and an abstract artist in our midst, I really believe we are in some episode of the Twilight Zone.



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GUILLERMO, GUILLERMO!


Friday - Opening the House.  Up early and see the morning’s yoga session on the dock.  "Want to join us?".  Polite wave and muter some excuse about a bad back. Man those folks are flexible, just not my cup of tea!  The big property unveiling is today, so we figure it is best to vacate while all the set-up preparations are going on.   When we see some parrots and native dressed Garifuna ladies arriving (not at the same time), we know we are doing the right thing.  Since we really did not get to spend much time in West Bay, that is our destination.


We set-up shop all the way at the end by the black rocks and the Grand Roatan construction site.  Mrs. T joins me on a snorkel as we weave through the coral maze towards the outer reef.  Oh noes!  Jellyfish!  Mrs. T heads back to the safety of the beach.  I spend an hour or so exploring the outer reef.  Not too shabby for being so close and accessible to shore.  Unfortunately, there are quite a few cruise ship snorkel excursions in the area and the boat traffic is a bit unnerving (sadly a group of tourists had a run in with a boat earlier in the week, so that weighed heavily on my mind).  Heading back to shore, I get “trapped”  between the inner and outer reef.  I can see some folks snorkeling 15-20 feet closer to shore on the “other-side”, but I can’t find a safe passage through the reef!  I try re-tracing my route and manage to float over a gap in the reef, beer belly narrowly averting running aground on the coral.


Plop down on the sand and enjoy the melodic sounds from the hat making pan flute playing guy.  Little do I know it, but I have just made big mistake #2.  After the sounds of construction and parade of cruisers proves too annoying, we head to Bananarama for some Salva Vidas to go.  Pay up with my wet bills.  “Cruiser?”, nope just a snorkeler.  $36 left for lunch, drinks and water taxi.  What to do?

Our second choice on where to stay was the Meridian condos over by Lighthouse Point.  I had read in the TripAdvisor forums about a place called Smuggler’s Cover with a beach bar and good snorkeling that was adjacent, so figured it would be neat to scope it out.  A 15 minute walk over a sizable hill and we were thirsty again.  Arrived at Smuggler’s Cove, selected some loungers and got another round of Salva Vidas from Tim the bartender.  Nice place, very quite compared to West Bay.  After speaking with the only other folks about, a mother and daughter staying at the Turrets, I decided to try the snorkeling.  Nice!  Great visibility, healthy coral and good fish count.  I like, I mean I Like It!  Now how much were those beers and Chicken Nachos?



Back in time to freshen-up prior to the shindig kick-off.  Decide to combine Deep Woods Off and Lemon Eucalyptus Oil.  Not having taken many pictures other than snorkeling images, I head out with the light of the setting sun to get some of Xbalanque and the surroundings.  Attempting to frame the Seagrape Tree with the ornamental lights I am asked what cologne I have on.  Why it is L'odeur du Outback.  No lie.

Guests are starting to stream in as the Sun's afterglow illuminates the clouds.  Guillermo Machi, the charismatic artist who painted the lobby mural, is the Emcee for the night.  After the hors d'oeuvres and sushi are picked thin, we are summoned to the fire pit balcony area for the night's entertainment, guitarist and folk singer, Guillermo Anderson (the Honduran Bob Dylan).  The two Guillermo's radiate the pride of their homeland and as the music begins, Mr. Anderson is joined by cellist, Shirley Paz.  All I can say is wow!  Where are we again?

Following the phenomenal concert that is more like a recital, the hour has grown late and folks are beginning to head back to where they are from.   Heading back to our room we catch the most expressive and ruminative sounds drifting up from the lobby.  We are intrigued and like moths to a flame, must investigate.  Shirley is performing a spontaneous solo, that turns into a duet for the few still in attendance.  Magic.



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PIGEONS AWAY!


Saturday, snorkelday.  The end is near, but not before we go sailing.  Following-up on a TripAdvisor post by mcgosler regarding a sail on the Free Radial to Pigeon Cay, we had booked in the hope of being able to reach the distant cays, renowned for their snorkeling and beauty.  Mrs.T is feeling some of the after effects from last night's festivities.  I can see the look of dread in her eyes caused by the thought of spending 8 hours at sea.  Just waiting for her to tell me she is bailing.  But being the trooper she is, I hear no such words uttered.  Did I get more bites? Given the location on my body from these latest nibbles, I can only assume I got them when laying on the sand in West bay or dare I think it, in bed!  Combine Hydrocortisone and Lanacane to ease the discomfort.

Mcgosler and his lovely wife had offered to pick us up and ride over to West End where we'll meet up with a few other folks and take a hired van out to Oakridge.  The ride out at least lets us see some of the other parts of the island we've yet to explore. In 45 minutes or so, we are at the dock.

As fate would have it, the seas were not coorperative and Pigeon Cay was off the board.  Instead, we enjoyed a leisurely sail up to the Port Royal environs for some lightweight snorkeling and interesting mangrove sightseeing.  Not a big fan of piña colada, the ship drink, I asked Capt. Ed for some rum.  I get a wry look and followed by a question, "sure you want rum?".  If it is not too much trouble, I sure would.  "Damn! The cheap stuff is all the way in the back, I only have my good stuff at hand."  No problem, I can handle the good stuff.  That precedes a nice discussion on the world's best spirit. Overall, a nice way to spend the day, good sites and good people.

It has been a long day.  The fresh sea air reliably has a way of sapping the energy out of you.  Not in the mood to fret over dinner, we decide to once again hit West End for our final dinner.  We had forgotten all about Besos, so since it was on our list we head there.  Afraid of missing the last water taxi, we head out a bit early for the Testudo's and plan to have some pre-dinner drinks to kill time.

Mosey up to the bar at Beso's (we are tired and lazy).  See a bottle of Ron Zacapa rum and must ask if it is the 15 yo or the 23 yo.  The barkeep's response provides all the evidence needed to know we chose a fine establishment.  "23 year old.  Why would we serve the 15 year old?".  When things are good, things are really good.

Spend the next few minutes watching another patron from Miami pick out stones for a necklace from a street vendor that walked in.  When suddenly two ladies arrive and join the necklace buyer for drinks.  We overhear one of the "ladies" was his "masseuse" and the other is her niece.  They are on break and looking for some fun.  Welp, think it is about time we take our table.  As we are being seated, necklace guy and masseuse lady wander off into the back "yard".  Fine establishment indeed!

Upon returning, they are greeted by the owner and asked to leave.  Truly fine establishment.

After a great dinner we hunt for Charley, the taxi driver from the other night.  We find him, car 405, and wrap up our last night in Roatan.

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CLOSING TIME


Sunday- Stay just a little bit longer guests.  The posse from El Progreso never left yesterday evening as scheduled.  We last saw them set-off with the Bracy's on a sunset cruise, only to now find them queuing up for a big family style breakfast.  Well, one last meal with our new found friends can't be a bad thing.  Emails are exchanged and offers to visit when in each others neck of the woods are made.


Clean out the fridge and offer the left-overs to our actor friends who are staying for another week.
Shirley has found the property's zen garden and is off to grab her cello for one last recital, as we are chauffeured in the opposite direction, up the driveway towards the airport.
This was just one of those trips were everything came together.  The right time intersected with the right place and was populated by the right people, resulting in memories for a lifetime
As the song goes, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end

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ACCOMMODATIONS


The property's location is fairly isolated, so if you are looking for peace and quite this it is a good place.  The beach is nice, but the water entry is a mix of some sand for the first few feet and then the turtle grass that lines most of the area inside the reef.  While sunning on the beach and pool, we got a kick out of watching just about every beach walker stop and stare at the resort, I guess it is just that stunning.

The suites are beautifully decorated with an Indonesian motif (as is the entire complex) and outfitted with top of the line kitchen, bath and A/V accessories; if only our home was so nice.  We had a second floor unit named Men (Mayan for Eagle). There is AC for each room, along with ceiling fans and all linens are provided, including beach towels.  The large balcony had a dining table and 2 loveseats.  We liked eating breakfast on the balcony and watching the morning procession of workers and tourists walk the beach between West End and West Bay.  Bed was comfy, plenty of storage for our clothes and gear.

The snorkeling at the reef off the beach and continuing up towards West End featured some of the best snorkeling I have every experienced.  Here is a link to some pictures from the snorkeling there: Xbalanque Snorkeling Pictures.  Delvin would have a kayak ready and waiting each morning for my paddle out to the reef.

The staff, Raul the chef, Abel “Captain Jack” the bartender and Delvin the all-around helper were great.

The Bracy’s were such wonderful hosts and the island such a magical place, that we could not help but have one of the most memorable vacations.  If Xbalanque looks like your kind of place, do not hesitate to visit.  You won’t regret it.

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