My daily Instagram piece turned into a lengthy one, so I thought I’d post it here instead. In the wake of yesterday’s horrific shooting in Oregon, I felt obliged to...
Utila: The Best of Both Worlds
Eat, sleep, dive, drink, eat, dive, drink, repeat. That’s the life here on Utila. Oh, and how can I forget: Get destroyed by no-see-ums, or as I like to call them, “Sand fleas on bath salts.” I refuse to start this entry out on a bad note, so I’ll come back to those (ear muffs) little fuckers later. Truthfully, there’s so much good to talk about here, I’m not sure where to start. I came to Utila, specifically to dive. It’s a dive factory and thousands of backpackers from around the world come here for that sole reason. I knew I wanted to become (PADI) Open Water Certified, and possibly obtain my Advanced Open Water afterwards. Other than Thailand, Utila is one of the cheapest places in the world you can certified and given it’s Caribbean location, it’s certainly not a bad place to stay for a while either. But that’s the problem. People don’t leave. Almost all of my new buddies here have been on the island for at least a month or more, and will be staying for a couple more. Don’t get me wrong, it’s practically paradise. The only reason I say it’s a “problem” is because people blow their money here, rather than travel through the rest of the Americas. There isn’t much culture on Utila and English is spoken almost everywhere. In other words, other than some killer diving, there’s not much to learn or take in here. It’s loaded with surprisingly good food, kick ass bars and fantastic sunsets. That begin said, I do, in fact, love this place. I arrived to Utila via a ferry from La Ceiba. It’s important I note something here: The ferry’s nicknamed “The Vomit Comet.” That’s no joke, kids. Last year when I came for just a few days, I learned my lesson the hard way and turned down the Dramamine Starla offered me. This year, I done got smart. It was one of the first things I packed, actually. Forty-five long, turbulent and non-vomiting minutes later, we were here! Starla’s little one, Koral, was with us, along with Brittney, a family friend of hers. We checked-in to our favorite dive shop, Underwater Vision, and quickly got settled and into the water. We jumped, played, relaxed, ate and drank milk shakes like they were our last meal. Oh, and then there was that whole part about Starla getting a tattoo. Really long story made kind of short: 2 Australian guys, appropriately named, “Marty and Ginski” are working on a travel-based television show down here in Central America. Their intentions are to travel the world with this show, bringing communities close together, while raising some money for local non-profits while they’re at it. Their ideas are a bit off the wall, but absolutely hysterical and entertaining, to say the least. A couple of months ago, they broke the world record for “Fitting the most people into a chicken bus” just outside of Antigua, Guatemala. You can’t make this shit up. They had sponsors, hundreds of participants and an actual chicken bus (aka- an old American school bus, used widely across Central America as public transportation). They also filmed a zombie movie here on Utila. You can entertain yourself and laugh a bit here. It’s worth a look, I promise. Saturday night, we were having a drink at the bar with our new American friend, when Marty walks up and introduces himself to the conversation. After a few creative attempts, he finally asks Starla about all of her tattoos. I’m not quite sure how it all happened, as it moved so quickly, but 2 hours later, Starla was getting inked by some local guy at his house off the beaten path. There were about 8 of us who went with her, including Marty. The entire thing was both filmed and photographed. When the tat session was over, we all walked over to Ginski’s bar and watched his reaction as Starla flaunted her inner bicep off. It was priceless. Needless to say, that particular Saturday made for quite the night and an even better story.
See? He’s sanitary!
The guy holding the camera is Marty. He filmed and photographed most of the evening, so I anticipate some sort of neat production from him and Ginski in the coming months.
The morning after the tattoo, it was time for Starla to head home with Koral, and for Emily to start doing this thing solo. On Sunday afternoon, we hugged goodbye, making it as quick and painless as possible. As I woke up alone Monday morning, I felt a few things. Above all though, I felt free, excited and ALIVE. I started my open water course that morning and was certified by Thursday afternoon. If you’ve never considered SCUBA diving, please do. You enter another atmosphere and it’s one of the coolest things I’ve yet to experience. It’s not scary in the slightest. And sharks? Nah. You literally become one with the aquatic environment. The fish don’t acknowledge you and you actually hope to see a shark, rather than fear its presence. I could sit here and attempt to describe it all day, but the truth is, you just have to try it. As a bonus, Rob De Clerk showed up on my last day of class to hang with me for about a week! Since he’s already rescue certified, he did some fun dives as I went onto the advanced course. What? I had to! It’s only a 2 day course and you get to dive deeper on future dives. In other words, you get to see cooler shit! So yes, as I write this entry, I am a certified Advanced Open Water Diver and will start enjoying “fun diving” first thing tomorrow morning! This means: No skills, no tests, no beginner stuff – just pure, fun, effortless diving. There have been a few whale shark sitings throughout the week, so we’re headed to the North side to see if we can spot any for ourselves. Obviously, I will flip my shit if we do see one. If we don’t get that lucky, however, I won’t sweat a drop. I will still be quite content knowing that I get to hop back on the boat, head to the bar and enjoy another sunset in paradise….beer in hand.
Generally, Utila is a ghost town on Sundays. Then I got here. This is a funny little painted board we came across at a waterfront dive bar, owned by an American guy. On the left is my new Aussie friend, Elissa (side note: Have I mentioned how much I loathe the fact that we don’t have an accent? Ugh.) She can certainly hang and is all about Sunday Fundays too. You could say we’ve had some fun…
Soooo…this shit. This is some type of herb-infused rum (gag, I know). If you take 4 shots of it at Skid Row Bar, you get a pretty sweet tank top. Clearly, we had to do this.
So, that’s Utila, in a nutshell. I plan on leaving the island on Friday to head to Managua, Nicaragua! Don’t worry, Mom. I’ve found a couple of dudes here who I’ll be traveling with, so I won’t be “alone.” I will certainly miss this place, the people I’ve met, Underwater Vision, the milkshakes (sweet Jesus) and the beautiful sunsets. I won’t, however, miss these crazy, ass hole no-see-ums, nor the struggle I go through every single day with my hair. Sheesh! This British/Irish gal was NOT made for the island. I absolutely love it, but my skin and hair………not so much. I look forward to leaving the bugs and salt water hair behind for a bit, in an exchange for volcanoes, typical food and the Spanish language. I will blog again once I’m settled in Leon, Nicaragua…or perhaps Grenada. I’m still deciding, but I will keep ya posted!
Another perfect evening at Underwater Vision. This picture doesn’t quite show the severity, but it’s all I have. Sexy, huh? You can’t even see the damn things, and there’s absolutely no escaping them. Almost everyone you pass by on the island is loaded up with these bad boys as well. Rob, on the other hand, doesn’t have a single bite. Jerk. A couple of ladies I met at Underwater Vision. I haven’t learned any Spanish here, as English is the “official language.” I have, on the other hand, picked up on the Australian and Dutch accents. Jeez, these people are everywhere! They are travel gurus and I kind of dig it. C’mon, America! Get a passport already!