What can I say? To sum up 3 weeks in a few paragraphs doesn’t even seem possible, nor would it give much insight to my time on Utila. No, indeed, I think this may end up being quite the long post. After all, even though it is a small island, and seems like there would be little to do, it is actually quite the opposite. Yes, its tiny, but the international flavor on the island is HUGE! There are so many countries represented by the guests here that its even better than the “Melting Pot of the World”, New York City.. And I come from a small town about 45 minutes west of NYC, so I have spent plenty of time exploring NYC, and never could I imagine actually meeting and getting to know so many nationalities and cultures in NYC as I did in Utila.
That probably has a lot to do with the fact that many travelers come thru Utila, either backpackers travelling thru Central America, or people who just want to learn to scuba dive. Utila is actually known as one of the cheapest places in the world to learn how to dive, and is quite popular as a result. Pretty much everybody speaks English, in addition to their native language (and sometimes 1 or 2 other languages!), so communication was never an issue. Since many of them travel solo, or with someone who they met along their trip, they make friends easily, and before you know it you have an entire group of new friends to go out with, and you feel like you’ve known them forever.
My travel to the island was pretty easy and straightforward.. Fly from Newark Airport at 6am to Atlanta. 45 minutes to change planes (and terminals!) while trying to find a place to grab a quick smoke (yes, Atlanta and Miami have smoking areas!). Change planes in Atlanta and then fly to San Pedro Sula in Honduras. Compared to the big airports in the US, this airport is tiny, there are I believe 8 terminals, all with a common seating area. Malls are bigger here in NJ than this airport was. Anyway, we go thru customs, and so far its been pretty easy, considering the scuba gear and the tech crap I have, I really expected more questions. Nope, no questions, zip me thru customs and head to the counter for CM Airlines to get my baggage transferred and settle in for a quick bite to eat while I waited for the flight. I knew it was going to be a small plane, but still it was the first time I had to walk out on the runway and board a small 16 seater twin prop right on the runway. Everything still on schedule, all bags accounted for, and we’re off for a quick 40 minute flight to the island. On the plane I happened to meet a couple from Saskatchewan, who are travelling with their 3 kids (who all appeared to be under 7), to Utila for 2 months, and I honestly wondered how they were going to deal with 3 small children, dive, and keep busy on an island known for having only 2 small beaches, not much to do but dive, sleep, eat or party which obviously wouldn’t be their thing. I did end up seeing them once more as they came for a dive at Alton’s on one day, but that was it.. So, anyway, the puddle jumper lands on a tiny runway, literally a one lane road it looks like, with beat up asphalt, running right thru a patch of jungle. The terminal is a tin shack, and there are 2 other small Cessnas parked near the terminal. It doesn’t take long, and all my bags are in hand, I walk over to the terminal and realize its more of a snack bar than a terminal, and it doesn’t even appear to be open. There are 2 military guards there (I guess to watch for drug runners using the airstrip), but they don’t even look at us as we unload from the plane and head for the waiting tuktuks. Now Alton’s was supposed to have a tuktuk waiting for me, but they had me mismarked as taking a SOSA flight, not a CM Air flight, and that evidently lands an hour or so later. No issue, I actually shared a tuktuk with another diver and in about 10 minutes I was dropped off in front of Alton’s Dive Center.
On arriving at Alton’s, I walk up a few steps, see the sign in what appears to be the old office pointing to the left, so I walk left and promptly pass the office.. Out of the office runs Ms Claudia, one of the ladys in the office, asking where I was going. I replied who I was and that I had just arrived at the airport taken a tuktuk here. She takes me inside and we figure out the mixup with the SOSA and CM Air flights, and she gets me all settled in and takes me to my room and gives me a quick tour of the dive center before leaving me at my room to unpack.
During the first few nights of my stay, I only had one roommate, Cassandra from Philadelphia. One of those types who always dresses in black, even black pants and shirt on a tropical island, every time we went out. A very competitive girl, it wasn’t until her last night that I’d learn she was a lesbian (not that I really cared), and that the lack of free healthcare in the USA was due to men having penises. Yeah, don’t know the logic behind that one, but she left the next day so I didn’t have to get into it. During her stay we had two other roomates, Jade, a girl from Korea who was living in Australia, and Alex, a girl from Toronto who despite being 25 was probably one of Justin Beiber’s biggest fans. Yes, I didn’t see that one coming either, and it made everybody laugh at dinner on their last night on the island. All 3 of them were on trips that went to various destinations, and by the end of my first week there they would all move on.
During my second week there I gained a few new roomates, this girl Kamila and a guy she was temporarily travelling with. The guy was quiet and would move out in a day, and sadly I would be stuck with Kamila for the next 2 weeks as a roommate. Why do I say sadly? Honestly, this girl was a snobbish brat. Really not the type I’d like to hang out with, but when you are on an island that small, and hang out with alot of the same people from the dive center, you keep running into each other. Luckily you only slept in the room, but due to the way the doors locked (padlock on the outside, or slide on the inside, door swinging out) if one person was out and the other person wanted to go to bed (usually me), I could slide the lock on the inside but be woken up when she gets home, or leave it open and have the wind blow the door open and be open to thefts. Would have much preferred a door that swings in, as you could at least block it with shoes or something. Either way, there were a few nights where she didn’t come back, or came back after sunrise LOL, and I would end up locking it because the chances of her not coming back were greater than the chances of me being woken up. Yeah, 2 weeks of sharing a dorm with this girl was enough, and were probably 13 days too many for me. But all is well and good.. We did get along, nobody had anything stolen during my time there, and other than the cold showers I would have to say the hostel experience was pretty good.