Tag Archives: Honduras

When The Traveler Goes To Art School: La Red

Welcome back to my series sharing a little bit of what I’ve been up to for the past four years, other than globe-trotting. Big surprise! It’s dreaming about travel. Well, and getting my degree in graphic design. Combine the two and you get a portfolio full of wanderlust driven assignments.

When we were asked to create a Senior Project (kind of like a mini thesis for art school kids) around the word “migration” I thought of course of recreational migration, or travel. I was inspired by my recent trip to Honduras and also companies like Baz Bus in South Africa and Kiwi Experience in New Zealand which are hop on hop off bus services for backpackers stretching across an entire country.

I wanted to create one with a twist: La Red (the network in Spanish) is a social business, a company designed to address a social objective, where profits are reintegrated within the country’s borders, promoting and sustaining the tourism industry and the natural resources that comprise it. The root of La Red is a network of pre-existing locally owned and operated transit, accommodation, and sight/activities. The funny thing is at this point in my travels I feel quite comfortable doing things on my own and wouldn’t really utilize a service like this, but if I were a first time traveler I would enthusiastically sign up! And that’s who I designed it for: first time travelers, young travelers, those who are enjoying their first trip outside first world countries.

What follows is an excerpt from the six page website I designed. I apologize for the blurriness of the images. If you click to enlarge, they are clear. My internet naiveté strikes again!

Honduras Tourism Website


Honduras Tourism Website


Honduras Tourism Website

Then, my favorite part, I created a series of ads for the service. These are postcard size inserts intended for travel and adventure magazines. After a summer in heavily developed Grand Cayman, I was struck by the raw beauty of traveling through Honduras and wanted to highlight the authenticity. The best part? They all feature my own photos from my time in Honduras.

Honduras Tourism Ads


Honduras Tourism Ads


Honduras Tourism Ads


Honduras Tourism Ads


Honduras Tourism Ads

You can see more of my design work on my portfolio website, or you can stay tuned for the next week as I share a few more of my favorite creations!

Previously in this series:
Sea Snaps
ID Magazine

Advertisements

Honduras Roundup

What I Did: 2 nights in La Ceiba, 5 nights in Roatan, 7 nights in Utila

Utila, Honduras

Overall: Why Honduras? Cayman Airways flew to three international destinations (outside the US): Jamaica, Cuba, and Honduras. We weren’t all that interested in Jamaica so it was really down to two. We were really leaning towards Cuba but in the end we wanted to explore the Bay Islands as a possible future residence, considering the strong dive industry. I think we made the right choice.

Going up into the jungle in La Ceiba was seriously a blast. Even though we were only there two days it was worlds away from the islands and made the trip that much richer. White water rafting was one of the highlights of the two weeks.

Roatan seems like it’s not sure what kind of island it wants to be. On the south side you have cruise ships starting to come in, in West Bay you have a nice example of “resorts done right” (low-rise buildings not taking over the island with very European crowds), and in West End you still have dirt roads and a backpacker haven. I think Roatan would be a nice place to live.

Utila is a dive happy party town with the accompanying youthful, hipper than thou atmosphere. I think Utila is a fun place to visit.

Utila Princess Ferry

Getting around: We flew into La Ceiba, which is conveniently where the ferries leave for Roatan and Utila. They ferries are kind of pricey and very sea sicky. Getting between Roatan and Utila is expensive however way you go about it. You can either take the ferry from Roatan to La Ceiba and then take another ferry from La Ceiba to Utila or you can take a sailboat between them with Captain Vern for only a few dollars more. We chose that option as it sounded more fun. It wasn’t quite the dolphin swimming funfest that the website leads you to believe but I’m sure it was better than more ferry rides listening to people yak!

Salva Vida

Food and Drink: So as we’ve established I’m not really qualified to rate a country’s cuisine. Which is why I added “drink” to this category! Finally something I can be an authority on. Just kidding. Actually, my guide-book warned me ahead of time that Honduran food can be quite bland and monotonous, which I was thrilled by. I enjoyed the “set lunch” available at many roadside stands, they were cheap and fresh and yum. Beer is about a dollar a bottle on Utila, a bit more in Roatan. We didn’t really drink in La Ceiba.

People: One of the reasons I love Central America so much is the people. That being said, the Bay Islanders really have a culture and disposition all their own, leaning somewhat Caribbean, somewhat Honduran, and somewhat British. Utilans (utilians?) were a very isolated and guarded group in my experience. They are of European descent and I heard more than one sneer in regards to “mainlanders.”

Lempira

Money: A new category for my roundup posts! Because pretty much for the first time ever, I took very diligent note of our expenses in 6 categories: Flights and Visas, Activities, Food and Drink, Transportation, Lodging, and Misc. And believe it or not that list went from most expensive to least. I may post a more detailed budget post in the future, but for now, some observations:

Honduras is still very cheap for the budget traveler, though its likely your budget will go quickly to the many fantastic activities on offer (rafting, ziplining, diving etc), and those do add up. Lodging is cheap, we spent about $7 each a night and we weren’t even at the cheapest places! The lempira is currently at 19 to the US Dollar though some places round up to 20, so for big transactions be aware what is being used. Also be aware if you leave the country by flight there will be a $37USD departure tax. There were some very flustered travelers at the airport trying to scrounge it together! (All rates as of August 2010).

 

Safety: Also a new category, because for the first time ever, I got robbed! Ha. Well it wasn’t so bad, just a purse snatching that was very much preventable. I’ll write about it sometime. But that aside, um, actually that aside Utila still feels a tad sketchy. I traipsed through South East Asia never worrying a second about my gear but my gut told me to be on guard here. I didn’t worry about serious crime, I just think there are silly travelers having a little too much fun (me) and people there willing to take advantage of that (purse snatcher). Just keep your wits about you. However, in Roatan the couple we stayed with assured us West End was incredibly safe, to the point they barely locked their doors.

Good to know: Before we got to the islands everyone had an opinion on the Roatan vs. Utila debate. If we had only been going to one we probably would have been discouraged but since we were going to both we pretty much shrugged it off. And guess what? I don’t think you could go wrong with either.

Goodbye Utila, Goodbye Honduras!

Oh my goodness. Sunjam Recovery is no joke and lasted more or less the entire day Sunday. There was one outing to find “American breakfast” which ended in obvious failure and something very close to tears. What can I say, pancakes seem to cure a hangover in a way rice and beans just can’t. This is what the concession meal looked like.

Post Sunjam

Other than that fun filled excursion the day was spent trying to catch up on sleep, something that is surprisingly difficult to do in the blazing heat of day with nothing but a plastic fan to try to keep the body temperature below boiling. Before we knew it it was Monday morning and time to leave to catch our flights! It was a very delayed boat ride and when we got off the girls were in quite the rush to get their cab but we still snagged this one goodbye photo first!

Backpacking Honduras

Mark and I still had plenty of time to kill however so we headed to La Ceiba town to check out a park and send some postcards. Lonely Planet hailed this particular patch of grass as “the prettiest city park in all of Honduras” so how could we not check that out? Interestingly, it was a gift from The Standard Fruit Company (Dole) to Honduras, I suppose as a show of gratitude. Did you know the term Banana Republic was first coined in reference to Honduras? I started to do some reading into the history of the banana industry in Central America and it left me with some mixed feelings.

Swinford Park, La Ceiba, Honduras
Swinford Park, La Ceiba, Honduras

 

Swinford Park, La Ceiba, Honduras

I loved the local graffiti! The park was small and buggy but definitely worth a stop. After a swing by the post office we were on our way to the airport, where thankfully we arrived early considering the xray machine was either broken or non existant since they unpacked and hand searched the luggage of each and every flight passenger! Lets hope the TSA doesn’t adopt this policy anytime soon.

And with that we were off, back to Cayman. It might sound silly as we were gone two full weeks, but the trip went by in a flash! Now that we are spoiled with super long stays, two weeks barely feels like enough anymore. I guess I can rule out corporate America for a career path.

Until next time, Central America. I’ll miss you.

Sunjamming

In my last few posts you’ve seen me referencing the mythical “Sunjam” though I haven’t told you much about it other than its a 24 hour rave on a deserted island. And thats because I didn’t know much more than that.

Having explored Water Cay the day before we knew that it was deserted and super small –  only 3 acres! From the website I knew that there were about 1,400 people expected and there were a lot of things that we all couldn’t bring, INCLUDING CAMERAS. If you know me, you may be aware that “no cameras” usually means “no me in attendance.” Not only do I have an affinity for documenting every other moment of my life, I feel not allowing cameras is a sign some sort of weird shit is going to go down. Some sort of Kool Aid situation, if you catch my drift.

Anyway, pretty much everyone on the island was headed to the same place we were and we scrambled to find an affordable ride… everyone with a boat was offering trips but at varying prices so we made plans with our friend Zorro from the day before to meet at eight. Sunjam officially started at noon but lets face it- we are not that hardcore. After returning the motorbike we had some dinner and headed to the dock. However we were a teensy bit late and Zorro betrayed our deep friendship by taking some other passengers! All was well though as a passing boat stopped to let us on. There’s pretty much no way to describe that boat ride without sounding like I’m using gross hyperbole, so lets just say shooting stars were involved. Lots.

When we arrived we found a scene that couldn’t be more different than the one we found the day before. Pulsing techno music, flashing lights and throngs of dancing people in every direction. The next 12 hours are censored for your safety. What happens at Sunjam, stays at Sunjam. Plus I have no photos and my memory is a teensy bit fuzzy. But the other thing sounds better.

As dawn approached we gathered at the east side of the Cay and collapsed after endless hours of dancing. Watching the sun come up was eerily peaceful despite the still thumping music in the background. It was amazing. We survived.

Sunjam, UtilaPre Sunjam – 7pm
Sunjam, UtilaPost Sunjam – 8am

By the way, I plan on writing a longer, “Surviving Sunjam” style post in the future about the logistics of attending an event like this, but for now this was my abridged experience! And my sad two photos, snapped 5 minutes before rushing out to catch our boat and as we walked in the next morning. Had to document somehow.

Two Wheels are Better Than Two Feet

We left Water Cay knowing we’d be back in just 24 hours for Sunjam, which marked the end of our trip. With that in mind we were determined to make the most of our remaining time in Utila. For the girls that meant more beach time, but for Mark and me it meant after having so much fun renting a scooter in Roatan we were doing it again.

renting a motorbike, Utila

Utila is an odd island to rent a motorbike on, actually, as the road network is not very developed and there isn’t very far to go! We were hoping to reach Pumpkin Hill, where we heard from our fellow rafters in La Ceiba there were freshwater pools to swim in. But with no real map to guide us we were on an adventure! Or a fruitless journey with no hope, depending on your perspective.

Renting a motorbike, UtilaLeaving Utila town…
Renting a motorbike, Utila…and getting off the road!
Renting a motorbike, Utila

We took our time, stopping to explore along the way. When I screeched for Mark to stop for the photo above he told me that if we stopped for a picture every time we saw a cow in Scotland we wouldn’t get anywhere anytime soon. Somewhere along the way we took a wrong turn and looking at the map I had quite a laugh when I realized we had landed ourself at the island’s dump. In our defense, I would bet we are two of very few tourists who have seen this “authentic” side of the island.

Renting a motorbike, Utila

Backtracking, we ran into another major tourist attraction: the iguana farm. Of course it was closed, but considering how much Mark enjoyed the one in Roatan, its was probably for the best.

Iguana Station, Utila, Honduras
Iguana Station, Utila, Honduras
Spider, Utila, HondurasArachnophobes don’t look

On the way back to the main drag we passed a few more fun diversions, a soccer field, an elementary school and some very interesting and most likely drug induced signs.

Utila, Honduras

Once we were back in town we still had some time left on the bike so we decided to follow the coast for a while and see how far we could get. We passed Bando Beach and kept going until the road didn’t go any more. You can see what the rest of the coastline around Utila looks like… not the most hospitable of environments!

Utila, Honduras

Renting a Motorcycle, Utila, Honduras

As we headed back to meet the girls for dinner, I thought about hopping on the bike and giving the driving a try. Its frustrating relying on Mark for transport always in Cayman and I know someday I will have to learn but for now… I’m happy on the back of the bike!

Renting a Motorcycle, Utila, Honduras

Utila Cays: Tiny Little Paradises

Some traveling days are hard. Rushing to make bus connections, trying to communicate in a completely foreign language, preparing to sleep on the beach with no protection from the elements. Other days are just blissful and easy and make you want to sell everything you own and set up permanently on a deserted island. This was one of those days. This is also one of those epic long posts.

Utila, Honduras

via Moon Guides

To orient you, we were staying in Utila Town (very little else of the island is inhabited). Out of the Cays, only Pigeon and Jewel are inhabited. Water Key, where Sunjam is held, is also where we went for the day. It is not named on the map but is the largest Cay.

As I’ve whined mentioned before, the one thing Utila is lacking is easily accessible, beautiful beaches. But if you are willing to haul your lazy backpacking self  out to one of the Cays, you will be treated to the kind of beaches postcards were created to feature, and due to that lack of easy access, you might just have them to yourself.  We met a very amusing boatman named Zorro while coming back from one of our dives earlier in the week who promised us a very good price to bring us to and fro. When we showed up at the dock he was still busy cleaning the day’s catch. Being mildly repulsed by the smell of dead fish, I could be found gagging over the side of the dock while Steffi got this great shot.

Fisherman, Utila, Honduras
Utila, HondurasZorro’s boat

En route to Water Cay, we passed the connected Jewel and Pigeon Cays. They are home to about 400 inhabitants, most of whom are descendents of the first people to arrive in Utila in the 1830’s. Aaand where did they come from? From the Cayman Islands, just like Mark and me! Okay well, we only really came via the Cayman Islands, but that’s semantics. Rumor has it they then left the “mainland” of Utila for the Cays in order to escape the sandflies, whose reign of terror still chases tourists out to the Cays today. I think the sub-culture existing on these tiny islands must be fascinating, and I would have loved to stay a night at the one hotel available on Jewel Cay, but it didn’t work into our plans this time. If I ever make it back to the Bay Islands, staying there will be a top priority.

Jewel and Pigeon Cay, Honduras

Jewel Cay

Jewel and Pigeon Cay, Honduras

Water so clear you can see the sea grass

In less than 15 minutes we arrived at Water Cay. There was a slight bustle of activity at Sunjam was taking place the next night, but that did nothing to mar the beauty of the place. We payed the caretaker the 25 lempira/$1.25usd “entrance fee,” arranged a pickup time with Zorro and crossed our fingers he’d show, and then looked around and got a little giddy over how insanely picturesque the island was. We had packed a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter and several bottles of water and sunscreen; the making of a wonderfully lazy beach day.

Water Key, Utila, Honduras

Water Key, Utila, Honduras

The downside of underwater housings: Camera fog!

Hermit Crab

Unfortunately I have never been known for my ability to stay in one place for long. After circling the island on foot (which only takes about 10 minutes) I was itching to swim, but the water around the island is extremely shallow. Don’t believe me? This is the zoom out of the photo above.

Water Key, Utila, Honduras

There was one benefit to the shallow water though, flounders everywhere! I love these little guys and their miserable frowns. Mark and I had so much fun chasing them around. Before you know it we were halfway to the next Cay. So we kept swimming.

Flounder, Utila, Honduras

The “island” we arrived on was nothing but a miniscule spit of sand with a single bungalow on it. I’m not sure if it was privately owned or for rent, but both Sandy Cay and Little Cay are available for only about $100 a night. That must be the cheapest private island rental in history! There was a great deck over the water and beautiful plants on the island. It seemed unoccupied so we hung out for a bit until we saw a boat approaching.

Morgan's Cay, Utila, Honduras
Morgan's Cay, Utila, Honduras
Morgan's Cay, Utila, Honduras

Morgan's Cay, Utila, Honduras

It was a lovely sidetrip although the swim back was a bit murky and I was quite happy to be back on land after Mark made a well-timed remark about sharks’ affinity for murky shallow water. Arriving back I saw the girls had been incredibly productive, as both Steffi and Liz had improved their tans and Melanie had amassed a sea shell collection. A perfect day.

Utila, Honduras

From Virgin Snorkelers to Diving in 3 Days Flat!

What happens when you take 3 city girls and stick them on a hippie diving island? No, it’s not the start of a joke, it’s what happened the week we were in Utila. From having never breathed through a snorkel on Monday, by Thursday we were headed out so they could try a Discover Scuba Diving course. Melanie decided she had enough of the water and sat the diving out, so it was just Steffi, Liz and me jumping in.

Despite the relative disasters of the day before, my girlfriends are on the same page as me when it comes to the finding the best deal possible, so they decided to keep with the same dive shop for their  course. Discover Scuba Diving is a one day, no certification class meant to be a “taster” for diving.

Discover Scuba Diving, Utila, Honduras

First they sat down and learned the basics of staying alive and not being eaten by sea creatures.

Discover Scuba Diving, Utila, Honduras

Then everyone settled into prime sunbathing locations (Dive shop in the background)

Discover Scuba Diving, Utila, Honduras

Soon we were seeing some of the most beautiful water on this trip so far…

Discover Scuba Diving, Utila, Honduras

While some had second thoughts…

Discover Scuba Diving, Utila, Honduras

They bravely got in anyway…

Discover Scuba Diving, Utila, Honduras

And soon they were underwater…

Discover Scuba Diving, Utila, Honduras

Happy new divers!

Discover Scuba Diving, Utila, Honduras
Discover Scuba Diving, Utila, Honduras

I have to say it was weird watching someone other than Mark teach. I kept wanting to reach over and correct something but I managed to keep my hands to myself! The instructor was very sweet but memorable moments include when the boat captain and the head instructor (who was teaching a different course) got into an incredibly professional and reassuring-to-new-divers screaming match in French in front of everyone. I also loved watching how Steffi swam sideways the whole time (she didn’t even notice she was doing it!) and Liz was just fearless, swimming away chasing fish, totally unafraid, the exact opposite of me when I started, which was swimming on top of the instructor.

Not many Discover Scuba Divers get their own personal photographer/videographer coming along, but what can I say, these chicas are VIP. A few notes on this video: it was shot on my point and shoot so quality is lower than most of my videos, also, the song might not make much sense to those not traveling in Honduras during August of 2010, but for those who were, ya’ll know IT WAS EVERYWHERE.