To many a Beatles-loving-19th-hole-cruising individual, the island of Utila in Honduras might just be heaven on earth. Although I haven’t seen any golf courses on the island, I did see, and was almost run over on a daily basis by, a million golf carts. In Utila, you don’t walk to where you want to be. Oh no. You navigate the narrow streets with a very wide golf cart. Or a scooter, four-wheeler or tuk-tuk. When you do decide to walk, and you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to cross the road, one tends to stay on the same side of the road. It’s just not worth it, risking your life to get a smoothie.
We arrived late in the afternoon, after travelling 10 odd hours on various buses and one very choppy ferry. Walking down the main street from the ferry dock was such a crazy experience – everything was new, wild and frantic. Bunting spun across the street flapped like mad in the wind, while the golf cart traffic was hooting and uprooting a would-be lazy afternoon. I really just wanted to stick my head in a soundless white box for 5 seconds. But as the saying goes, no man’s an island and this was our home for a week. So we had a beer and immersed ourselves in the craziness. And it was fun.
As far as Caribbean islands go (and this is only my second one), Utila is as colourful as the inside of a piñata. Brightly painted wooden clapboard houses are almost as cheery and bold as its inhabitants and the language they speak. Utila carries its heritage of British colonialism, African ancestry, Jamaican soul and Central American influences with the swagger of a child wearing a pair of shiny new shoes. Eavesdropping on conversations spoken in a Caribbean Creole-English was my favourite pastime. I could barely understand a word (The Husband said it’s like listening to drunk people having a conversation while you are in fact, stone cold sober – some words sound familiar, but for the rest, you just nod your head and pretend you know what they’re talking about).
For most of the time, I hanged around on my own, trying to blend in (and staying on the same side of the road). The Husband did his open water diving course at Utila Dive Centre, so while he was learning to breathe under water (*shudder*), I blogged, wrote an article and eavesdropped. At night, we would drink beer and eat baleadas – another highlight on my list of Central American culinary delights.
An ode to baleadas
There are more ways to eat a baleada than to skin a cat. Horrible expression, I know, but it’s the only one I could think of now. Baleadas are flour tortillas stuffed with beans and spice and everything nice. The standard baleada features mashed up black beans, boiled eggs, fried onion and if you’re lucky, a slice of avo. We also had baleadas with lion fish – these spiky little fellows aren’t welcome in Utila, as they bully and eat the other fish. So in turn, we eat them. And they are yum! The best baleadas we had was at Big Mama’s Restaurant. They are known as Super Baleadas and they feature everything mentioned above, with extra lettuce, tomato and fried chicken. They are also nice and cheap, so we had our fair share.
On how I stumbled upon the world’s biggest spider nest and a cheerful carnival
We’ve been in Central America for 3 months now, and I still haven’t seen a scary looking spider >touch wood<. So the one fateful day I was walking through the hostel’s gardens on my way to buy peanutbutter. What I initially thought was the smokey haze of the restaurant next door’s pizza oven, turned out to be a spider nest the size of a small car, housing a whole population of archaic looking creatures with stripy yellow legs. Needless to say, I took a detour back to our room. When The Bearded Diver came back from his morning session, he counted at least 50 big ones, with bunches of little ones hanging about while they followed me with their eight beady eyes. So in total, about 600 eyes were observing me every single day as I passed the hazy web. *Gulp*
But life always rewards you after pulling a nasty like that on an unsuspecting arachnophobe. In this case, my reward was being able to witness a Caribbean carnival! It wasn’t as big as Rio, considering that Utila is only 13km long, 5km wide and with one main street. But it had pirates, loads of dancing women dressed in feathers, a Garifuna ensemble with drums and a group of cyclists merrily protesting the use of golf carts on an island that small. They also handed out strings of colourful beads and sweets. What more could anyone ask for?
On our way back from the carnival, a crazy guy with a slur said the Bearded Wonder looks like Abraham Lincoln. In Utila, anything is possible…
And then we ended up doing the Macarena
After the carnival, we had baleadas (of course), and then went to a party at the dive centre. Oh what fun we had, dancing on the docks with our hands in the air and the cool Caribbean breeze messing up my already messed up hair. We told one of the dive instructors that if you combine our first names (Marc and Carina), you get the Macarena. Within 5 minutes the whole party was doing the Macarena while holding on to cups of cheap rum for dear life.
I also realised then that the Macarena is in fact a very lengthy track. It felt like forever, and after a while it felt a bit awkward. Not that the other people minded – everyone was dancing away like it was 1995.