On the three-day President's Day weekend, Deborah and Steve joined the Diplomatic Divers dive club and others on a trip to the largest of the Bay Islands, Roatán. We had to get up early to meet at the embassy at 6:00am for the shuttle to the airport. The flight had a layover in La Ceiba, but we didn't have to change planes. In the U.S., there may be safety regulations regarding refueling a plane while the passengers are aboard. If Honduras has such regulations, they aren't enforced. (As usual, click on the picture for a larger version. Also, the file names of the pictures are descriptive, so look at the URL for the file name as each picture opens. The Durretts also took pictures.) Below is a picture taken from inside the plane at the airport in La Ceiba.
We arrived in Roatán on a beautiful morning and stared at the ocean for a while, keeping a close eye on the baggage handlers to make sure our luggage had arrived with us. The first picture below is of Roatán, taken from the plane. In the second picture in the foreground are Steve, Sam Durrett (the Joint Administrative Officer (JAO) and founder of the Diplomatic Divers), and his wife Margaret. Also in the picture are Richard Mauro, a Marine, and Roxanne Smiley, a consular officer. Notice the shirts worn by Steve and Sam. Deborah designed that logo for the Diplomatic Divers.
We were picked up by shuttles which took us to our lodging facilities. After checking into our rooms, we went to a french bakery called Boulangerie for breakfast. Below are two shots taken from the bakery. In one, you can see part of a dive shop called Sueño Del Mar (Sleep/Dream/Fantasy of the Sea). In the other, there are more people. From left to right they are Steve, Sam, Sarah Cloeter (a Marine), Richard, and Roxanne.
Most of us stayed at the Mermaid Beach Cabins. Pictures below are of the beach area and the cabins. In one picture of the beach you can see Tony, our divemaster (no shirt), and Deborah behind him. In another are the two boats we used. The smaller one was used for the dives; the larger one has a Volvo diesel engine and was used on our later tour of part of the island. In the shot of the cabin taken from the deck is Judy relaxing in the hammock. The door to Deborah's and Steve's room is under the lit light. In the shot of the deck taken from the cabin are Deborah, Berta Itinger, Margaret, and Mike Itinger (Facility Manager (FM)).
Along the one dirt road that runs through the west end of Roatán are houses, dive shops, tourist store fronts (selling lots of Guatemalan stuff), and restaurants. One dive shop had a mural of a Moray eel around a window (two pictures below). While diving at Half Moon Bay, we saw, and the divemaster played with, a six foot long Moray eel. A school bus with the word "school" marked out and the word "party" written in had been painted in bright, festive colors. Along the side you will notice a canoe with people in it who are missing their heads except when the bus is carrying passengers. Saturday evening we ate at the restaurant at Half Moon Bay. The picture of the sunset was taken from there. The picture doesn't do it justice.
Several times we ate at Rudy's, especially for his Banana Pancakes and his frozen fruit drinks he calls Smoothies.
After dives, we lazed in the hammock, played frisbee on the beach, or played with the resident friendly kitten (shown below in a less energetic mood). The picture of the map isn't very good -- even the large version. It shows all the popular dives sites at the west end of Roatán. If your eyes are better than mine, maybe you can find the places where we dove -- Octopus Acre, Half Moon Bay, & Ocean Spirit.
Before leaving Roatán on Monday afternoon, we took a boat ride toward the northeast. The boat captain and owner of Mermaid Beach Cabins, Alvin Jackson, pointed out interesting sites along the way. The only place where we stopped was a new resort called Palmetto-something. The sand on the beach was fine and white, but they had more than their share of turtle grass. We talked to the developers for a while, then before we left, we had group pictures taken. In front are Berta and Mike and their extremely cute daughter Veronica. Also pictured are Sam, Deborah, Margaret, Steve (with the excitingly asymmetrical hair-do), and Judy. Standing and wearing the hats are the first mate, Christopher, and Alvin.
Leaving Roatán was exhilarating. The Cessna airplane only had seats for about 15 people, and it was full. Initially, the airline, Isleña/Taca, claimed that there wasn't room for all of our luggage. Sam told them that he wasn't leaving without his, and with reinforcement from others in our group, the airline somehow managed to find room for it all. Steve sat directly behind the pilots, and had a clear view of the instruments (not that he's qualified to make judgements about them). Confidence in our safety decreased as it became apparent that the co-pilot was flying the plane and the pilot was instructing him.
At La Ceiba we were directed off the plane and to the waiting room. We sat there for about an hour until finally we were asked to go to the Taca ticket counter. It was then that we were told that our flight from La Ceiba to Tegucigalpa had been canceled, and that the next flight wasn't until 6:00am the next day. We all had to be at work the next morning, one of us at 5:00am. Why didn't they tell us about the canceled flight when we were in Roatán so maybe we could have made a couple more dives? Why did they let us sit in the waiting room for an hour? Steve began to lose his happy thought, and didn't fully regain it until the next morning after the purchase of large volumes of coffee. They put us and our luggage on a short school bus and took us to the Gran Hotel Paris. After checking in, Deborah, Steve, and Cathie Roberts (Director of Personnel) walked around town a little bit as the street vendors were closing their booths. The bus returned at 5:00am to take us to the airport. The flight to Tegucigalpa occurred without incident, and someone from Motor Pool picked us up and took us to the embassy. Steve was supposed to be at work at 7:30am. We arrived at about 7:35, which worked out OK, but co-workers were surprised to find Steve at work tanned, and wearing shorts and sneakers. Deborah had to go immediately home to meet the maid who was scheduled to arrive at 8:00am. What an adventure!