Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Guanaja - Busy in Paradise

Guanaja Honduras, where the word "busy" takes on a whole new meaning. There are no traffic jams to get caught up in because there are no roads. Rush hour traffic means going over to the cay to grocery shop after the supply boat comes in and having five other boats at the dock. The map below shows Guanaja as it was and as is still is for the most part. Pretty cool!

Our day begins by going over to the bank. Yes, the electric is back on and we would like to open an account in this foreign land as we are planning on making this a part time haven. I have planned (I thought) for all possibilities, after all, how hard could it be? OK, if you have gone through this drill before, I'll wait for you to catch your breath as you are probably laughing yourself silly!

We are allowed to enter the bank by the guards after they make sure our cell phone is turned off and our bags are searched. These aren't ordinary guards, but men that are wearing bullet proof vests, carrying side arms strapped around their waists, in addition to the AK47 that are slung over their shoulders. WOW, I'm impressed, they even have bullets!

The bank is crowded with all the local folk and some of the gringo's that have obviously done this procedure before. I notice a tiny smile tugging at their lips...... we wait, and wait, and by now I have struck up a conversation with one of the young guards who is, by now, leaning on his rifle and petting Houdini. Two hours later we are seated at the new account desk....YIPPEE!!

We produce our passports, Florida driver's licenses, two bank references from the United States showing our good standing and CASH to deposit ... wait a minute ...... we each need two personal references from Honduran citizens, in addition we each need two business references from Guanaja ... HOLY SMOKES ... we are sent away disappointed, cash in hand and no bank account. Obviously we will need to re-group and try again another day.

Next on our "to do" list is the internet cafe. We go to the one next to Miller's Hotel. There are several computers, one working printer and no pens ... I finally bum a crayon off one of the little kids coloring on the floor while their parents work on the net!

The internet connection is pretty fast .. not like cable of course, but still pretty decent ... at least I am "connected" to the world wide web.

Guanaja Honduras is certainly not the United States by any means as far as fast paced business is concerned and that is one of its charms. I am tired of all the hustle bustle. I am ready to slow down and take it easy ... I just need to learn the new "rules" of Guanaja.

Oh, by the way, we were asked to leave the internet cafe ...... siesta time from noon to 2:30, :-) LOL!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Guanaja - Let's go to Graham's Place!

Guanaja Honduras is an island retreat with many special places to visit..... Graham's Place is one of these special places. Owned by a gentleman from the Cayman's named Graham Thompson, it is a definite "must see" on your island tour. Actually it is an island all to itself, called Josh's cay. You approach through the crystal clear water of the Caribbean Sea, but it is usually quite calm due to the protection of the world's second largest barrier reef that surrounds the Bay Islands area.

We have met Senor Graham before and he remembers us from our last visit here. So, a couple of beers later and a little catching up on the latest gossip and we are ready for the rest of the afternoon.

As we are leaving we notice this business man, in his dug out canoe, coming in to sell fresh conch meat. What a terrific dinner idea ..... fresh cracked conch and cerviche. The "conch dude" bargains and for a few pennies we have our dinner entree. Alfred knows his way around a conch from time spent in the Bahamas and volunteers for kitchen duty this evening.

Conch whacking and dicing can be thirsty work and here you can see Big AL in the kitchen back at Castaways Resort re-hydrating with cold cerveza.

Dinner was a total success and we even added a butter fish sashimi with wasabi to the menu. What better meal than fresh from the sea ingredients? I don't know if it gets any better than this!

Guanaja has my vote for Bay Island paradise!

For the real Bahamian conch recipe visit:

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Guanaja - Back to our Island Paradise!

Our first day back in our island paradise of Guanaja and it is just as lovely as I remembered it. The temperature is balmy and mild, humidity just about like our home in Florida, with just a little more breeze to cool things down ...GREAT!

We walk over to the Castaways Restaurant for some coffee and breakfast and on the way it is difficult not to notice the wonderfully clear turquoise water and the palm trees swaying. OK, I could live here!

After a quick breakfast, our driver, Guermo, with our friend, Ronnie's boat showed up to take us on our journey today. First off, we wanted to check out the house that Ronnie is building. The roofers were busily working and soon it will be done. Next on our to do list is to go over to the cay, called Bonacca town, and to pick up some supplies and do some local business.

Supplies included picking up a couple of bottles of Flor de Cana rum and fruit juices to go with the rum. I have found that it is always good to have priorities on trips like this so you don't become sidetracked! As we were shopping, we realized that the power went off, not to worry in the grocery store, they aren't on a computer system anyway, so we complete our transactions, but the rest of our trip required electricity.

We had planned on checking out the local internet cafe, there are three on the cay and then to the bank and try to open up a local account. During the best of times these tasks would require a few hours on the cay, but without electricity ... impossible! We were told that several times a month the electric company just shuts down for a while for maintenance. These outages only last for an hour or so, but you never know when they will occur, or when for sure, the power will return .... there is always manana!

OK, we are getting into the island spirit to slow down and decide just to head back to Castaways Resort where we are staying. Captain Bob, the owner is up and around now and he is keeping us entertained with his bird, Lola. She is quite a character and I have other pictures of Lola and Bob, but I promised not to use them as they could be construed as possible blackmail material!

My husband decided it was a good time to stick his head underwater. He decided to snorkel right at the dock and found a little bit of structure at the end of the dock with small colorful fish and a lot of turtle grass. The best snorkeling is just a little further out on the reef.

Kind of a lazy day. Meeting new people at the resort and then renewing friendships from our last trip here. Nothing moves fast in Guanaja, so sometimes it is best to just sit back, sip on a tasty aged rum and ENJOY!

Guanaja Honduras, is not for everyone, but for us, it is paradise!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Guanaja - Welcome to Paradise!

It seems that arrival of the ferry in Guanaja is similar to carnival time ...excitement everywhere. Enjoy!

Guanaja at Last!

Guanaja is just a short, depending on the weather, ferry ride away from the coastline of Honduras. We had to search everywhere for information on this elusive "yacht", but finally the local connection prevailed and we found out that the ferry travels from Trujillo to Guanaja on Thursdays and Sundays and leaves the dock at 1:00pm ...... most of the time, after all, this is Honduras!

Excited to be heading to our final destination we got there early, loaded all our gear, cooler with cold beer (a real must!) and fishing poles. There was already some freight aboard. I guess just about anything goes, even pigs and chickens! We noticed that there weren't very many passengers. I guess THEY knew that the boat wouldn't be leaving until 2:15pm! A local woman selling coconut bread meandered through the aisles selling her bakery goods and soon the boat literally became alive with people. Two cold beers into our wait the horn tooted a few times and slowly we backed away from the pier! Bye-bye Trujillo.

The ferry boat, or yacht, as the islanders call her has seen better days. She looks to be some kind of a large lake boat, refitted with seats taken from an airliner. The seat in front of me cautioned to keep my tray table in an upright position and to fasten my seat belt during take off. At this point I am ready for anything!

The locals that take this ferry all the time know the drill, get on board just in time, grab an extra seat cushion for a head rest and camp out in the center aisle for a three hour siesta. Next time we will know all the rules! For those of us who decided to stay awake there was entertainment on board. A few minutes out, the mate started up a movie on a flat screen TV up front. This would have kept me occupied except that the kung-fu movie they chose to play was in Chinese with Spanish sub-titles. YIKES!!!!

The seas were calm, but with a bit of a roll, just enough to be interesting. I think that was why the locals try to sleep on the voyage.

Three and a half hours later we docked at the municipal pier in Guanaja Honduras. Small boats were jockeying for position around the ferry to pick up passengers and freight and kept things interesting. I swear, I think that everyone must have a cousin in Guanaja. There must have been a hundred people waiting on the dock! For being in the nowhere, in Central America, on a Sunday afternoon, there was a lot of activity.

The Castaways Resort sent their driver, Arturo, to pick us up in his boat, so once again we moved our stuff. We arrived at the resort just as the sun was going down ... a beautiful time ... the restaurant was hopping with people and it was good to be on land again. What better plan than a cold beer?

Guanaja Honduras, our adventure begins once again!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Casa Alemania - Last Stop before Guanaja!

Casa Alemania, a beachside resort in Trujillo Honduras, is our last stop before we ferry over to Guanaja. Owned by a Geman fellow, named Gunther, and his Honduran wife, Paula, it made a terrific 2 day stop to relax before our ferry ride over to the Bay Islands.

It seemed that we were fated to meet up. Gunther and I share the same birthday and as a matter of fact we celebrated together with a French champagne that he brought out special for the occasion! My husband is Austrian, so he and Gunther had a lot to talk about, in German, of course!

Paula and Gunther were wonderful hosts and as you can see, quite doggy friendly! Houdini found out that Gunther had sold his Harley before coming to Honduras and thought that he would wear his own Harley gear for the birthday party.

Paula is a Doctor of Acupuncture and offers treatments as well as massage and facials. The prices at Casa Alemania are quite reasonable and they offer meals as well as beverages for their guests.

Relaxation is the key here and brightly colored hammocks strung between rustling palm trees were a great way to spend the afternoon and then a nice walk on the beach at sunset.

Life is good here at Casa Alemania and I highly recommend a stop over if you are in the area. You can contact them by telephone at: 011-504-9831-5748

Tomorrow we take the "yacht" over to Guanaja and the "Aventura en Honduras" continues!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

An Interesting Road to Guanaja!

We are on our way to Gaunaja. We have chosen not to fly to our bay island paradise, but enjoy some of the Honduran scenery and countryside. If we truly want to make this our new home we need to learn something of its ways and culture. Coming from the US, we sometimes forget that not everyone lives the way that we do and it is so very important not to judge, but to observe and realize that there are many "right" way to do things.

Below is a picture of Miguel, our taxi driver, drinking a Pepsi. He thought I was "locco" to take a picture of him drinking, but beverages are served, especially on the mainland in plastic bags with straws. This eliminates the need for large paper cups that would have to go into the landfills and are much cheaper to provide. I still haven't figured out how he really drank this while driving the car and I probably really don't want to know. Just a small way that Honduras goes "green"!

Next is an entrepreneur. This gentleman is collecting recyclable metal. I guess the price of fuel became too much for him and he uses man power to get around on his bicycle cart. He was going down the road next to all the new cars and trucks on a main highway. Many locals still use a horse and cart.

Another young business man we passed was holding up an Iguana for sale on the side of the roadway. Why would anyone want to buy one of those, I asked? Miguel gave me one of those looks and said that the local people like to eat them. YIKES! He said, not to worry, they taste a lot like ... you guessed it ....Chicken!

On our journey to Trujillo we passed by many banana and pineapple farms.... most of these belonged to Dole, or Standard Fruit as some call it. They have been large property owners in Honduras for many years. The interesting part here is decoration on the banana trees. Once the stacks of bananas have formed they put these blue plastic bags over them for protection from unwanted beasties. Coming from hurricane ridden Florida, this brought back memories of all the blue tarped roofs. I wonder if this is where all the extra tarps the US produced went?

Next time you buy a banana in the store think of this image!

The picture below is a Honduran cattle drive. These ol' doggies are being driven right on the side of the road....occasionally one of the unruly ones steps into the road so caution is advised! During our 3 hour trip to Trujillo we saw a cowboy on a bicycle herding cows as well as a motorcycle. Everyone of them just doing his job the best way they could.

Honduras is an interesting place for a spoiled American. I find it fascinating and wonder if I could live under such conditions. One thing I found out from driving though mainland Honduras is, just because you only have a two lane road, it does not mean that you can't have four lanes of traffic and a pedestrian or two along the way. This brings a whole new meaning to "fasten your seatbelts"!

Well, we are almost to our destination of Guanaja. We plan on laying over in Trujillo for a couple of days until the ferry leaves on Sunday and we will stay at the Casa Alemania right on the beach.

Don't worry, I'll tell you all about it tomorrow!

Guanaja Honduras is truly a Bay Island paradise, but the coast of Honduras has a lot to offer.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Adventures of Traveling to Guanaja Honduras!

Guanaja is our destination, but not this afternoon. For the time being we want to take the air conditioned bus to La Ceiba, a rather large city, on the coast of Honduras and spend a couple of days doing some business and looking around the area.

The bus leaves at 6:00pm so we were at the terminal early, bought our tickets and then checked our luggage. No problemo .... when we wanted to board the bus they checked our hand luggage and that is when Houdini popped up! I honestly did not think there would be a problem taking him on the bus in his carrier .... after all, he has traveled around the world in that carrier, quiet as a mouse, but the officials said NOOOOOO!!!!!!

OK, time to go to plan "B" ... whatever that was! We found a taxi to take us to La Ceiba for only $20 more than the bus....what a deal! Our private car, cold cervesas and no stops to make! Houdini enjoyed the ride along with his companion Miss Tiger Lady!

We took a lot of pictures along the way, but I must mention, it is not the best idea to photograph the policio while going through their occasional road stops. My husband had the camera on the dash and was clicking away when one of the local police told him NO and shook his finger at him. Well, at least I didn't have to bail him out!

We arrived 3 hours later at our hotel, the La Quinta downtown, and checked in. A quick Rum on ice and then we were off to the hotel restaurant for a quick dinner. They have a nice restaurant and the staff is always very accommodating. Surf and turf for Big AL and I went for the club sandwich, YUM! Houdini ate left overs back in the room.

The rooms at the La Quinta are very clean, air conditioned, comfortable and also offer TV with many English speaking is good!

Honduras is such a fascinating country. It is definitely a third world country when you travel the countryside, but the cities are an interesting mix. You can see the horse drawn carts waiting at stop lights while the bustle of city traffic passes them by!

There is a lot of good to be said about all of this. While there is crime and security guards protect the business establishments, there is also a lot of innocence and goodness about the people.

We will soon be in Guanaja, but for now, let's enjoy La Ceiba!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Guanaja, Not Yet ... San Pedro Sula First!

Guanaja, are we there, yet? No, not yet! From Miami we fly into San Pedro Sula where we were met by our friend, the owner of Castaways Resort Bob and his marketing director Jennifer.

Things went smoothly at the airport. Dr. Ortiz, the vet, met us and signed off on the import and export paperwork for Houdini and our new adventure in Honduras began!

The easiest place to change US dollars for Lempiras, the official currency, is at the airport. It seems that the rate is about $1 US to 19 Lempira and there is no extra surcharge. Be sure to do it at the bank at the airport though, because sometimes the money changers running around the airport have counterfeit money and they also count extremely fast!

Bob and Jenny had their driver Miguel, drive us all over to our hotel, The Palace Inn, to check in. Miguel is quite reliable and I highly recommend him if you are ever going to need a taxi in the San Pedro Sula area. He will even drive you over to La Ceiba about three hours away. Miguel charges an hourly rate, about $7-8 per hour. Check with him first. His phone number is 011-504-9981-8385 .... just give him a call.

Dinner was at Pecos Bill's and we had some terrific Honduran BBQ as well as some cold local beers! A couple of Rum beverages after dinner and we were all set for bed.

Next morning we were all up bright and early and headed off to the Copantl Hotel for an amazing breakfast buffet. Practically anything you could imagine was available and we tried many of the local favorites. We also discovered watermelon juice ... WOW was great! Breakfast there was a little pricier than in many places, but for the four of us, tax and tip included, the bill came to $37 US ... not too bad by US standards.

After breakfast we went shopping. I wanted to get an idea of the types of products available in Honduras. Long story can get just about anything from around the world. The picture below was taken in the Diunsa store, very similar to Target, but with name brand appliances available also. The store was extremely clean, well stocked and the associates friendly and helpful.

Later in the day we found our way to a Price Smart store, this was the equivalent to Sam's or Costco in the states. I was amazed, everything and anything was there. The prices were less than what we pay at home in Florida and many products were the same name brands. I think that with some planning, that living large in Honduras would not be too difficult.

Our adventure in Honduras has just begun .... check back later for details on taking the bus! You won't be disappointed

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Flying To Guanaja - It wasn't Pretty!

Here we are getting ready to board the flight to Guanaja ... it wasn't pretty, but it was made more tolerable by the cold cerveza that I was sipping. Miami airport is a crazy place anyway, so I guess we fit right in. Fortunately, the fishing rods and bags had been safely checked in .. and everything arrived in Honduras...YEAH!

Take note of the stuffed animal, not to be confused with Houdini who is NOT stuffed. Tiger Lady, the white tiger toy travels everywhere with the Hoots ...he refuses to leave home without her. This toy has logged more air miles than most people.

Traveling to Guanaja is an adventure so just relax and enjoy the journey