North America’s Bali Equivalent

As one Texan explained, it’s North America’s Bali equivalent to Australia. Roatan island is on the Carribbean side of Central America, off the coast of Honduras. Surrounded by a reef, the island is a diving Mecca. An island paradise with calm tropical waters, beautiful beaches shaded with palms against a background of mountains.

What’s different about Roatan is it offers a range of resort type quality accommodation, particularly in the popular West Bay area. Not the high rise over commercialised type, but typically found hidden amongst beach front palms. Choose between a range of bars and restaurants along the beach strip. Or be enticed by the aroma of barbequeing chicken on a street stall and find yourself being ushered to dine at a makeshift table setting on the beach under the palms. Further along the island is the main town of Coxin Hole. Not that it’s a hole of a place as the name may suggest, but offers more of the original, authentic character of the island with the traditional street market stalls and cafes.

No chook busses here. But getting around the main part of the island is simple and cheap…. once you work it out. Otherwise you’re sitting game for taxis to have you paying anywhere up to quadruple the local rate. My favourite though are the 18 seater vans that transverse the main part of the island every 10 minutes or so. I don’t think these vans were ever designed for public use. Particularly the side sliding door. The door seals are well and truly a thing of the past having endured an unrelenting number of times being slammed open and shut, each time screaming a dull painful raw metal to metal sound. While its glory days of a normal door are long gone, it does however at least provide a barrier to stop people falling out. But it does the job. It just adds to the character of island life. And all for less than a buck.

While the West End offers more upmarket standards of accommodation, I chose the more down to earth appeal of a backpacker hostel. A good hostel offers a great social community. The first night on the island happened to be a bonfire and dinner on the nearby beach. It’s also a great way to connect with others. To share information on where and how to get to places. Or like a randomly organised mini united nations visit to the east end of the island. There was a Brit, Yank, Canadian, El Salvadoran and me the Aussie. If you don’t want to rent a car from the majors, do what Dan the Brit did. Meet a guy in the street. Pay him fifty bucks, no paperwork and drive off for the day in his as new Toyota. What the?

Having enjoyed a couple dives and several days of island life, there was more of Honduras to explore. An hour and a half ferry ride on an modern as any ferry you’d find brings you to La Ceiba on the mainland. After an overnight stay and a 4am rise, it’s back on the bus. Nine hours later in the comfort of a, well excuse me… Executive Plus seating section of the trans national bus, to Copan Ruins near the Guatamala border.

The ruins goes back to the Maya era. Not wanting to bore you fellow non archeological folk, but suffice to say this Mayan mob had a pretty good setup. They lasted for about 16 Kings and a population of about twenty five thousand people. Mind you that was well before our time of course. Like back about two and half thousand years. Then it was all over for them. Ran out of food apparently. By contrast the Spanish only turned up about a thousand years later. But they mainly just wanted to pillage all the gold in the continent and get everyone to talk Spanish. Maybe I’m not a good judge of character. But when I was in Spain they seemed really nice people? Just doesn’t make sense to me? Anyway wasn’t any gold in Copan, so they went straight past. So poor ol’ Copan lay forgotten up until just a couple hundred years ago. The Spanish sure missed out. Because if they had known, they could have enjoyed the likes of this weekend when they’ve got a music band and a parade in the town square!

Now admittedly Honduras hasn’t had a reputation as the safest place, but pick your spots and there’s a lot to experience and enjoy and more interesting people to meet along the way.

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