I threw back the curtains of my stateroom on our approach to Roatan, and wasn't especially impressed by the overcast conditions. It was threatening rain, and by the time I headed up to deck 11 for breakfast at the spa cafe, it was pouring - not exactly great conditions for a hike up a mountain! When I disembarked at 9.15am, however, the rain had stopped, and the six ladies in our group breathed an uneasy sigh of relief.
Although Honduras is famous for its reef, diving and snorkelling, I'd opted to stay on land for my shore excursion. We would drive a short way north from our docking point, Coxen Hole, to Carambola Botanical Gardens, and from there we would hike up the mountain to the top, for a view of the pretty Anthony's Key. First, however, I was delighted to discover the gift shop, not for the nice array of souvenirs, but the four kittens which lived there and really wanted to make friends.
The hike was a little sloppy due to the rain, but it's was a gradual ascent which took half an hour. Along the way our guide, Gina, told us a little about the fascinating fauna and flora of the island, and showed us a variety of plants and herbs which are still used by the local people to cure all manner of ailments, from ovary pain to flu. At the top we enjoyed the view, took photos, got to know our fellow hikers and caught our breath. Even though it was one of Honduras's cooler months, it was still hot and pretty humid. Two of my fellow hikers were a mother and daughter from Nashville, and the other four neighbours who'd known each other forever from Cincinati, Ohio.
We descended pretty quickly, although we had to be careful in spots as it was steep and sloppy, and boarded our mini bus to head to the far northern tip of the island, called West End. As Gina explained, it's the tourist end of the island, with shops, restaurants, places to stay and where you can organise activities such as diving, horse riding and boat trips.
There, our first stop was the Barefeet Bar, where we had a rum punch and decided the walking had given us an appetite for an early lunch - calamari, fish sandwiches and chicken sandwiches were the go. From there we had time to walk back into the thick of the strip and shop, mostly for local crafts including wooden bowls, jewellery, cloth bags and cigars - both Honduran and Cuban.
My fellow hikers were great fun. The mother and daughter were by themselves as a gift to the mother for her birthday, and the other four were also without their husbands and kids, having a girls' trip away. There were plenty of laughs, jokes and they stimulated the local economy just a little.
Back at Coxen Hole, they decided to check out the duty free shops at the port, while I ventured back on board to rehydrate, take some shots of the ship in this lush, green environment, and make ready for a yoga class. Tomorrow I go to cooking school in Cozumel, Mexico - namaste!
To see some images from Roatan, click here.
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