Creature feature

I admit it. We are fair weather snorkelers/scuba divers. So when we woke to grey cloudy skies we resorted to Plan B: Zip lining at Gumbalimba Park.

You have to fortify yourself for such an adventure so we stopped into Café Escondido in West End and I’m delighted to report that their banana pancakes are as wonderful as I remember.  We were pondering our transit options to West Bay where Gumbalimba is located and as luck would have it, our landlords Stan and Joan came by in their truck and offered us a ride.

Not only did they drive us, they made a pit stop at the Roatan Rum Company where we tried samples of rum cake and various rums. A shot of island liquor is helpful to steel your nerves when you’re preparing to go careening through the jungle on a steel cable.

We were deposited at the top of a large hill that dropped sharply to the ocean.  Harnessed, helmeted and gloved up, we prepared for our thrill ride through the canopy.  There is nothing like hurtling toward a tiny wooden platform at eye-watering speeds with only a leather glove as your brake to get the blood pumping. Of course, my significant other had to succumb to the boyish daredevil within and before you know it, was zipping in Superman pose and upside down.Tracy zip

The whole adventure took 40 minutes from hilltop to beach and it was a whole lotta awesome. Next we toured the park with guide Sheena who pointed out the flora and fauna and took us into a manmade cave to tell us about Roatan’s pirate legacy and the story of pirate John Coxen for whom the largest town here, Coxen Hole, is named. He was a pirate missing a few body parts – during various skirmishes, he lost a hand, an eye and a lower leg but that didn’t stop him from plundering and pillaging. I’m sure the loot he found was worth considerably more than the cheapy replica coins in the treasure chest we saw.

After stopping to admire a hummingbird, a black iguana and some rodent that is a relative of the guinea pig, it was on to the fun stuff: the parrots and monkeys. Barney the green parrot posed willingly ??????????with us and thankfully didn’t use that big beak of his to gnaw on our ears or noses.

The white-faced capuchin monkeys were as a fun as a barrel of … well, you know. The treetops came alive as they spotted humans (food alert!) and came swinging down to get acquainted. The alpha male Sonny leapt onto my shoulder and happily munched sunflower seeds. A female, Supa, climbed onto Rolland and was fascinated by the video camera, watching what was happening on screen, then trying to press the buttons. I think she has a bright future as assistant director on the next Planet of the Apes sequel.

Our adventurous spirits sated, we headed back to West End and deliberated our dining choices. What does a day of zip lining and monkey business call for? Caribbean Rotisserie Chicken of course! It’s one of our fave places to dine, where you sit at tables on the porch attached to a cheerful lime green building housing the kitchen. Hummingbirds flit overhead at the feeder and there are always some cats lolling about and a chicken or two roaming the yard. Swiss Chalet pales by comparison. My quarter chicken dinner with sides of homemade coleslaw and potato salad was $6. If you want to really pig out and have a half chicken meal, it’s $8.

After dark, we strolled down the main drag of West End. It’s fun on a Friday night. Sundowner’s, the expats’ waterhole of choice is packed as usual and the street is alive with people, tourists and residents alike, out for a stroll. No wonder so many ex-pats discover Roatan and happily leave their North American life behind to take up life on the island.



Island idyll

Today we got to move beyond the cozy confines of West End when a Honduran friend of ours offered to take us on a tour of some other parts of the island. So we climbed into his truck and headed east along Roatan’s one main roadway that we shared with bicycles, scooters and tourists in rental cars who didn’t know where the heck they were going.

It was the kind of perfect day we remembered from last year. Brilliant blue skies, temperatures pleasantly hovering around 80 and just the slightest of ocean breezes. We passed through Coxen Hole. It was a cruise ship day and we spotted three of the massive behemoths that float tourists by the thousands into Roatan moored at their docks.

The road is winding and narrow so you can’t hit 401-style speeds but it was a great day to just cruise and enjoy the lush, rolling topography of Roatan. Those who don’t leave the all inclusives clustered along West Bay Beach or the bohemian rhapsody of West End don’t know what they are missing. The east end of the island is spectacular, with breathtaking views of the ocean and the lush jungle greenery of its rolling hills. You can see both sides of the islands from some points, which is pretty cool.

We traipsed around our friend’s property that right now has little more than some rustic roads, newly installed hydro lines and freshly cleared land but offers the promise of incredible views to Sunset Ridge’s future vacation home buyers. We stopped next door at Havana Bay Beach, an exquisite stretch of white sand where cruise shippers come to pass the day in a postcard-perfect setting, sunning themselves on the beach, drinking Monkey Lalas under palapas and swimming and snorkeling in aqua waters. We will make a return trip next week and bring our swimsuits and snorkeling gear and make like we are cruisers.

It was a great day to celebrate the ninth anniversary of the first time I met my travelling buddy and the guy who has shared my life since. Our first date was in a coffee shop in Whitby on a chilly night. Tonight, we celebrated at the Argentinian Steakhouse in West End. We had grilled lobster tails – maybe next week we’ll go to the Lobster Pot for steak. The lobster was luscious and the mojitos were marvellous. The banana flambe was a decadent finale.

Seeing as I’ve eaten key lime pie, rum cake and banana flambe in the last few days, tomorrow it really is time to swim off some of those calories. If it’s cloudy, we have a backup plan: zip lining at Gumba Limba Park or hiking nature trails at Carambola Gardens.

Roatan's beaches are awesome!
Roatan’s beaches are awesome!


I wish I could regale you with exciting tales of zip lining or para sailing or whale shark sightings. Nope . Today was about sync-ing with the island rhythm, slowing the pace. At home, we call it being lazy.
Awake at 7 a.m. I indulged in some TV watching that included a heady combination of real estate porn and a fascinating reality show about a hillbilly who wades into ponds to catch snapping turtles and into dank crawl spaces to grab groundhogs by the tail.
But the promise of a hot, blue sky day lured me to the balcony to tediously tap out yesterday’s blog entry on my iPhone as hummingbirds battled it out at the feeder within arms’ reach and a curious gecko came calling.
We did make the 5 minute journey to West End where crews are busy with shovels and wheelbarrows cleaning up mounds of seaweed a storm churned up a few days ago.
Today it’s time to sample another Roatan taste treat: lion fish tacos at the Cannibal Cafe. Lion fish is an invasive species here and a threat to the native reef dwellers. So I figure I’ve helped to eliminate one more threat by chowing down on one wrapped in a corn tortilla. Invasive and tasty!
On the way back to Casa Canuck, we meet Rino Jackson carrying his adorable baby girl Amelia. Rino owns Scuba Roatan where last year we got our diving certification. We tell him we will see him soon to re-learn everything we have forgotten since last year. The afternoon activities include more lazing interspersed with more reading before another trek into town. We stroll the entire length of downtown West End sharing the narrow street with other pedestrians, cars and scooters. We stop and film three boys having a grand time swimming in the mass of seaweed that’s washed up close to shore. Who knew that brown smelly water weeds could be so much fun?
It’s happy hour at the Splash Inn pizzeria so we get two beer, two glasses of wine and a large Mediterranean pizza for a grand total of $25. The sunset view? Priceless.

Tuesday is for tacos

imageWe were thrilled to discover that one of West End’s popular sports bars has upheld a tradition we discovered last year – Tuesday Night $1 Tacos! Can you say cheap eats? But before I get to our Mexican fiesta night, let’s recap the day’s prior activities.
We spent the morning visiting with Casa Canuck owners Stan and Joan and heard the story of how they relocated from northern Alberta to their current digs in Roatan. It takes guts and daring to sell everything and move to a new country and way of life. I’m sure Stan misses repairing furnaces in -40 degree weather and thinks fondly of blizzards when he’s out in 30 degree weather catching tuna.
We headed to downtown West End to grab lunch at one of our favourite cafés, Earth Mama’s but sadly, it had closed. We found a backup plan in a charming little resto where we ate schnitzel and spatzle while gazing at the ocean.
Next up for me was a Thai massage at Chez Breezy where I got stretched where I again had to put up with a view of blue sky and blue water.
Now back to Taco Tuesday. We trekked down to Monkey Island with Joan and Stan and fellow Casa Canuck guests Sam and Bill and washed down our yummy $1 tacos with beer and fruity drinks. We met Monkey Island manager Adam who is a real-life treasure hunter. He showed us photos of some of his finds – centuries old coins and gold pieces. Next it was on to Caribbean Rotisserie Chicken for dessert – out of this world rum cake. Sugar rush!
The day came to a fine end as we adjourned back to Casa Canuck and did some star gazing from the dock.
By the way, today’s blog is brought to you courtesy of my iPhone seeing as my brand new fancy laptop decided yesterday it was on permanent vacation and went kaput.

Thrills and chills!


They say getting there is half the fun. I don’t know about that, but I do know that by the time we touched down at Roatan airport, we had already had a full day of adventures. It started with a Fast and Furious-style ride to the airport in the van provided by the service we hired. I think our driver – perhaps a Formula 1 racer wannabe – set a new land speed record, delivering us from our door in Oshawa to Pearson Terminal 3 in 37 minutes flat. 

There was good news and bad news at check-in. Bad news: Rolland had abided by the weight restrictions imposed by the airline but missed the part about it having to be contained in one checked bag. Luckily the counter attendant took pity on him and agreed to let the extra bag go through as a sports bag – it did contain our snorkeling gear – so we wouldn’t pay a hefty penalty fee. Then we discovered the seats in row 6 we had paid $25 each to book were actually for our return flight, so we had to take what was available and those were seats in row 29. Back of the bus! The good news is we got a coupon to hang out in a ritzy airport lounge with hot buffet breakfast, soft lighting and soothing music plus free newspapers. Living the life! No one would ever guess that we were Row 29 people, not fancy front of the plane folks.

Casa LR
Our Roatan home for the next two weeks. Casa Canuck Suite 2!

The flight was uneventful; the landing was the white knuckle kind that shaves years from your life. Consider the factors: heavily clouded skies, rain, a short runway precariously close to the ocean. The plane tilted and tossed like a Wobbling Goblin on the final descent, hit the tarmac, slammed to a halt and wheeled around before we came THIS CLOSE to careening off into the jungle or ocean or something – if I wasn’t busy watching my life flash before my eyes, I could have supplied a better description.

It was déjà vu – we arrived in Roatan in the pouring rain, just like last year. Our lovely hosts, Stan and Joan, proprietors of Casa Canuck were on hand to greet us and we are ensconced in a lovely little studio apartment with a private deck where a tiny hummingbird is perched on our clothesline.

Now off to find some fruity island liquid refreshment…