I like Tela. It’s quiet. It’s on the warm water of the Caribbean. And it has a mix of Latin America and Caribbean culture. I’ve decided to stay here for a few days. My intent in coming to the Caribbean coast of Honduras was to visit Roatan or Utilia, two the islands that make up the Islas de Bahia. Known worldwide for their great coral reefs and therefore excellent snorkeling and diving, I discovered today that taking my bike and me on the ferry to either island and back will coast $125, a bit more than I can afford for just a couple days. Top that with a bit more for diving or snorkeling, I’m better served gazing out over the bay and taking a peak into the Garifuna culture that makes this part of Honduras unique.
The Garifuna people migrated here from the Caribbean Islands in the late 18th century, so their culture is a mix of African and Caribbean. Living in traditional thatched huts on pristine beaches on either side of Tela, they perform traditional drum-driven rhythms of Garifuna music in which you can definitely hear an African influence.
I met David and older man who along with his son run a boat and offered to take me to Punta Sal – the Parque Nacional Janette Kawas — a reserve of mangrove swamps, coastal lagoons, wetlands, coral reef and tropical forest providing habitats for an extraordinary range of animal, bird and plant life. A sturdy man with weathered skin, salt and pepper hair and thin gold rimmed glasses that frame his face nicely, I imagined him in a suit and hustling business either in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, or even New York City. Getting to Punta Sal is practical only by boat, but again going solo the cost is a bit prohibitive. But he later came back to the hotel where I was lounging and working on my journals and photography and was excited to let me know that I could share a boat with a german couple. So it was set. He’d stop by the hotel at 8 am and we’d wander to the boat launch and begin our day long journey to remote villages and pristine beaches.
An early 7:30am breakfast for me the next morning and I waited. And waited. At nearly 9pm I took a walk toward the boats. Other boaters told me they saw David leave earlier, but without passengers. Seems he was going fishing. I was bummed. And I simply wish he dropped by the hotel and told me that the Germans backed out — or whatever — and didn’t leave me hanging.
So I decided to move on. Once again pass the banana plantations and through El Progreso where I stopped at a gas station and was quickly surrounded by curious attendants, customers and eventually the elder owner of the station. We chatted for awhile in Spansih. Soon he brought his English-speaking son to the party and next I was handed a card and offered carte-blance a place to stay and an insiders look at the local area the next time I visit. So I guess this gets added to the list of places I must return. I do want to see Roatan and Utila. And perhaps a home-cooked meal by the good folks who own the El Progresso Texaco station!
Photos: (1) sunset at Tela from porch of Hotel Sherwood; (2) taking in the Tela days, not a bad way? (3) Beautiful Tela beach and Garifuna villages on point in distance.