Boxing Day and this boxing kangaroo decided to have another joust with that mortal of all enemies…..a decent wifi connection! Went back to the place from last night, but realised I was just wasting my time. Another place was recommended to me across the road, so thought I’d give it a burl. As far as bars to wile away a couple of hours over a couple of cervezas, this place couldn’t be beaten. Situated on the edge of the bay with stunning views, I tried my luck again. Downside: wifi connection still not strong enough for download. Upside: met a lovely Canadian expat who was playing in a band later that night in West Bay.
Determined not to waste another day, I dumped my now detested iPad at the hostel and caught a local bus to start exploring the island. Roatan has an fascinating history of foreign parties doing the dirty on its inhabitants. From Christopher Columbus touching down and enslaving many of the local people, to pirates using the island for their own nefarious needs, and then the Brits dumping thousands of black Carib slaves on its shiny shores, because they wouldn’t play nicely as slaves in St. Vincent. Fortunately, the latter survived and is now a strong, vibrant community both on the island and also the mainland. The Brits had a large influence on the island in the early days due to settling timber merchants, hence, such whimsical names as Flowers Bay, French Harbour and Oak Ridge.
I had a short wander around Sandy Bay, before walking along the road again waiting for another bus to go past to take me to the main town on the island, Coxen Hole. There, a lovely local family walked me to where the buses left to go to the eastern end of the island. I’m sure the outfitter of the minibus I caught forgot that people have legs and that they like to have sensation in such appendages to be able to use them afterwards…
The ride east was glorious. Roatan truly is a glittering Caribbean gem. Pretty wooden houses perch on stilts to take full advantage of a variety of vistas: verdant jungle, emerald fields and sparkling ocean glimpses. The bus crossed the island from its eastern edges and dropped into the vibrant Garifuna community of Punta Gorda on the western coast. There in the Main Street, backdropped by a glorious ocean, were two Garifuna men wearing animal masks and dancing to a pulsating beat, surrounded by local onlookers. I would have loved to have joined them, but it was getting late in the day and I wanted to get all the way to Oak Ridge.
It was dusk by the time I reached my final destination, but was keen to wander around and explore the town a little before I left. Oak Ridge is a ramshackle little town clinging to the edge of a protected harbour. Many of the houses were perched on stilts over the water. I crossed a little bridge and went to the far end of the spit of land that denotes the end of town before returning.
It was nearly dark by the time I returned to where the minibus had dropped me off. Alas, I had missed the last bus back by ten minutes! I had thought they ran later, but evidently not. I was directed a few hundred metres down a dark, curving stretch of road to where I could catch a colectivo taxi back. Although I could clearly see the bright lights of my destination, there was the problem of ‘Muggers Mile’ to traverse. I walked as quickly as would not arouse too much suspicion and hoped for the best. Fortunately, close to the end, a vehicle came past and accompanied me to the waiting taxi.
My driver was most affable and eventually agreed to drive me all the way back to Coxen Hole for L100. En route, we were stopped for a routine police check and my driver earned himself a ticket for a broken light. When he went to plead his case, he was dismayed to discover that the officer in question was the exact same one that the local taxi drivers are taking a case up against for alleged police brutality (tasering a driver to the ground, then kicking the bejesus out of him). I felt sorry for him as it ended up being an expensive evening for him.
In Coxen Hole, I caught another collectivo back to West End. By this stage it was getting late and I tossed up whether to go see the band of the expat I had met earlier in the day. Decided to anyway and was glad I did! Brian, the lead singer, was a 60 year old coloured man with long blonde dreadlocks and teeth whiter than a Colgate commercial. He sure knew how to work the crowd with his crazy energy and it was a fun night. Managed to get a lift back to my hostel afterwards for which I was extremely grateful as I wasn’t keen to take a dodgy, overpriced cab back.