Monday, May 18, 2009
Going under water, or rather, over the book.
When planning this whole round the world trip, I did a whole lotta research. I found some pretty nifty blogs and exchanged emails and messages with lots o’ peeps who were on or had done or were just about to leave for their own adventures. When a change of plans (i.e. we didn’t have enough money saved up) meant we were starting in Central America, one of those peeps, Cindi, inspired me and encouraged me to consider learning to scuba dive in Honduras. Now I love the water, but I usually shy away from any past time that could end in death. I guess I’m also a bit of a wimp. So I was conflicted. But Cindi convinced me that I’d love it and cautioned that I could even become addicted to it.
This was the reason for our next destination, Utila. The Bay Islands on Honduras’ Caribbean coast are supposed to be the cheapest place to get your scuba certification. Those who know me, know I love a good deal (notice I didn’t say cheap) so how could I resist. The Bay Islands are also one of the best places to learn because of the high concentration of instructors and the amount of dive sites. Quality and low cost - now that’s what I call a good deal. I was, however, still dealing with that whole wimp thing. But one of the schools I emailed were so accommodating and encouraging that on Monday morning we set off to Utila eager to get under the water.
We took a taxi to the ferry dock and paid what the driver asked for – it was too early in the morning (the Spanish part of my brain hadn’t yet woken up and neither had my desire to argue). There was a ferry getting ready to depart in the next half hour which was just enough time to count all the other backpackers waiting to get on board. I guess everyone is after the good deal.
The ferry itself was large and air conditioned – a lot different from the boats we’d taken so far – making the trip one of the easiest ones. As we pulled up to Utila, it bigger than I imagined – it even had a big hill/almost mountain at one end – a lot different from our last island adventure on tiny Tobacco Caye. But it was also very built up around the dock with cute guesthouses and waterfront cafes lining the sea – a lot different from what we’d seen in Honduras so far.
On the ferry dock, we all had to wait while the police dogs sniffed all the luggage for drugs. Then it was time to run the gauntlet of dive school reps who were there to greet the ferry. Unlike taxi drivers at bus stops, they didn’t hassle us at all and were helpful when I said I was looking for the folks from Cross Creek. Kim was one of the folks as she walked us over to the school we chatted. Originally from Barrie, she had working in the music industry before arriving in Utila a year ago. Now she was one of the instructors with no plans to leave anytime soon.
As part of our tuition we were getting a free room which had air conditioning and a private shower. No private toilet – that was down at the edge of the dock. It was rustic but clean except for the many mosquitoes and sand flies. There was also a kitchen so we could save some cash by cooking. Once we were settled in, we got our course stuff figured out. Kim wouldn’t be our teacher but Itamar would. He gave us our new PADI books and a whole bunch of reading to do before our first class the next day. Itamar suggested we just do the quizzes at the end of each chapter rather than read the whole thing. But since I still had that whole fear of death thing in the back of my head Adrian and I wanted to read it all. It was a lot to take in and I’m glad we have more than 24 hours to read it.
But after 4 hours of reading it was time for a break so we headed to the grocery store where we got a bit of a shock. Because Utila is an island, the prices were double if not triple. So rather than branch out, spaghetti was on the menu once again. Well, at least we get two free breakfasts during our stay – once we pay. I made dinner and then it was back to studying. Before we go under water we had to go over the book.