Sunday, August 10, 2008

3 Countries In 7 Days

Mima Has Landed

Three countries in seven days; hiking 2000 stairs, snorkeling with giant tarpon, Marshall being robbed, what a ride but we have finally arrived in Guatemala, our new home for the next three months. Before I get ahead of myself let me tell you about the past week and our continuing adventures.

If you recall my last article the kids had just finished their Scuba certification in Roatan, Honduras. After going on a couple dives together we left the Island of Roatan for Utila, the last of the Bay Islands. We spent 4 lazy days on Utila and enjoyed our time their very much before heading to the mainland of Honduras on our way to Guatemala and the Rio Dulce. Our sail to the mainland was not one. What I mean is that for the first time we experienced a west wind. What direction are we heading? You guessed it, west. Now in fairness to all the true sailors out there we could have tacked all over the place and sailed all the way to our destination but I have never claimed to be a true sailor. So we motor sailed and after 8 hours arrived at Puerto Escondido, Honduras.

The anchorage is part of a Honduran national park and we were greeted upon entering the anchorage with the fragrant bouquet of jungle flowers and the roar of Howler Monkeys. It was good to be back in the jungle again. The following day all three boats in our little flotilla (S/V Dream Odyssey, S/V CToy and S/V Mima) headed to shore to hike in the forest. I had not been on shore more than a couple of minutes and a pair of Plain Chachalaca (Google this one) came to check us out, very cool. Our real objective however, was a hike up 1000 stairs to an overlook we had heard about. We found the trail and were off. This is a rugged coast line and the stairs were necessary as it seemed that we were going straight up.

After 653 stairs, yes we counted as it kept our minds off our burning legs, we reached the top. It turns out that the remainder of the 1000 steps is on the way down the other side so down we went. After a quick rest stop we were back off up and over the ridge as we were only an hour away from sunset. After a total of 2000 stairs and a couple miles of trail we were back on board the boat. The jungle was beautiful here and perhaps the most pristine we have yet visited. Amy commented later after seeing plastic debris along a lonely stretch of beach and in the water, "I can see why it is so important not to litter." That lesson alone is worth the trip and we certainly hope we can play an active role in preserving what is left of our pristine jungles and forests.

The next morning we left for the Sapodilla Cays in Belize, country number two, after spending two months in Honduran waters. We eventually want to visit Honduras again and explore inland. The eight hour trip to the Sapodillas was uneventful with the exception of Marshall landing a nice King Mackerel. The Sapodilla Cays are the southernmost group of islands in the barrier reef of Belize. The primary reason we came here was to get a better point of sail for our trip to Guatemala and to break up the sailing legs so as not to require any overnight passages. After searching around for a while for a good anchorage big enough to hold all three boats we settled in close to Hunting Cay and realized we were sitting in a truly wonderful spot.

We quickly launched the dinghy and our time snorkeling revealed that we were in the middle of an aquarium. Abundant fish, crabs of all sorts, lobsters, conch the list goes on and on and all were here to greet us. Dinner was sushi from the Mackerel we had caught and we all went to bed tired but excited to be in a new country.

The next day found us snorkeling once again and we even did some fishing from the dinghy. While trolling through the reef systems we noticed a number of large Tarpon feeding on a school of minnows. We threw a few lures at them with no luck so we dropped the anchor and put on snorkel gear and quietly got in the water. What we saw before us was the most amazing scene I have ever observed underwater. In just 12-15 feet of water the reef was literally bursting with life. A large school of minnows were seeking refuge close to the reef and all the big dogs had come out to feed.

Observed from 30 feet away the scene was mesmerizing but then I swam directly into the minnows. They completely engulfed me and my visibility was reduced to mere inches. As I floated motionless on the surface without warning the minnows would part like the Red Sea and here swimming directly at me was a 5 foot long Tarpon or a school of Yellow Tailed Snapper or little Tuna and on one occasion a Grouper tipping the scale well in excess of 100 pounds. Add to this mix a few larger Tuna, Barracuda, Dog Snapper and all the normal reef inhabitants and it felt like someone had set us in the middle of the greatest fish tank ever conceived. It was truly awe inspiring and I hated to finally get out of the water.

Dinner that night was a fish fry on the beach, compliments of Greg and Barbara on S/V CToy, and a truly memorable day had come to a close. We were enjoying ourselves so much we decided to stay another day and do some more fishing and snorkeling. Little did we know that tomorrow Marshall would be robbed of one of his dearest possessions? To be continued……

Fair Winds and Following Seas, the 4Wheelers

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