Famous throughout the backpacking globe as ‘the’ place to learn to dive in Latin America, Utila’s reputation precedes itself. A distinctly quirky little island, Utila has a unique heritage: British and African ancestry and strong cultural influences from Jamaica and the Central American mainland.
Travelling by bus in Central America is truly an unknown quantity. For my next journey it was imperative to leave plenty of time in order to catch the last ferry from the north Honduran mainland to the island of Utila.
The rickety bus coughed and splutteted it’s way out of Copán Ruinas just after 06:30 and took around 3-hours to get to San Pedro Sulas (SPS) – allegedly one of the the most dangerous cities in the world (The Guardian). From SPS’s huge, and surprisingly plush, bus terminal it was a 4-hour bus journey to the port of La Ceiba.
Fellow travellers had waxed lyrical about how amazing the island of Utila was and so my spirits were extremely high as I boarded the smart new ferry – ‘Utila Princess’. The older ferry is still running and whilst it costs a third of the price of the new one, it is a slow, delapidated, rust bucket in comparison.
Utila is small – in fact 13km long and 5km wide. Virtually the entire population lives in one settlement, Utila Town, set on a curving bay. There are only two small beaches here, and a cluster of tiny cays off the island’s southwest shore. Today Utila earns its keep from its reef and the resultant diving.
The new ferry took about 45 minutes to complete its journey from La Ceiba to Utila town. During the short walk from the ferry terminal to the main street I was greeted by a crowd of brochure waving touts who were doing their best hard sell. Thankfully I had rung ahead and booked a little hostel (Sea Side Views) just out of the centre.
The walk to my hostel, along the main street, left me shaking my head in dissbelief. Utila is a far cry from the manicured Caribbean hideaway that I had in my mind. For such a tiny island Utila has an incredibly annoying traffic problem: a constant tide of motorcycles, quadbikes, tuk-tuks and pickups that curses the island’s two streets. The sheer mass of tourists was an instant turn off for me, as was the huge amount of trash strewn everywhere.
Within an hour of being on the Island I was planning my return to the mainland. But with no ferry until the following day I had to make the most of my current situation. I managed to find a small restaurant that mixed an awesome G&T and served a delisious fish supper.
Next stage: A strange turn of events.