Drifting on our booze cruise, we docked at Roatan, Honduras. Yes, the same Honduras that once got into a shooting war with neighboring El Salvador over a soccer match. Luckily this port is part of an archipelago of islands claimed by Honduras, so they can keep most of the degradation away from delicate eyes like mine.
But honestly, they didn’t do a very good job.
Now, mark that my recollections here are tinted by a sinus infection I had forming in my lungs. The constant shift back and forth from air conditioned dry coolness to water-pregnant 90 percent humid heat began to eat away at me. Eventually it formed a knot of filth that spread.
Still, I in my rugged masculinity was determined to push on. I had paid for this crap and we were going to do it! Well, most of it. Well, some of it. Frankly after a few hours, I didn’t have anything left in me. All I could manage was to sit in my room and suck down a hot toddy.
We had hired a tour guide for the day to take us around to the various local points of interest. His name was Guy, originally from Costa Rica. He told us that once he came to Honduras he fell in love, about how much more opportunity here than where he came from. Looking around at all the shacks, the tourist traps made from scrap lumber hammered clumsily together, I could only guess at what a shithole Costa Rica must be.
Unlike Belize, which had the veneer of once being prosperous, it was clear that this third world island had almost literally nothing going for it until the cruise lines stuck a port on its tail end. Any place not owned by a Westerner was a dirt poor shack, made from leftover garbage and dead dreams. It was impossible to keep the filth out of eyesight as, apart from the constantly encroaching foliage, that was all there really was. The only cars on the roads were tourist taxis, like the one we were in, zooming fat Americans about from dingy dive to overpriced tourist trap.
The entire economy of the island must have been based on tourism as they charged for everything. Apart from when we went to the highest point on Roatan, a greedy palm was stuck out before every event. I don’t mean just the things we did listed below. Those we expected to pay for. But things like going to the beach, using wi-fi (which I still had my phone turned off) cost twenty dollars per person- an absolute rip-off.
The Sloth and Monkey Zoo
The highlight of the day for me was a private enclave where they breed white faced capuchin monkeys, sloths and various toucans. This was better than any zoo, as you got to go into cages with them, and interact with the beasts. As I said, this was my favorite. The wife, on the other hand, had an adverse reaction to hairy, sweaty, apes crawling about her- Don’t know why she married me then.
We entered the cage and two monkeys immediately alighted onto my head. I’ve had a lot heavier cats jump up and down my torso, so I had no problem with it. My wife screamed and batted one to the ground. She did much better when the toucan landed on her hat, but was less than thrilled by the bird’s parting present.
The monkey spent its time wrapping its tail around my face, and rubbing up against my head. The guide explained that the creature was absorbing moisture from my face of which there was plenty. After he had wiped my brow for me, the animal became more intrusive in his examination. Little fingers dug into my ears and pulled out the wax, which he promptly ate. I honestly didn’t know how to feel about this. On one hand it was gross. on the other it did me a service, like pilot fish that cleaned shark’s teeth
The oddest experience was holding the three toed sloth. With a well-deserved reputation for sluggishness, the animal didn’t struggle in our arms. In fact, if I was reading its facial expressions correctly, it seemed to enjoy it. It was like holding a plump one year old with four inch fingernails. The animal shifted about, looked at me, looked around, but basically clamped onto us as if we were tree branches.
I had become somewhat pale by this time and my wife was whispering profanities at me about how my illness was ruining the whole trip for her. So I bucked it up and we went on the smallest chocolate factory I’ve ever seen. Basically it was a set up in someone’s attic. After a ten minute demonstration they tried force chocolate on us. We declined and thing went south from there. For that reason, we skipped the rum factory and went straight to what my wife was waiting for, the snorkeling.
A rusty skip pulled up at the dock and we got on with another family. We had come prepared with our gear, but I hadn’t tried it on yet. The last time I had gone snorkeling was in Lake Ontario before I had hit double digits, and I hated it. I couldn’t get the damn pipe to stay up to keep drinking me air and it seemed useless to stay flat looking down, when it was more fun to go down and zip about.
By this time, the sinus infection had hit my lungs, breathing became more intense. What’s worse was that the damn mask sealed itself hard around my nose and I sure felt like I was suffocating. It was god awful and once again I had trouble getting air down the tube, but plenty of water came.
My wife kept bobbing up jabbering about all the wonderful fish I was missing out on. But it was so uncomfortable that I chucked the gear and figured if I wanted to see the damn fish, I’d fucking google them. I spent next hour enjoying myself by swimming the depths and banging my legs against the reefs. It was very relaxing. Didn’t need a suffocation mask to do that!
Well the day ended a little early, I was wiped out by all that swimming and monkeying around, plus the first stages of the infection was all over me. I suggested going to the ship’s doctor and wondered about getting some antibiotics on board, when my wife yelled that I could go to one of the pharmacies at the port.
“Will they have them?”
“Oh hell yeah. No prescription needed. Pus they carry all sorts of other things that’ll fuck your shit right up.”
With that sort of recommendation, I hopped right over. It was an open at one end with no front door. Typical of a shop at a cruise port. At first it looked like it was just full of all of the banal goods of a standard pharmacy: bandages, rubbing alcohol, cough syrup. Then I gazed upwards and read a sign listing all of the goodness behind the counter: steroids, muscle relaxers, pain pills. All the pharmaceutical colors of the rainbow.
I asked the woman behind the counter about my needs and she handed over a box of 100 amoxicillan tablets. My eyes widen, to even get this far in the states would’ve cost way too much, and eaten up several hours waiting for the doctor to saunter in.
“How much?” I asked, fearing for my wallet.
“Thirty five dollars for the entire box.” she replied, stifling a smirk.
I got the impression, she thought she was ripping me off, but I didn’t care. I was happy as hell. I downed two and headed for my cabin.
Rest of the Trip
So there I was, stuck in bed, watching the most random shows and films pop up on the ship’s television channels. My wife, the human gadfly, was out and about on the trip. Making friends, running up debts at the casino, drinking and gorging. She’d occasionally show up to toss me a banana or a partially eaten sausage- whatever was left on her tray when she was done.
There was one further stop, Cozumel, Mexico, but I couldn’t get out of the bed to enjoy it. My wife went and later reported that it was the best port on the trip, but she may have thought that because I wasn’t there.
Three days later we pulled into Tampa and, sore and sick, we disembarked for another 9 hour journey back up the highways to our beloved Columbia, South Carolina. There we lived happily ever after, until she burnt her first pot roast and then there was HELL to pay.