Trip with Mike

Beez Neez now Chy Whella
Big Bear and Pepe Millard
Fri 28 Dec 2012 23:17
A Tour of Roatan with Mike
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Our first stop – view
We jumped in the back of Mike’s posh van with two tourists, another yachty and Stephanie, Jean-Pierre and Maria (Mike’s children) to go on a tour of the island.
Roatan, located between the islands of Utila and Guanaja, is the largest of Honduras' Bay Islands. It had been our plan to sail to Utila (oo-tiller) first, spend a few days and head to Roatan in time for Christmas, but as is our habit of having far too much fun, staying longer and then playing catch-up (plus the engine / diesel / water trouble) we sadly had to miss Utila.
Our next planned stop after Roatan was to be Guanaja (wan-a-har) but now we know about the bugs – miss it and straight on. We have read blogs about the no-see-ums hiding on the boat for days, just heard laughing at frequent batterings by Deet, just to keep biting until they finally fall off their little mortal coils. Mike told us a story of a wealthy man building several multi-million dollar dream homes on the island. One very famous guest arrived for a two week break. On day one he was seen enjoying the beach albeit briefly, then running to the pool and sitting nose deep, just like the monkeys that keep warm in the hot pools in Japan. After dusk said star runs into house, slams door and is next seen running to the taxi to take him home the following day. Enough said, Beez Neez need not be subjected to such goings on. Neither does our flesh.
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The island was formerly known as Ruatan and Rattan. It is approximately thirty seven miles long and less than five miles across at its widest point, volcanic in creation it is incredibly fertile, lush and green. The most populous town of the island is Coxen Hole, capital of Roatán municipality, located in the southwest. Other important towns include French Harbour, West End and Oak Ridge.

The easternmost quarter of the island is separated by a channel through the mangroves that is an average fifteen meters wide. This area is called Helene, or Santa Elena in Spanish. Satellite islands at the eastern end are Morat, Barbaretta and Pigeon Cay. Further west between French Harbour and Coxen Hole is Stamp Cay and Barefoot Cay. The population is around eighteen thousand and the biggest industry is tourism with up to six cruise ships in per day during the season. People also come on diving holidays to enjoy the clear water and huge variety of sea life. 



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Later in the day we saw evidence that the island is ‘growing’ out of the sea, with coral clearly showing at the waters edge



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We passed many villages set around the numerous inlets



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 Our next stop was to watch a dolphin show (own blog) and visit the smart little museum.



In 1639 the native population of the Bay Islands approached four hundred residents spread among four native settlements: Guanaja and Utila on the islands of those names and Maca and Roatan on the island of Roatan. The tribute delivered by the heads-of-family on Guanaja was used to pay for lookouts at the port of Trujillo, but this same protection did not extend to the islands. In the same year, Dutch pirates burned the eighty houses and church on Guanaja. The same fate befell the settlements of Maca and Roatan.

Nevertheless, the islands continued to supply important goods. The Indians were well known as skilled rope makers using vines and sedges, their fame as fishermen was also well known. In fact, “a large part of the subsistence of the town of Trujillo and seafarers rests on the fish,” claimed a document from the time. In addition to all this, the Indians paid a special kind of periodic labour tribute (Tequetin), that is, they would spend a week working in groups for the Spanish colonists and crown government in Trujillo.



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Pirates and buccaneers restocked their ships in the islands. It is known from historical records that pirates used Port Royal Harbour for beaching and repairing the hulls of their ships. Evidence of these refitting activities, such as iron axes, iron and bronze spikes also hunks of pine resin have been recovered from Careening Key, a small sand bar just east of Fort Key. Besides foodstuffs, ship refitting supplies and safe ports the islands provided native guides who (either voluntarily or by force) aided pirate attacks on Rio Dulce and Trujillo. To end this collaboration, Spanish authorities ordered the forced depopulation of the islands in 1642. The natives of Guanaja were known to be strong collaborators with the enemies of the Spanish crown. For this, they were exiled inland to Comayagua. The Indians from Maca and Roatan, on occasion warned the Spanish of pirate activities. These populations were resettled at Gualmoreto lagoon, near Trujillo. Because of these forced movements, subsequent mixed populations of the Bay Islands have not included indigenous peoples.


Native Slavery: Before beginning the conquest of Honduras, Spanish from the Greater Antilles made slavery raids in the Bay Islands. An account of one of these infamous escapades survives today.

“A fleet sent by the Governor of Cuba attacked the islands, took several hundred Indian captive and shipped them immediately back to Cuba. Once in port, the Spanish left these ships unguarded. The captives seized one vessel and made sail back to the Bay Islands. Even though the Indians were pursued and eventually recaptured in the Bay Islands by the Spanish, this event demonstrates the knowledge and skill of these island navigators, even with such unfamiliar craft as those of the Europeans.”



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Yaba Ding Ding: a colourful term, which may be unique to the Bay Islands. Some islanders use it to signify any Pre-Columbian artifact, but it is usually reserved for the great quantity of detached supports or adornments of the Cocal period ceramic vessels, which abound here.



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We stopped for lunch at an Argentinian restaurant opposite the beach , passed the oldest settlement, (when the islands grew once more) – Jonesville 1852 and many lovely houses.


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Our last stop was at the lighthouse, we paid a whole dollar to go to the top 


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The view from the top does not show the wind. The weather has changed and there will be no boats leaving the island, heading east for at least a week.


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