Friday, March 12, 2010

A pedestrian's view of Roatan

We took a hike the other day from our anchorage at West End along the road to the nearest height (a 3-cell tower hill, plus microwave). Then we meandered down toward the beach, diverting from the main road at one of several real estate development signs.

Another diversion at a sign 'pirate bridge' took us through a lovely light-dappled woodland and gardens over a small lake on said bridge to an aviary and then toward a Monkey House. At this point we were stopped by staff (young men reclining in hammocks) and told that the monkeys were private, owned by Marcos Galinda. We backed out, wondering what great wealth could afford a private estate like this, and at how much effort was made to entertain their guests. I began to think of the estates owned by extremely wealthy Britons in the 1700 and 1800s with their trout streams, deer-hunting forests, mazes and ha-has. Mr Galinda's estate, as I saw it, had lovely trees, and mature; the 'stream' was an artificial construct of concrete, very artistic, done by a Guatemalan, perhaps the same one who did Aurora Zoo.

Eventually we reached the beach where it was revealed to us that we had just toured the GumbaLimba Recreational Park. Turns out that 'private' meant 'public, if you've paid the fee'.Had we arrived at the Pirate Bridge via the Zipline which we saw up on the road, or the next day when a cruise ship was in, we'd have been welcomed with open arms, as upwards of $50 was extracted from our pockets for the zip line part.

We had planned to have lunch somewhere on the beach at West Bay, a resort area thick with tourists. So we strolled along, feeling pretty out of place among the sunbakers with our tans and real clothes. We must have looked out of place too, because it wasn't long before we were accosted by security guards. Turned out that this stumble was into an all-inclusive resort, and we looked like the kind of folks who might eat someone else's meal. The beach itself, 15 feet back from the water, is open to everyone, but there we were, suspiciously trying to skulk along the wall in the shade, without our plastic wristbands.

Roatan wants the cruise ship tourist business, but beyond diving and beach activities, there's not all that much to do. So there's this artificial shopping village built by Carnival Cruise Lines; other ships which dock in Coxen Hole are pretty rapidly whisked away to some beach, or to the GumbaLimba Recreational Park. One day we tried to anchor in the cruise ship bay, Dixon Cove, but it's all channel.

If you push your luck, you'll end up here.

Canopy tours via zipline are getting popular - hang from a wire in a harness, wearing thick gloves for brakes, and glide from pole to thickly padded pole at leaf-top level. I was hoping I could hang out on the wire with the birds for a while, but apparently 'zip' is the operative speed, so I haven't done it (yet).

Also on Roatan is a privately 'home'built owner-operated 2 passenger plus pilot deep-sea submersible Idabel that will take you 2000 feet down into the Cayman Trench if you'd care to go. I'd be interested, but I think prices begin at about $600 per person. This submarine went into the trench that was going to be used for dredge spoil dumping as the cruise ship dock was built, just to see what they were covering up.

Caged birds and monkeys are perpetual attractions. I'm starting to think that there are more scarlet macaws behind chain link or chicken wire than free in trees. I felt terrible to see this young toucan though, especially after I was told that it was the last of three - "they're hard to keep, and can't digest seeds" Oscar told me. I felt like saying, well, why do you have it then? But I know better, don't I! Don't I?

Had to check on what a ha=ha actually is: from the Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. In landscape-gardening, a boundary to a garden designed not to interrupt a view from e.g. a country-house. It consists of a ditch with side or revetment nearest the viewpoint perpendicular (or slightly battered), faced with brick or stone, and the other side sloped and turfed. It kept animals away from the area contiguous to the house, yet was concealed.

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