09/02/2015 I just came back from the Cangilones de Gualaca, close to David in Panama, and am so happy to finally use my climbing shoes again! You should check out that place, it’s a mini canyon just perfect for deep water bouldering. This update has a relation to water as well, featuring Utila and my PADI Open Water Course there. I even saw a little shipwreck on the second fun dive, pretty cool 🙂
Heading to the airport in San Pedro Sula, I wanted to get out of the car and explore the nature, which gets nicer the further you get out of town. Unfortunately, the area also seems to be pretty unsafe according to my Taxi driver, so staying in the car to catch my flight seemed the better idea 🙂 I missed to buy food in the morning, forcing me to look out for some at the airport. The only thing I could find was a bad looking sandwich which tasted even worse, but I was so hungry and nothing else was available, so I decided to eat it anyway. A big mistake as I would learn a few days later.
While the first flight was in a medium sized propeller machine, the second one was certainly the tightest aircraft I have ever been. Just getting into my seat required to climb over the it from the back since there was no aisle or space on the sides. The ride was short and upon arriving on Utila, I had to wait half an hour until my dive center (Parrots) sent someone to pick me up. I arrived at the main part of town and Utila seemed to be like a bigger, uglier version of Caye Caulker. It is still kind of nice, but if you are looking for a more relaxed vacation, Caye Caulker should be your choice.
The Parrot Dive center is located close to a nice bar at the beach and has two options to dine just meters away. A cheap fast food like bistro and a more expensive Chinese restaurant. I decided to treat myself with the second option on my first night and had a nice 12$ dinner. I actually could not finish the portion and was a bit confused first, but the reason for that was not the size of the portion but rather the fact that I got myself in a nice diarrhea situation thanks to the delicious sandwich at the airport. The following four days were really unpleasant for me, having to use the toilet all the time and not eating anything at all for four full days. (This is the reason why I am now looking like a skeleton!) The timing could not have been any better as well, on my first sick day it was New Years Eve and I was not really able to enjoy it. The parties on Utila seemed to be a bit less wild than I thought they would be as well, so I think I didn’t miss out on too much.
The room I was staying in the first nights did not have a fan for my bed, but thankfully I could be transferred to a different room on the third day. The heat and humidity on Utila really made me struggle with my sleep, ending up not just not eating for four days, but also barely getting any sleep at all. All that aside, I had one task to finish here: my PADI Open Water Course! Utila is one of the cheapest places on earth to get the certification and i paid 269$ for my course with the Parrots. This also included four nights for free in their dorm room. We were a group of six people and had a great teacher called Daniel.
There were five chapters of theory, all pretty easy with a final exam in the end, two confined water sessions followed by two open water sessions. After those, you would complete the course and then receive two free fun dives as well. By the time we hit the water for the confined sessions, I slowly started to feel a bit better and was really happy about it. Getting under water for about one and a half meters, it was a strange feeling breathing air under water for the first time. We practiced skills like removing water from a filled mask and other tasks that Daniel explained to us before hand. Since you can’t hear, you need to observe and follow the hand signs of your guide. This worked out very well since Daniel was really good and we always got what he wanted us to do.
On the evening before the open water dives, I was getting out to the dock to take some shots of the sunset. Just when I wanted to return to the bar, I dropped my camera and barely got hold of it before dropping down further into the ocean. Still, the lens and battery caps were broken and it really pissed me off, begin unable to take any more photos or videos!! I found a guy on the island who was good repairing notebooks but we failed to repair the lens after breaking it down to its pieces. Anyway, my GoPro fake would be the camera from now on and I have to use it anyway for the dives, but I would need to find a replacement lens very soon after leaving Utila again since the Picture Quality of the GoPro is really bad.
Back to the dives! The two open water dives on 12 and 18 meters were really nice, we could get down to our depth limit but still would have to practice all of the skills like removing water from the mask and others. One of them was navigating with a compass. My dive buddy received one at the surface and under water we had to switch them, something Daniel did not tell us before sadly. I could not check the compass and it turned out that the metal clip was defective, eventually leading to the fact that I lost the compass at some point without realizing it because I was focused on the tasks we had. In the end, I had to pay 50% of the price for a new compass, combined with the fact that I would need to get a new lens as well it kind of dropped my mood a little bit.
Last but not least, we all passed our final exam and were ready to get down for our 18 meter fun dives! Those were certainly the highlight on Utila. We saw much more fish and had nicer landscapes compared to the dives before and for the first time ever, we could actually concentrate on the stuff around us rather than doing all the exercises! On the second fun dive, we even came across a little ship wreck, which was really cool because in the beginning it just looked like a black dot in the back but the closer we got, the more you could see until finally realizing that it is actually a sunken ship!
Walking back to the airport was interesting as well, having two roads to choose from, I apparently picked the wrong. It was pitch black since my flight left at 5AM and the road I picked was more like a muddy cow field. I slipped a lot and had to make sure that I wont fall down with my stuff. Eventually, I made it to the airport, my shoes being completely dirty. I washed them quickly and enjoyed the sun rise at the airport before heading back to San Pedro Sula again, this time sitting right next to the pilot in the tiny propeller machine 🙂